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Child speech and language ‘fundamental to literacy and numeracy’

Two APPGs are calling for spoken language to be front and centre in the forthcoming Schools White Paper

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The Government must recognise that speech and language are fundamental to developing and improving children’s literacy and numeracy, say two All-Party Parliamentary Groups who are championing the issue. 

The Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and APPG on Speech and Language Difficulties have come together to highlight the need for spoken language to be front and centre in the forthcoming Schools White Paper so every child has the opportunity to succeed in school and life beyond. 

Statistics show that one in four children who struggled with language aged five did not reach the expected standard in English by the end of primary school, with one in five children following a similar pattern in maths. 

In areas of social deprivation, more than 50 per cent of children can start school with delayed language skills. 

The APPGs’ joint call – which follows previous joint initiatives from APPGs on speech and language – follows a roundtable discussion with Robin Walker MP, Minister for Schools, on how schools can be better supported and encouraged to improve children’s spoken language and meet overarching requirements set out on the National Curriculum.

The APPGs’ meeting comes just weeks after Voice 21, RCSLT and I CAN published a joint position statement on the centrality of spoken language to developing literacy and numeracy skills.

The Schools White Paper provides an important opportunity to address educational inequality and the negative impact the pandemic has had on the already stubborn ‘language gap’ across all ages, alongside supporting teachers and schools to overcome the barriers they face in prioritising children’s oracy. 

To deliver that, the APPGs have stated that the White Paper must ensure:

  • Spoken language is recognised as critical for the development of literacy and numeracy;
  • Identifying and tackling underlying difficulties with spoken language is seen as key to tackling illiteracy and innumeracy;
  • All children’s spoken language skills, especially those in the more deprived areas, are supported and developed through purposeful and intentional teaching throughout their school years; 
  • Children with persistent spoken language difficulties receive the support they and their teachers need so they can achieve their educational potential.

“There’s a wealth of evidence to show that speech, language and communication skills are fundamental to children’s development, their educational attainment, behaviour in school, and their emotional wellbeing,” says Derek Munn, director of policy and public affairs at RCSLT.

“In order for the Government to achieve its aim of levelling up education, it must look at the role that support for spoken language can have in improving the literacy and numeracy of all children.”

Schools Minister, Robin Walker, said: “It is my personal mission to help make England a world leader in literacy, and spoken language development is a core part of those plans.

“We have already set an ambitious target for 90 per cent of children leaving primary school to meet the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030.

“In the coming weeks and months, my department will set out our long-term plan through the Schools White Paper, to deliver on our ambition for every child to have the right support and the right time to fulfil their potential.”

Geraint Davies MP, chair of the Speech and Language Difficulties APPG, said: “Our very positive meeting with the Schools Minister acknowledged the central importance of speech and language in developing literacy and numeracy. 

“We look forward to working with his team on the Schools White Paper and SEN Green Paper to help build a whole-school approach to embedding speech and language in learning with additional support for children who need it. This will improve all our children’s performance and life chances.”

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Royal Rehab opens Australia’s largest technology centre

The centre caters for people living with disabilities across the country

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Royal Rehab, Australia’s not-for-profit provider of rehabilitation and disability support services, opens the country’s largest technology centre, providing Australians with access to a comprehensive range of technology.

Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre is a purpose-built hub designed to improve the rehabilitation outcomes of people impacted by life changing illnesses or injuries. The centre also caters for people living with disabilities, by providing expert support and access to technologies that aim to improve function, strength and wellbeing and is the largest of its kind in Australia.

The C-Mill VR+ technology combines a treadmill with body weight supports and virtual and augmented reality to improve balance, gait, and gait adaptability in a controlled environment. The device provides a safe and comfortable training environment that mimics the challenges of real-life, helping users to navigate situations like walking in crowded areas and avoiding obstacles.

The centre is also home to a Zero G Gait and Balance System, which has the longest walking track in the country. This device is a robotic body weight support that is designed to assist those affected by spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, neurological conditions and degenerative conditions to walk.

It allows falls prevention training to minimise patient risk, so they can focus on regaining their confidence in walking, balancing, climbing stairs and manoeuvring from sitting to standing positions.

Matt Mackay, CEO of Royal Rehab, believes technology can play a significant role in unlocking better patient outcomes and that the opening of Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre will make innovative technology more accessible.

“We know that the use of technology in combination with traditional therapies has the potential to drive better outcomes,” he says. “This will revolutionise the rehabilitation pathway for many patients, which in turn can lead to dramatic changes in a person’s quality of life.

“Our Advanced Technology Centre provides Australians with the opportunity to access potentially life-changing devices, many of which have never been accessible in Australia until now. We are delighted to be able to provide patients access to emerging advanced technologies that has the potential to accelerate rehabilitation progress and help people to improve their function, mobility and strength, the CEO adds.

“We want to provide people living with a long-term disability access to these technologies, so they too can benefit from improved strength and fitness, and maintain or even improve their functional independence.”

Jason Redhead, senior physiotherapist and technology lead at Royal Rehab, says that the centre offers Australian patients exclusive access to advanced technologies that will provide greater opportunities to achieve their rehabilitation goals, adding: “We have seen that advanced technology is starting to play a leading role in rehabilitation programs in many other countries.

“We want to ensure Australians too can access the best technology, like robotic exoskeletons, body weight support systems, upper limb robotics and virtual reality technologies. This means we will see more patients achieve more in their rehabilitation goals.”

The centre operates under the Royal Rehab LifeWorks banner, which provides Australians with access to a multidisciplinary team of allied health clinicians who work together with patients and clients on their individualised goals to develop integrated therapy and wellness programmes.

Royal Rehab’s Advanced Technology Centre is located at their Ryde location and will open its doors on July 1. Access to the centre is covered under a range of funding options, including NDIS, iCare, and self-funding.

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Neuro Convention returns next week

The event brings together neuro-rehab professionals and leading organisations from across the UK

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Neuro-rehab professionals and organisations will be attending one of the key dates in the sector calendar next week – Neuro Convention 2022. 

The event showcases the latest technology and innovations in the neurological sector, with the goal of improving patient outcomes. 

Neuro Convention, held on Wednesday and Thursday at the NEC Birmingham, will focus on four key areas – rehabilitation, mental health, diagnostics and brain and spinal injury. 

The free event includes a programme of more than 50 free CPD-accredited seminars, hosted by leading experts from across neuro-rehab, as well as interactive workshops hosted by the specialist neuro-rehab team at the University of Plymouth. 

Technology will also be showcased, with a programme of live demonstrations, to show how the latest innovation can benefit people’s lives. 

More than 50 exhibitors will also be in attendance, including the team from NR Times, who can be found on stand N-G3. 

Neuro Convention will be co-located with Naidex and UK Care Week within the NEC, highlighting the shared dedication of all three events to improve mobility and the technology introduced to support independent living.

Deborah Johnson, editor of NR Times, who will be attending Neuro Convention, said: “Neuro Convention is known as being one of the must-attend events in the neuro-rehab calendar, and 2022 looks to be another excellent event, with a packed programme of speakers and workshops and an array of leading exhibitors. 

“It’s absolutely fantastic that the opportunities for the neuro-rehab sector to come together again in person are returning, and I’m personally looking forward to meeting as many people as possible – those who are new to NR Times, others who are old friends, and those who to date we have only met via Zoom!” 

Tickets are free and to register, visit here. 

SHOW INFO 

Dates & Times 

Wednesday 6th July 2022 | 09:30 – 16:30

Thursday 7th July 2022 | 09:30 – 16:00 

Venue Address 

Hall 19

National Exhibition Centre (NEC)

Birmingham

B40 1NT, UK

Social links #NeuroCon

https://www.facebook.com/neuroconvention

https://twitter.com/NeuroConvention

https://www.linkedin.com/company/european-neuro-convention/

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Role of sleep in memory and learning uncovered

Research findings could aid development of assistive tools for people with neurological injury or disease

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New research into sleep may help explain how memories are formed and how learning is consolidated, and could aid the development of assistive tools for people affected by neurological injury or disease. 

Scientists previously studying laboratory animals discovered a phenomenon known as ‘replay’ that occurs during sleep – a strategy the brain uses to remember new information. 

Scientists believe that this replay of neuronal firing during sleep is how the brain practices newly-learned information, which allows a memory to be consolidated, and converted from a short-term memory to a long-term one. 

However, replay has only been convincingly shown in lab animals.

Now, a new study has investigated whether replay occurs in the human motor cortex — the brain region that governs movement — focusing on a 36-year-old man with tetraplegia who cannot move his upper and lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury. 

The man, identified in the study as T11, is a participant in a clinical trial of a brain-computer interface device that allows him to use a computer cursor and keyboard on a screen.

The investigational device being developed by the BrainGate consortium, a collaborative effort involving clinicians, neuroscientists and engineers at several institutions with the goal of creating technologies to restore communication, mobility, and independence for people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss.

In the study, T11 was asked to perform a memory task similar to the electronic game Simon, in which a player observes a pattern of flashing coloured lights, then has to recall and reproduce that sequence. 

He controlled the cursor on the computer screen simply by thinking about the movement of his own hand. Sensors implanted in T11’s motor cortex measured patterns of neuronal firing, which reflected his intended hand movement, allowing him to move the cursor around on the screen and click it at his desired locations. 

These brain signals were recorded and wirelessly transmitted to a computer.

That night, while T11 slept at home, activity in his motor cortex was recorded and wirelessly transmitted to a computer.

“What we found was pretty incredible,” said Dr Daniel Rubin, lead author and a neurologist at the MGH Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery. 

“He was basically playing the game overnight in his sleep.

“This is the most direct evidence of replay from motor cortex that’s ever been seen during sleep in humans.”

Most of the replay detected in the study occurred during slow-wave sleep, a phase of deep slumber. 

Interestingly, replay was much less likely to be detected while T11 was in REM sleep, the phase most commonly associated with dreaming. 

The researchers see this work as a foundation for learning more about replay and its role in learning and memory in humans.

“Our hope is that we can leverage this information to help build better brain-computer interfaces and come up with paradigms that help people learn more quickly and efficiently in order to regain control after an injury,” said neurologist Dr Sydney S. Cash, co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery at MGH.

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