Saturday 28 May 2011

Building blocks to language

A recent post about last month's Hello campaign, looked at the hidden parts of language learning, the building blocks to successful communication. Sometimes when a child has been referred because he's not talking, a parent can't understand why we're not working on their speech. We play posting games, sing songs, blow bubbles, maybe use the parachute and have snack-time to work on the foundations for language. The diagram above illustrates the 'pyramid' and the priority order.

I have others who are desperate for the therapists to work on their sounds but the level of the child's language and communication isn't sufficient to be able to do this, as their understanding and expressive language needs to develop first. A student recently asked me why, when the child's speech sounds were so bad was I not working on them and again, I showed her the pyramid to help explain.

There is much more on this for parents looking for ideas in Frances Evesham's kindle book,'How to help your child talk and grow smarter', available at Amazon.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Teachers... is your voice strong enough?

As children's attention levels are deteriorating, class teachers have to spend more time re-directing and refocusing..... how? By talking louder than the hum of the noise generated by children who are also talking. To be able to do this they need to be able to project their voices rather than shout. When I was at University the lecturer on voice problems taught us rapidly and simply to be able to do this. Consequently, I can talk all day and didn't need a mike when I used to teach aerobics. The techniques she showed us were easy and took 3 sessions.

Speech & Language therapists, however, don't actually have to project their voices over noise all day like teachers do, yet how many teacher training courses include voice projection or how to look after your voice? Their voice IS the tool of their trade. Last year a teacher received thousands in compensation for losing her voice, and thereby her source of income, but I don't now any schools who have invested money into training so it doesn't happen in their school. There will be at least one teacher in every school who has trouble with their 'throat' or voice and all would benefit from being shown good practise.

The Speech & Language Therapists at Kerry PCT have put together a short video which you may find helpful http://youtube/jExkenbRm2c

For further details of good practise or to arrange training for your school

Friday 20 May 2011

How much TV should my pre-schooler watch?

The Hello campaign to mark 2011 national year of communication aims to help educate parents to optimise their children's speech, language and communication skills. They aim to dispel some of the myths and clarify what we should be doing. TV is a topic that's often discussed but how much should they watch, what should we be letting them watch and how should they be watching? These are all questions to which parents need the answers.

To help parents plan their involvement the Hello Campaign advises:
1. If you let your child watch TV, watch it with them (as much as possible). It would be unrealistic to say always as there will be times when you can't.
2. It is really important to always remember that children need quiet time where you turn off background noise and have time just to play. This is really important for listening and language development.
3. When you do watch programmes make sure they are at the right level for your child – not too  complicated or aimed at older children. There's no point them watching adult programmes such as soaps or day-time TV. (CBeebies for example is good for 2-4 year olds)
4. Have fun and encourage your child to really engage with the programme.  Join in with your child if there are familiar songs or rhymes– each episode of Raa Raa The Noisy Lion includes the 4 R’s (Rhyme, Rhythm, Repetition and Retelling), which provides a good opportunity for you to participate with your child.
5. Make TV time ‘communication’ time. Briefly comment on what is happening in a programme to spark off a conversation or highlight something that is happening i.e. ‘Look at Raa Raa – he’s hiding’.
6. Be sure to answer any questions children may ask – they might have lots! And talk about the programme afterwards – which bit they liked best and why. Tell them what you think.
7. Pretend games are fantastic for children’s language and communication development. Why not make believe you are in a Jungle - make a den with an old blanket across a couple of chairs, use soft toys as the animals. You could even act out one of the adventures from shows like Raa Raa The Noisy Lion that you have just watched with your child adding in their imagination to create a whole new story.
8. Remember not to put pressure on your children and give them the opportunity to communicate with you. Get down to their level and give them time to listen as well as talk.
9. The most important thing for children is adults who listen and talk with them, alongside stimulating experiences and materials that give them opportunities to interact and play. Too much TV can get in the way of this, so it is important to try and get the right balance.
10. If you at all concerned about your child’s communication development, log onto or

Remember there so many more important things you can do with your child: play, sings songs and rhymes, read together, rough and tumble, run around in the garden, go for a walk, visit the park.... the list is endless. When you look back at your own childhood these are the things you remember, not sitting alone watching TV I bet! Give your child their own happy memories of time with you! No one on their death bed says 'I wish I had let my child watch more TV' but countless might regret not spending quality time with their them. They grow up so fast and you only get one chance!
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Tuesday 17 May 2011

Versatile Blogger

My good friend Kim Nash has passed me the Versatile Blogger badge which means I have to tell you 7 things about me that you might not know: I'm not going to spend ages working out clever, contrived, unusual quips (I'm not any of those things) so off the top of my head, here goes.......

1. I'm almost always cheerful (irritating I know!)
2. I think everything I've ever done  has been a worthwhile experience which has later come in handy (well... apart from cleaning pub toilets in Tottenham)
3. I used to sell sheds for a living!
4. I have 2 children and 4 step children
5. I am a qualified exercise to music and gym teacher
6. I moved to the Midlands in 1988 for a job thinking I'd stay 3 years... I'm still here
7. My partner is my first boyfriend who I first went out with aged 11 years!

I'm passing it on to the following inspirational ladies:

Helen Jessop at

Jessica Charles

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Saturday 14 May 2011

Are children being mis-diagnosed with ASD?

Anyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I get very cross when children are labelled as 'autistic' without a thorough multi-disciplinary assessment. One of the reasons for this, is that there are other issues which lead to children not communicating or not wanting to interact. A language related problem may be the reason or even a delay in all the child's abilities. It was with interest, therefore, that I read about an American study which showed a high incidence of mis-diagnosis in children who were born prematurely as it backs up my idea of gaining ALL the facts before giving the child what is after all, a label for life.

Researchers, led by pediatrician Bonnie E. Stephens, MD, FAAP, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Brown University’s Alpert School of Medicine, hypothesised that many formerly premature infants who screen positive for ASD at 18 months do not have ASD but are having failing scores due to a cognitive or language delay, which is common in 18-month-olds who have been born very prematurely.

For the study, researchers sought to determine the rate of false-positive screens for ASD taken at 18 and 30 months of age and to determine the connection between a positive screen and cognitive and language delay.Stephens and her colleagues are hoping to get funding to support a multi centre study that would include more than 500 children. “This will allow us to determine the true rate of ASD in this population, the rate of false-positive screens at 18 and 30 months, the optimal time to screen, and the optimal ASD screening tool for the extremely preterm population".

Hopefully, this will persuade professionals here to look at the wider factors involved. I want early diagnosis but I want accurate labelling!

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

25% of parents admit to using TV as a babysitter... I'd say that's a gross under-admission, what do you think??

The most recent Hello press release looks at TV watching survey with interesting results. The poll was carried out to mark the launch of a new programme which started yesterday for children of pre-school age – Raa Raa the Noisy Lion  – and a new ten point plan for parents on TV Time, devised by experts to mark the Hello campaign, 2011 national year of communication. We'll look at the 10 point plan in another blog post. As with any survey, people will give the answer they think they should give or the one they think you want, rather than whole-hearted truthfulness and I believe that there is an element of this which sways the results. 1000 parents of 2 - 6 year olds were approached:

Almost all of the parents (93%) let their young children watch television and contrary to popular belief, seven out of ten parents do not feel guilty about allowing their children to watch TV. Of those parents, 42% think TV is a great way for kids to learn but only 16% always watch with their kids for ‘bonding time’, with 25% using TV as a ‘babysitter’. 

I would say that the TV is used as a babysitter by a huge number as we've ALL done that at some point or other including me! As for it being educational.... it depends on the programme. It needs to be age-appropriate and meaningful and should be shared with an adult. The 54% who allow their children to watch ‘adult’ programmes, (with  Eastenders,  The X Factor and  Coronation Street  being voted the most common) surely can't believe that they are teaching the child anything?? Plus, nearly  78% of  parents’ claim the two hours their children spend watching TV each day is done alone.... 2 hours??? Most pre-schoolers I know watch far more than that!! 66% of parents don’t know the characters or storylines from the shows their kids are watching and when parents do co-view approximately  20% sit in silence with their children. Very few (15%) are using TV  programmes as a ‘conversation starter’ when the TV is turned off.

It hi-lights that parents need more information and advice on suitable TV programmes  and how to co-view with their child.  

Smart Talkers Pre-school Communication groups and Small Talk Speech & Language Therapy are supporting The Hello campaign, which aims to make children and young people’s communication development a national priority. We would recommend Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, as a quality television programme for 2-4 year olds. The new series explores children’s communication skills through the use of  Raa Raa’s 4 Rs – repetition, rhyme, rhythm and retelling.  

For more information go to and to find out about the Hello campaign visit   

Sunday 8 May 2011

Advertise on this blog

I am delighted to report that we now have a readership of between 4000 and 4500 page views a month! If you have a child related educational toy, product, book or activity you would like to promote, please get in touch for advertising rates. The readership is world-wide and over the past 4 weeks is as follows:

United States
United Kingdom

Rest of world with less
than 30 each                                              920

We also have a team of fellow bloggers, parents, speech and language therapists /pathologists and assistants who would be happy to review books, products and materials, just get in touch!

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Wednesday 4 May 2011

Are boys more confident talkers? Is 'Kevin the teenage male' unfair?

The National Literacy Trust in conjuction with the Communication Trust have just published the results of an extensive survey which appears to contradict the stereo-typical male teenager. 'Kevin' was a Harry Enfield 1990s character who was pleasant and polite until he hit around 13 and then became moody, un-communicative, anti-parents, anti-school, anti-everything only talking by grunts or groans. Is this concept outdated and unfair now?  
The study looked at 6,865 young people between 8 and 16 found that boys are more confident communicators than girls, particularly when speaking in front  of their classmates and teachers.
69% of boys compared to 57% of girls said they were either ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ when speaking in front of classmates. The research found that more boys than girls value and realise the importance of communication skills, believing that if you speak well it makes you seem more intelligent and that people judge you on the words and phrases that you use. Boys were also more confident in talking with teachers(81% compared with 78%).
 The research also discovered that:
  • Boys are more likely than girls to strongly agree that communication skills are taken for granted (32% vs 23%).
  • Boys see a danger that they will not be taken seriously if they don’t express their views clearly (66% of boys think this compared with 58% of girls).
  • More boys are more likely to feel very confident explaining their point of view than girls (35% vs 29%).
  • 47% of boys strongly agree that good communication skills give them confidence in social situations compared to only 39% of girls.
  • Girls place less importance on being well-spoken - they are more likely than boys to disagree that those with ‘posh accents’ are better speakers (46% vs 39%).
  • When asked about factors affecting good communication, girls are more likely to think it is important to see the other person’s face (69% girls vs 64% boys) while boys are more likely to think it is important to hear other people’s voices (84% boys vs 79% girls)
  • Overall most young people believe the family play a crucial role in developing children’s communication skills. However, more boys than girls believe that children should just ‘pick up’ communication skills (19% vs 15%). 
Director of charity the National Literacy Trust, which works to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, Jonathan Douglas, says:
“In the national year of communication, it’s heartening to see a new ‘voice conscious’ generation of boys emerging. While many people believe teenage boys are not the most articulate members of society, like Harry Enfield’s ’Kevin the teenager’ character, our research shows this is an outdated view. The survey paints a completely different picture of young males as confident communicators who are incredibly aware of the important role communication skills play in a successful school, work and social life.
“Sadly, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to gain the communication skills they need for success. This is why we are taking business volunteers into schools to work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop the vital skills they need for working environments.”
Professional Director for The Communication Trust, Wendy Lee, says:
“Employers often bemoan the lack of young people’s communication skills. They want young people to enter the workplace with strong communication skills. This survey highlights how vital communication skills are to young people for success at school and work. It busts the myth that boys don’t value communication – they deserve more credit for being ‘communication conscious’.
“However, it is concerning that more boys than girls believe communication skills are something children should just be able to ‘pick up’. It is important to recognise that these skills do not develop by chance; adults play a fundamental role in supporting language and communication development. This ‘self taught’ attitude that boys have to communication is really important to highlight. Despite this survey finding boys in general are confident about communication, evidence shows that the proportion of boys to girls with speech, language and communication difficulties is around 4:1.
“These young people can become skilled at masking their difficulties to avoid being singled out or needing help. Struggling to communicate can be hugely frustrating and can lead to poor behaviour and low self confidence, again masking underlying difficulties. It is vital all young people, but particularly those vulnerable young people with communication difficulties, are supported to ensure they have the skills they need to do well in life.
The Hello campaign (the national year of communication) is run by The Communication Trust in partnership with Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion. Hello exists to make children and young people’s communication development a priority during 2011 and beyond.
The Communication Trust is made up of 40 leading voluntary organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication. Independent charity the National Literacy Trust is a member of The Communication Trust and is working closely withHello to ensure that every young person in the UK develops the speaking and literacy skills they need for a bright, happy and successful future.
The National Literacy Trust takes business volunteers into secondary schools where they help students develop communication skills for the workplace by taking part in a series of creative workshops. The approach is yielding impressive results with the young people taking part gaining both skills and confidence.
Milad, a pupil at Rosedale College in Hayes says: “I definitely think (the project) is a positive thing, it really helps you to gain confidence. I used to think communication was just something that happens – being taught it improves your confidence level as a person.  Going for a job interview now I would know how to talk. I’d be who I am but talk to some people differently.”
What do you think? Is this your experience? Are boys generally more confident than girls? Id welcome your comments and ideas please

Monday 2 May 2011

Accessible, online CPD for speech and language professionals from around the world

Sign up today to receive the second edition of S & L World: the global bulletin for Speech Therapy/Pathology

Thank you to everyone who sent me such lovely comments about the second edition of the magazine. I am pleased with the design as well as the content but it's great to hear other people say it too. I actually only act as collator for the contributions from speech and language therapists/pathologists all over the world so can't take any credit for it ......well, I did write something small about blogging for this one as I'm obviously interested in that! 

We really need to get to know what's out there on the 'techno' side of our work and the articles from Barbra Fernades, Rebecca Bright, Tanya CoyleShareka BenthamDeb Taylor Tomarakos and Kimberley Murphy explain it very well.  

We must not forget the other contributions too from Adrienne Bamberger,  Chad Turingan and Stephanie Staples as well as an interview with Helen Barrett reviews, letters & more!
For those of you who have not yet done so, but would like to, the link is