Early childhood educators’ understanding of early communication: Application to their work with young children
Brebner, Christine Mary
Lawless, Angela Patricia
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Young children need rich learning experiences to maximize their potential. Early childhood educators (ECEs) working in childcare have knowledge of individual children as well as skills and professional knowledge that afford opportunities to provide language-rich environments for learning. To successfully work in partnership with ECEs, speech-language pathologists need to understand what they know about early communication development and how they apply it in their work. This study explored ECEs’ understanding of early communication development in childcare contexts, and how they related this to the education and care they provided. In this exploratory study we conducted three focus groups with 19 ECEs who were employed in eight different childcare centres in low socio-economic areas in metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia. Data were analysed thematically revealing three core themes: ‘Knowing and doing in context’; ‘ECEs’ role’; and ‘ECEs’ challenges’. Participants articulated understanding of early communication development and the importance of strong relationships between ECEs, children and their families. These ECEs’ skills and knowledge of children in their care was the basis from which they provided language-rich learning environments with individually tailored educational programmes to support all children, including those experiencing communication difficulties. They highlighted challenges in delivering this care, including the need for more explicit support from speech-language pathologists. There is potential to further develop interdisciplinary partnerships between ECEs in childcare and other professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, to maximize early developmental opportunities for children attending childcare.