Understanding and Supporting Children's Communication Development

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An introduction to understanding and supporting children's communication development

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Who is this workshop for:

This workshops is aimed at Early Years Educators and other professionals who work with children (birth-6 years)

The aim of the event is to explore:

--What is communication

-Typical development birth- 5 years

- An introduction to practical strategies to support communication development in the Early Years Setting


Participants are required to have access to a camera and microphone as this is an interactive workshop.

Who is delivering the workshop:

Katie Cluskey:

Katie is Preparing For Life's Senior Speech and Language Therapist. Katie has a B.A (Hons) in Linguistics from UCD, Dublin and a M.Sc in Speech and Language Therapy from the University of Essex graduating in 2011. Katie has many years experience working with children from birth-18 years who have a wide range of diagnoses including Developmental Language Disorder, Speech Sound Disorder/Delay, Fluency/Stammering, Attention Deficit Disorders (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability and genetic chromosomal abnormalities.

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Organiser Preparing For Life

Organiser of Understanding and Supporting Children's Communication Development

Preparing for Life is a prevention and early intervention project based in north Dublin.

We work to improve children’s lives by supporting parents, early years practitioners and teachers to use proven approaches to help children achieve their full potential.

We work with families, health services, pre-schools and schools from pregnancy through childhood.

Preparing for Life began as an early intervention research project. Since 2008, we have worked with families in Dublin 5 and 17 supporting parents to get their children ready to start school. We did this by offering:

  • Mentoring in the home to equip parents with the knowledge and skills to help their children develop.
  • Positive parenting courses for parents of children aged two and over.
  • Support for early years settings to achieve quality in their practice.

Together with the UCD Geary Institute, we have followed the journey of these families to evaluate if our programme improves children’s school readiness and to understand the factors that make our work successful.The learning from this research phase will inform our work under the Area Based Childhood Programme


In 2013, we successfully applied for funding, to expand our prevention and early intervention work with children and families living in Dublin 5 and 17 under the Area Based Childhood Programme, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Atlantic Philanthropies. During this phase from 2014 to 2016, we built on our learning from Phase I and worked in partnership with families, health services, pre-schools and schools to deliver the following interventions: 

  • A home visiting and mentoring programme to equip parents with the knowledge and skills they need to help their child develop.
  • Delivery of evidence based, positive parenting courses including Triple P and Circle of Security
  • Antenatal care & education in the community.
  • Baby massage and parent and baby groups.
  • A quality support programme for our partner early childhood settings.
  • Coaching in speech & language development for our partner early childhood settings.
  • Coaching for teachers in our partner primary schools in literacy, play and self-regulation programmes.

In 2018, the ABC programme was aligned with Tusla and now operates under a service level agreement as part of the Tusla Parenting, Prevention and Family Support Unit.


Great News!!!

Four years after finishing Northside Partnership’s Preparing for Life early intervention programme, research launched on Wednesday, 27th November 2019, shows that participant children’s IQs are 8 points higher than children who were not on the programme.

Research conducted by UCD’s Geary Institute of Public Policy on Preparing for Life found that the children whose parents received the Preparing for Life parenting supports have IQ points which are 8 points higher than the control group who did not receive the parenting supports, four years after the families finished the programme. The size of this difference is equivalent to reducing socioeconomic inequalities by about a half.

“The results show that Preparing for Life is continuing to have a meaningful and long-lasting impact on the children’s lives,” said Dr. Orla Doyle, UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, who conducted the research. “The children who received the programme in their first 5 years are better at making decisions, solving problems, and thinking logically at age 9. They also have better language skills. The programme gave them the basic cognitive tools and now the children are using these tools to master the more complicated tasks which school demands. If these impacts are sustained, they are likely to have important consequences for their success in school and beyond, particularly for their educational and employment opportunities.” 

Preparing for Life was developed as evidence showed that over half of the children living in the area were starting school without the necessary skills to make a successful transition to school life. The Preparing for Life programme aims to promote children’s development and improve these low levels of school readiness by supporting parents to develop the skills and knowledge to help prepare their children for school.

Working with families, health services, pre-schools and schools from pregnancy through childhood to get children ready to start school, the programme offers:

Fortnightly home visits by trained mentors to equip parents with the knowledge and skills to help their children develop (Home Visiting)

Positive parenting courses for parents of children aged two and over (Triple P, Circle of Security)

Ante natal care and baby massage classes.

The Preparing for Life study included 233 parents who were randomly allocated into a high treatment group and a low treatment group. All families received some supports, but the families in the high treatment group received intensive parenting supports from pregnancy until their children started primary school.

In 2016, the study found that Preparing for Life had dramatic impacts on children’s IQ, obesity levels and social behaviour at the end of the programme.

 “The Preparing for Life programme effects may be attributed to both its length and intensity,” according to Dr. Doyle. “By delivering a five-year intervention, i.e. the first 2,000 days, the programme provided early and sustained investment in families during a critical stage of development.

The latest report revisits the programme participants when they are 9 years old, four years after the intervention has ended, to see if there is an enduring effect.

At age 9, children who received the Preparing for Life programme are better able to focus their attention; they also have a better working memory and better concentration. These skills help children perform well in school.

The children also have better reading and maths scores at age 9. In 2nd Class, they scored 5% higher than those in the control group on standardised reading tests. In 3rd class, they were 9% higher. In maths, the 2nd class high treatment group scored 9% higher than the control group, while in the 3rd class, the difference was 7%.

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