Ellen’s inspirational website helps give young people in Sefton a voice
Sefton’s Early Help team are delighted to help an inspirational young person, who struggles with a communication disorder, to make her voice heard and support others through her own website.
Sixteen-year-old Ellen from Crosby has been diagnosed with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) which is a type of speech, language and communication need that affects the way children understand and use language. It is more common than autism with up to two children in every classroom having the disorder.
Living with DLD has meant that through her life Ellen has struggled to express herself and process complex sentences and to feel heard, preferring to communicate by writing words down or making videos.
Hannah Howard from Sefton’s Early Help team said: “Like many other young people with a similar condition, Ellen feels that she is not heard because she can’t communicate easily, and people’s patience, belief in her and understanding is varied and often limited.
“This has had an effect on her education as well as her social and emotion
al wellbeing, however Ellen has said that having the support from people who have really listened has made a massive difference.”
“I have been absolutely inspired by Ellen. As a professional I have always strived to listen and put every child at the centre of what I do.
“Ellen has reminded me of the importance of us all taking the time to increase our understanding and knowledge around individual needs and that taking extra time to ensure a child has a voice is paramount.”
Ellen’s mum Roisin said: “Ellen has received support from Sefton’s Early Help team who have been there to help stop us getting to crisis point and their support has been immeasurable.
“The way they put Ellen first shines through, and they always come back to ‘what does Ellen want’. They have been Ellen’s voice and she really feels they have enabled her to be heard.
“We have also received amazing support from the Venus Centre in Sefton (which provides counselling), her head teacher at Holy Family Catholic High School and Speech and language therapists at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
“They are helping to empower Ellen so she can achieve her full potential by continuing to promote communication and give practical advice and encouragement while putting Ellen’s voice at the centre of everything they do.”
With her support network on board, Ellen has used her own experiences to help others by developing a website.
‘This is DLD’, not only gives a personal insight into Ellen’s experience of living with the disorder but also gives help and advice to people who have difficulties expressing themselves.
The website contains videos and pictures giving advice to practitioners and teachers on how they can help a child with DLD, such as taking enough time to respond and using pictures sometimes instead of words.
Ellen said: “When you struggle with communication life can be hard for you and your family as you need words for everything.
“Often, I have felt invisible. However, over the last year I have had Alison from Sefton Speech and Language therapy, Paula from Venus and Hannah from Early Help supporting me and my family.
“They listened and followed things through. They believed in me and helped me find my voice and speak out about the things that mattered to me.
“I wanted to help give a voice to all those children and families in the same situation as us. It is important that they too are seen and heard, so with my Uncle’s help I have created a website to try and get the message out to the right people so things can change.
“I want people to understand what it is like growing up in a place without a voice and how they can help make life easier. None of this costs money, only time. Everyone deserves a fair chance.”
Ellen’s ‘This is DLD’ website can be found at https://sites.google.com/view/thisisdld/home