Mum of three Jane Wilson, of Nottinghamshire, launched Little Orchard Children at the start of lockdown to provide online speech and language therapy to children, as well as support for early years practitioners – a bold move born out of a fear that many children would not get the help they needed as the world came to a stop.
It comes at a time when more than 1.4 million children and young people in the UK have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). In areas of social disadvantage, this figure can rise by 50%.
Jane said: “Launching a new business at the start of a global pandemic felt like an incredibly brave move, but one that I felt was necessary to ensure that those children out there who need help with their speech and communication were not going to miss out on those vital first steps towards getting the help they need.
“Poor understanding of and insufficient resourcing for SLCN mean too many children and young people receive inadequate, ineffective and inequitable support, which has a huge impact on their educational outcomes, future employability and their mental health. My goal is simple – to ensure that every child has a voice.”
From the start Jane has been committed to ensuring her resources, including speech sound resource packs, were not only fully accessible to those who need them the most but were as environmentally friendly as possible.
Jane has developed a set of cards filled with activities, designed to support speech sound development in young children, each one crafted out of recycled card, beautifully presented in a reusable, hand-stamped, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) drawstring bag. The stamp Jane uses has been made by “the green stamp company” Get Stamped and all packaging is made from
recycled materials, and is fully recyclable.
The Little Orchard Children resource packs do not contain any plastic, unlike others that use plastic backed flash cards, and there is no need for parents or practitioners to have access to a computer or printer to download and print resources onto paper, making them the UK’s first fully accessible, eco- friendly resource of their kind.
“When developing my speech sound resource pack I knew it not only had to be fully accessible and affordable, but also environmentally friendly as possible and I feel I have really achieved this.
“The best interests of children are at the heart of all that I do. My resource packs are the first step for any child that may need speech and language therapy, and bridge that all important initial gap at a time when waiting lists for face-to-face therapy are at an all-time high due to the pandemic,” Jane said.
“I am committed to making a difference and reaching out to as many children, families, and practitioners as I can to ensure that our children have the very best start in life,” she added.
As a child, Jane had speech and sound difficulties, something that had a huge impact on her communication confidence growing up but would go on to shape her future career.
“I received speech and language therapy from a wonderful lady called Joan Hodges who helped me with my speech, gave me the confidence to talk and inspired me in so many ways. I often think of her and wonder what she would think of me doing what I do now,” she said.
Jane is no stranger to working with children, having been raised in North Wales by her mum who owned and ran a private day care setting, and going on to work in mainstream schools, early-years settings, community and specialist clinics and as a registered childminder.
“My mum supported so many young children and gave them unconditional love and support. She has always been a great inspiration to me.
“Her business was called ‘Berllan Bach’ which translates from Welsh as ‘Little Orchard’, the inspiration behind the name of my new business,” Jane said.
Despite studying biomedical science at university and embarking on an early career in medical research, Jane went on to teach English as a foreign language in South Korea, an experience which she has hailed as a “light bulb moment”.
“I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed teaching. It was during this time that I had my light bulb moment. I realised I could combine my interest in childhood development, speech therapy and teaching with my academic strengths in science,” she said.
Jane returned from overseas to take up a place on Sheffield University’s prestigious Masters Programme.
“I was fortunate enough to be taught by some of the lead professionals in my field. I have been fortunate to work with many fabulous therapy teams and with many inspiring speech and language therapists who have helped to shaped me as a therapist.
“I now hope I can be just as inspiring in my new business venture and use my extensive experience to help as many children as possible,” said Jane who is registered with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy (RCSLT) and governed by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).
Alongside her resource packs, Jane also provides online speech and language therapy, runs online workshops, and provides free top-tips and suggested activities for parents and early years practitioners via her social media channels.
To find out more visit www.littleorchardchildren.co.uk or follow Little Orchard Children on Facebook
and Instagram @littleorchardchildren