Friday 28 January 2011

Speech & Language Therapists? What do they do again?

This article has been reprinted in many different places including Russia and India in the last 12 months. I thought I'd share it here:

In order for professionals from any field to work together well, it is vitally important that each one has at least a working knowledge of the other's role and ideally a little about their background. They need to understand what each can bring to the situation to help whatever task is on the table. There have been many studies and many projects on this topic. I wrote ‘Exactly what do they do’ for Special Children Magazine in 1994 which focussed on the results of a questionnaire. This really pointed to the fact that teachers didn’t really know what to expect from the Speech & Language Therapist. Having been out of the profession and working in industry for ten years, I assumed that the situation would have changed radically and improved beyond belief. However, in my day to day clinical work in schools and nurseries, I found the opposite to be true. The general opinion, I gathered, was that teachers do not realise what speech & language therapists do and how they can work together I decided, therefore, to look at the current situation in more depth.

The survey results revealed that we have been seen as very nice ladies who rush into nursery or school with folders, leave reams of paperwork and dash off, only to return weeks later to repeat the procedure. You can read the rest of the article at:

Article Source:  I'd welcome your comments!

Sunday 23 January 2011

January Podcast

We've had a fantastic start to the year, click 'play' to hear more......


Apologies for the variation in sound quality!

Friday 21 January 2011

Baby Talk.... let's celebrate it!

I had a lovely day yesterday, which included a mix of groups and individual clients. I enjoyed all of it but the hi-light of the day was a group of new mums and their babies. They were still at the stage where age is measured in weeks and the mums were still adapting to the enormous change to their lives while regularly swapping their various birthing stories.

The purpose of the session was to discuss 'Baby Talk' which is a series of sessions to go through important topics surrounding interaction and a baby's communication development. The first session looks at how old the baby should be before you start talking to him or her. All the mums there were adamant that it should be immediately. We discussed how new research has proved  what we suspected, that they must be able to hear before they are born. A new born can identify the voice of his mother, over others, immediately after birth according to new research from the US.

The reaction of these mothers was very refreshing! We don't run too many classes like this one unless they are commissioned by midwives or other health professionals as many feel that there's no point in talking to a baby 'as they wont talk for ages'. However, babies need to be talked to to trigger the area of the brain responsible for communication and also the centre for interaction, empathy and social skills. If they do not receive this in the first year then there are long term implications.

It is very worrying that many children today are not experiencing adequate interaction. I observed 6 young mothers last week with toddlers in pushchairs. I was waiting for a fiend who was running late so was parked at the side of a road in a housing estate.  I saw no interaction between mother and child whatsoever. 2 were texting, 1 was on the phone and the others had i-pod ear-pieces in! Where was the opportunity for communication there?

It not just a specific class problem as the Daily Telegraph reported last week that children of middle class families are suffering too from lack of attention by parents who are working longer hours.

The 2011 Hello Campaign aims to share with the general public how amazing human communication is and bring attention to what we should be doing. This month' s theme is don't take communication for granted and next month it will be all about the fact that 'babbling babies don't turn into talkative toddlers by chance, it requires help and encouragement'.

The Baby Talk sessions will celebrate this and we will discuss other issues such as the use of dummies, forwards facing push-chairs, nursery rhymes and TV watching. As I've said 100 times before, human communication is fantastic, fascinating, fabulous.... there are insufficient superlatives to describe it and yet we do take it for granted!!!
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Monday 17 January 2011

Planned chaos with Teeny twos!

There are several reasons why a child of 2 might not be talking as expected including a general developmental delay, problems understanding, a family history of late talking, they might not see the need, they may be on the autistic continuum or belong to a family who don’t realise that they need to interact with their toddler in order for him or her to learn to talk. 

Whatever the reason, I created the Teeny Talker groups (part of the Smart Talkers Pre-School Groups range) to help.  The sessions are great fun and have specific aims involving songs, games, puppets and a snack-time. I have to say that sometimes these aims may not be clear to the observer as working with 2 year olds can be extremely unpredictable.... but never, never boring! They're not just for children with delayed language and are designed to encourage confidence and communication in all 2 year olds. I love running these groups and we get some fantastic results so I thought I'd share a couple of case studies with you. 

Case Study 1
J. B. was 2 yrs 5 months and had no spoken words. He got by with a combination of pointing and grunts. His mother, a single parent was concerned that this would affect his relationships with other children. His behaviour was deteriorating due to frustration at not being able to get his message across. His Health Visitor referred him to speech & language therapy but also advised his mother to take him to the Small talk group at Boney Hay. He is an only child.

J.B’s attention was fleeting and he preferred to run around for the first two sessions. He could not wait for his turn and had small temper tantrums as a result. No spoken language was observed at this time. However, six sessions on he could sit and attend to the group tasks, join in for his turn and more often than not volunteered to be the helper at snack time which meant he was last to be served! He could produce 25 or more single words and could even produce 2 words together e.g. more pop,  bubbles gone.

J.B. was already a confident little boy but he and his mother needed encouragement to communicate verbally and to observe how the Therapist’s techniques can be used at home in everyday situations. He received his NHS appointment but has been discharged because he is making such encouraging progress.

Case Study 2
N. J. was 2 yrs 6 months when she came to the group. Her parents were concerned because she did not speak at all, she was effectively mute. The Health Visitor had recommended they come along.

For the first 4 sessions she was very quiet but co-operated fully for the tasks. She appeared to enjoy the songs and her understanding was very good. Gradually, she began to join in with the songs and then she named items. Now 7 sessions on, she is talking when it is her turn and will spontaneously ask for drink or biscuit at the snack time. She can use 2-3 word sentences. Her confidence to communicate was the biggest stumbling block and the group acted as a forum in which to develop this. The signing and augmentative communication techniques just alleviated the pressure for her. She is using her new found skills in most situations now.

We've got Teeny Talkers at the Willows, Boney Hay, Featherstone, Springhill, Glenthorne and Landywood Children's Centres this term. If you would like us to come to your area or group, let us know!

For more information ring 0844 704 5888 or 07970 202561

Saturday 15 January 2011

Come and join Small Talk!

Small Talk are looking for qualified paediatric Speech & Language Therapists across the UK to join our dynamic, independent team.

If you are looking to work for yourself but not sure how to start, worry that you don’t have the business knowledge to be successful and need the support/mentoring of a team, this is ideal for you.

We offer a chosen distinct geographical area, within the hours that suit you. 

Work as little as a few hours to a full time week. Combine with NHS or other employed work.

The new posts will look to commence as soon as possible for each candidate.

For more about us 0844 704 5888


Tuesday 11 January 2011

Ok we've heard about stammering now but tell me more..........

British Stammering AssociationWith all the hype about the Kings Speech it made me realise that the general population may still be sufficiently unaware about the condition and it's more widely felt effects. People who stammer may not need to address the nation but everyday can be full of challenges and situations they would rather avoid.
The British Stammering Association has an excellent web site which is packed full of information I have extracted sections from this to give an over-view:  

What is stammering?

Stammering is "characterised by stoppages and disruptions in fluency which interrupt the smooth flow and timing of speech. These stoppages may take the form of repetitions of sounds, syllables or words, or of prolongations of sounds so that words seem to be stretched out, and can involve silent blocking of the airflow of speech when no sound is heard" (Enderby, 1996). Speech may sound forced, tense or jerky. People who stammer may avoid certain words or situations which they know will cause them difficulty.
Some people avoid and substitute words to such an extent that people in their lives may not realise they have a stammer. This is known as "covert stammering".

What causes stammering?

It is not known what causes stammering but research seems to suggest that a combination of factors is involved.
Genetics are relevant at least in some cases. Someone with stammering in the family seems more likely to develop a stammer themselves.

How does stammering affect people?

Stammering affects people in different ways and can vary according to the situation in which the person finds themselves: to whom the person is talking; how they are feeling about themselves and their speech; and what they want to say. Stammering can vary from adult to adult and child to child in its manner, frequency and severity.
Stammering is not simply a speech difficulty but is a serious communication problem. For the child or adult who stammers it can undermine their confidence and self-esteem, and affect their interactions with others as well as their education and employment prospects.
Various factors have an effect on the ease or difficulty with which people who stammer can speak. These can include:
Environmental factors:
A child or adult who stammers may become more dysfluent when increased demands are made of the person in speaking situations, when the person has high expectations of him or herself in certain situations and with certain people (e.g. speaking on the
 telephone, at an interview) or when a specific response is needed (e.g. saying one's name, address or phone number, having to use particular words) . On the other hand, in some people this stress actually increases fluency.

Linguistic factors:
Children or adults who stammer do so on words which carry information and when using complex words of several syllables. They tend to stammer more at the start of sentences.

Physical factors:
Sometimes it is more difficult for people who stammer to speak fluently, for example when they are feeling ill, stressed, tired, excited, or upset.

Psychological factors:
People who stammer may become more dysfluent depending on: their feelings about their speech; their perceptions of themselves as effective communicators; and others' reactions to their stammering.

People who stammer are normally fluent when speaking in chorus, singing or whispering.

How many people does stammering affect?

Under Fives
-It is widely accepted that 5% of children under the age of five will go through a phase of stammering at some stage in their speech and language development.
-Across the whole of Britain that represents around 188,000 pre-school age children.
-Up to a quarter of these children are at serious risk of developing chronic stammering which may persist into adulthood without intervention during the pre-school years.
-In the under fives twice as many boys stammer as girls.

School-Age Children
-From research studies it is estimated that 1.2% of all school-age children stammer.
-In the UK stammering affects approximately 109,000 children between the ages of 5-16 years old.

Adults who stammer
-Figures on stammering in adulthood show that 1% of the adult population stammers - that's around 459,000 adults in Britain.
-About 3.5 to 4 men stammer for every woman who stammers.

Stammering does not appear to be increasing or decreasing. Published research studies indicate that these figures are consistent world-wide and that stammering occurs across all cultures and in all social groups.


The BSA Parental Awareness Campaign promoted the message that children showing early signs of stammering should be referred to a speech and language therapist (SLT) as early as possible. Speech and language therapy has proved to be most effective with children aged under 5 years. In many cases when the problem is caught early enough (before psychological issues of anxiety and self consciousness arise) the child is able to learn to speak fluently again with no evidence of recurrence.
For both older children and adults who stammer, the situation is more complex. Modern therapy can help improve fluency, confidence and communication skills but as stammering is more established by this stage it becomes more a case of learning to manage it effectively. As well as speech and language therapy many people find self-help groups useful in this regard.
Is there a cure?
While speech and language therapy can continue to make a positive difference in older children and adults, there is no magical 'cure' for stammering. See our article
 Is there a cure for stammering?.


"Stammering" is the same as "stuttering". "Stammering" is more often used in the UK and Ireland. "Stuttering" is usual in the United States.

Some people consider the phrase "person who stammers" (or PWS) or "child who stammers" to be preferable to "stammerer". Stammering is something a person does. It is by no means the most important thing about the person, let alone who he or she is. Whilst some people who stammer and others object to the term "stammerer", there are other people who stammer who are comfortable with the term and will commonly use it themselves.

 Who is there to contact if I want more information about my problem?
In most parts of the UK, you can refer yourself directly to local NHS speech and language therapist or ring 0845 603 2001 for information, support or a listening ear.  

Follow the British Stammering Association on Facebook facebook/stammering 

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Saturday 8 January 2011

S & L World: A global bulletin for SLT/SLPs

They say that the internet is making the world a smaller place and this has certainly been our experience  I began to use social media as a way of marketing my speech therapy business, Small Talk and also the pre-school groups, Smart Talkers. I knew that social media marketing had become an important part for any business’ marketing campaign, so I set up this blog, created Face Book pages and joined Twitter. I soon realised that people from all over the world were interested in what I was writing. I began to have ‘conversations’ with speech & language therapists and pathologist from the US, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and UAE. We shared ideas, discussed new topics, looked at new innovations, and reviewed some old practises. It brought home how we are all working towards the same aims despite different names or countries.

It's easy to forget that Speech & Language Therapy/Pathology is a profession full of enthusiasm and passion for speech, language and communication with great ideas to share and endless examples of good practise. Here in the UK the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists publish the excellent Bulletin which is mainly full of British work but I felt there was a need to do an international one. It’s not an academic forum as there is already an international journal; I wanted something informal with features, articles, news stories and interviews with SLT/SLPs from different parts of the world.

A survey by the RCSLT recently showed that 70% of British therapists would go abroad to follow their career, so this magazine will help therapist/pathologists to see what’s going on in different countries. This will undoubtedly help in the transition from one country-base to another. 

S & L world will be published quarterly and is available on-line by subscription only. Small Talk will co-ordinate the publication in conjunction with Ray Wellington and his team Milton Bayer Communications Ltd, a creative agency from Northampton. It has been launched to co-incide with The Year of Speech, Language and Communication in Britain. 

To access a free first edition please go to 

For more information 0844 704 5888 or e-mail

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Wednesday 5 January 2011

Pay Attention!!

Many people are surprised me when I say I work on attention skills as a speech and language therapist but I feel that it is an important part of my work. If children can't attend and listen then they can't learn. Smart Talkers Pre-School Communication Groups actively seek to develop this aspect.

There are 6 levels of attention which were recognised in the 1970s by Cooper, Moodley and Reynell. They identified ages by which the stages were achievable and by aged 6 it was felt that a child would have fully integrated attention so that they might carry on with an activity while listening to and assimilating information about something different e.g. listening to an instruction about playtime while colouring in a picture. These days this is certainly not expected and an inadequate attention level is one of the biggest problems when children start school.

This ICan Video is interesting and worth sharing.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Parents are you worried your child might have ASD?

Diagnosis of autism is a very serious issue and one which cannot be made lightly.  It requires a team- approach from suitably qualified and expert professionals including Highly Specialist Speech &Language  Therapists and Clinical Psychologists. These people are few and far between, hence the long wait for NHS appointments.  
Small Talk SLT can offer: 
·         A choice for parents who don’t want to wait 
·         An independent assessment of your child’s strengths and weaknesses with a differential diagnosis 
·         Expert, highly skilled, specialised professionals with many years expert experience  in the field 
·         Comprehensive, detailed analysis using both formal standardised tests and informal procedures 
·         Observations at home, school or nursery 
·         Full interviews with you and your child’s teaching staff 
·         No long waiting lists  
·         Full reports with the findings 
·         A feedback meeting with you detailing our findings and relevant 
  recommendations based on your child and family’s needs 
·         All in accordance with National Autism Plan for Children as drawn up by 
 the National Initiative for Autism Screening and Assessment (NIASA) 
·         Introductory inclusive price for all of the above of £1995.00 (payment 
 plans available) 

We can also offer further follow-up services if necessary or guide you to the  
appropriate National Health Service (NHS) and Education service. Having an 
independent assessment does not mean you have to opt out of the NHS 
systems. (geographical restrictions may apply)
For more information, please ring: 
0844 7045 888 or email:

Hello to 2011 and greater awareness of speech, language and communication

Happy New Year and welcome to Hello, the National Year of Communication!

Hello, the 2011 national year of communication, is a campaign to increase understanding of how important it is for children and young people to develop good communication skills. In the 21st century, the ability to communicate - to say what you want to say and to understand what other people are saying - is fundamental. Speech, language and communication underpins everything we do in life. Babbling babies do not become talkative toddlers by chance. Communication is a skill that we learn and develop and is something we can all improve.

But did you know that in the UK today over 1 million children and young people have some form of speech, language and communication need? This is at least 2 or 3 children in every classroom – and that’s the children we know about.
Difficulties with communicating can affect children and young people severely and for life. In areas of poverty, over 50% of children start school with delayed language skills. This puts them at a huge disadvantage to their peers as they struggle to learn and make friends.
Hello aims to make communication for all children and young people a priority in homes and schools across the UK so that they can live life to the full.

Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy are supporting the campaign by offering a series of free training sessions which follow the monthly themes hi-lighted by the campaign. I feel that this is a fantastic opportunity to hi-light the importance of speech, language and communication. We all know about dyslexia now which is a problem with written language but the incidence of spoken language difficulties is as high or worse. The general public, however are mainly unaware of the importance of spoken language or the crisis we are facing as skills decline. 

We at Small Talk have been extremely concerned about the problems for a while which led me to create a series of pre-school groups, Smart Talkers Pre-SchoolCommunication Groups which are run throughout Staffordshire and beyond. These are designed to help address the issues involved such as attention, listening, auditory memory, phonological awareness etc and better prepare children for the demands at school.

For more information about the hello Campaign or to register your interest in a free information session, contact Small Talk on 0844 704 5888 or

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