Supported playgroups program expands to boost child language
Families in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley can now access more targeted resources on child language and speech development following expansion of smalltalk, the successful supported playgroups program.
Smalltalk was developed by the Parenting Research Centre. It aims to give parents greater confidence and further strategies to help their young children learn at home.
Playgroups key for families experiencing disadvantage
The program is available Australia-wide and delivered through supported playgroups across Victoria. It generally targets families experiencing disadvantage.
Parenting Research Centre Senior Implementation Specialist Vince Lagioia said the Centre and the Victorian Department of Education and Training had worked closely over the past year to expand smalltalk in the Latrobe Valley.
Data shows that children in the region experience greater vulnerability and disadvantage than in other parts of the state. They are also at higher risk of developmental problems.
“Children’s speech and language development are among the key indicators for success in later life,” Mr Lagioia said. “So we have added a new evidence-based module on language and speech development to smalltalk.
“That means our playgroup facilitators are more knowledgeable and focused on key developmental outcomes for children and families in their group.
“They are able to give more targeted support and assistance. This can really help children with their learning and development, particularly around language.”
Greater access to supported playgroups
The Victorian Government’s Latrobe Early Parenting Initiative has opened access to supported playgroups for more than 5000 families with preschoolers across Baw Baw, Wellington and Latrobe local government areas.
Mr Lagioia said smalltalk had also been adapted for Integrated Family Service practitioners to use. These practitioners conduct home visiting for families who need more intensive intervention. This gives them targeted, in-home support with a focus on language and communication.
“Facilitators support parents to engage in activities with their children that help them develop vital language skills,” he said.
The smalltalk program continues to grow and develop. A total of 450 facilitators have trained across Australia since it launched a decade ago.