Monday 29 August 2011

How do we know if it's SLI?

It is often very difficult to make a positive assessment of Specific Language Impairment which has meant that many children have not had the specialist help or additional educational provision they need. I know many Speech and language therapists who would be unwilling to commit to the diagnosis. However, there is a new test developed by Harvard which identifies this more specifically. It has been trialled and the results published in the American online scientific journal Plos One. 

Professor Heather Van De Lely of Harvard University explains why her "gaps" test was found to be 98% effective in identifying specific language impairment. Click here for the link to the podcast 

This is a serious problem as although the percenatge of children thought to have thge condition is small, it equates to thousands of children across britain. 

One of my bugbears is that children are labelled with other conditions, esepecially ASD. I have 2 on my current caseload who I know have SLI, but who have been given the ASD label. For now, we are keepinhg quiet, as there is help for children with ASD but none for children with SLI. If education could be convinced of the validity of an assessment leading to diagnosis, they would have to look into provision. I'm looking forwards to finding out more as they widen the trial.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

What is the Hello campaign doing in August?

Fink Families - Join the Revolution

This August, the Hello campaign (the national year of communication) has launched Summer Talk
– a downloadable pack with games and activities that support families to encourage children’s
communication skills when they are out and about this Summer.

Summer Talk, available from, includes fun and ‘easy to do’ activities
for trips to the zoo, park and museum. It also contains games and challenges to keep kids
entertained on car journeys and at home.

Partners from across the country have provided the activities as part of their support of Hello.  One partner, Fink, has created a month‐long calendar of activities in support of the Hello August
theme of ‘Talk and Go’. This includes a free activity and conversation booklet for the summer
holidays, tips and expert blogs from the likes of parenting expert Sue Atkins all available from

Fink is run by mother of four, Lisa Warner who I met at the 2009 mumpreneur awards, and the company provides question cards to encourage conversation within the family to ensure children become confident communicators.   Alison Marrs, Professional Advisor for the Hello campaign, says; “This August is the perfect time for families to spend time together going out and about. At the Hello campaign, we know just how important family time is for children’s development.  “We want to support families to develop children’s communication skills when they are out and about. Summer Talk includes a range of games and activities that are fun and easy to do whilst at the same time encouraging children’s communication skills. A huge thank you to all of our partners for contributing their brilliant ideas and activities. ”

Lisa Warner, founder of Fink Cards, says; “Fink stands for Family Interaction Nurtures Kids and we
are on a mission to get people talking. We are delighted to partner with the Hello campaign as we
both believe passionately that communication is the key to a successful and happy life. For the
whole of August Fink will be supporting Hello with fantastic blogs from experts, tips, advice and
much much more.” Lisa gave me a set of cards back in 2009 and I've been using them for a variety of purposes both clinically and for fun.

During August, Fink are offering 50% of any order when HELLO is quoted online at

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Saturday 20 August 2011

SL World: The global bulletin for SLT/SLPs: issue 3 out now!

As for most mothers who work, it's been very hectic trying to manage a business with the school holidays so I haven't had the time to tell people about the latest edition of the on-line magazine. It's the third publication of the magazine by and for speech and language professionals across the world.

Bea Staley who is working in Kenya sent in a lovely account of what it's like to be a volunteer in the country.  She wrote from the heart and apologised for it being too long. It was so interesting, however, I couldn't possibly cut it. If you read it you'll see what I mean. I think many of us would love to do something similar but are hindered by the restraints of family life ... for now.

There's a great article by Ben Zimmerman, for whom I have a great deal of respect for his work with feeding.  He's written about behavioural analysis of the problems. Also on the feeding theme, Jodie Corbett has written about her work with Vitalstim. I was interested to read this as Sumathi Sinnapan, a friend of mine living in Stafford is the only British therapist I know who is qualified and licensed to use the technique here. She has an uphill struggle to persuade the UK powers that be that it's a technique that works but Jodie's article makes it seem the right way forwards for many.

There are inspiring pieces by Eric Raj who likens SLT/SLP to ninjas.... (yes, it does make sense when you read it!), Stephanie Staples on team work, useful techniques from Craig Selinger, multi-cultural working in Holland, a SLaC special from Mary MountStephens and a celebration of 50 years in the profession for Franky Shepperson. Plus news from all over.

To subscribe and then be able to access the previous two issues too, it's £24 for a year or £12 for students. The price is a full 12 months from the date you fill in the form.

If you have anything you would like considering for inclusion for the October magazine please let me know. Human communication is the most fascinating subject possible and how we can help when things go wrong needs to be shared as widely as possible.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Baby Talk

I am doing a training session this weekend for the lovely Shelley Ensor of Little Signers Club. She has new trainee baby sign teachers and I am going to look at the development of communication in babies and toddlers with them. You might think that not a lot goes on in this time.... do they say much before 2? You would however, be mis-guided if you thought that, as there is so much that happens. Babies are pre-wired for communication but need stimulation to trigger the necessary brain connections. Babies are born innately sociable and from a few weeks old are learning the social rules of communication e.g. turn taking.
Babies first develop their understanding of language before they can begin to try to use any words.  The process involves moving from babble to

  • Learning that words have meaning  e.g. learning about the names of objects through repetition in everyday routines
  • Using single words
  • Joining words together
  • Putting words together in the right order
  • Developing the social rules that apply to language  
Children develop at different rates:   

Stages of language and communication development  

Age range
Listening and attention
Up to 3 months
·    Turns towards a familiar sound

· May show excitement at familiar sounds, for example noises in kitchen, familiar voices or toys (rattle)

3 - 6 months
·    Watches face when someone talks
· Shows excitement at sound of approaching voices
6 - 12 months
·    Looks about in search of speaker

· Understands frequently used words such as ‘all gone’ ‘no’ and ‘bye-bye’.
12 - 15 months
·    Enjoys sound making toys/objects
· Understands simple instructions e.g. ‘Kiss mummy’ ‘give to daddy’ ‘stop’.

Age range
Speech sounds and talk
Social skills
Up to 3 months
· Makes random speech sounds e.g. cooing, gurgling.

· Makes eye contact for fairly long periods

3 - 6 months
· Babbles to self using mainly vowels sounds, but some consonant sounds are present ‘e-e, oee, aarh, deeh’

· Cries in a different way to express different needs

6 - 12 months
· Uses gestures such as waving and pointing to help communicate
· Enjoys action rhymes and songs
12 - 15 months
· Can say around 10 single words.
· Likes watching adults for short periods of time.

It's fascinating and a fantastic achievement yet mostly we take it for granted. I'm looking forwards to Saturday to be able to share the insight!

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Thursday 11 August 2011

How to be a good parent: A 5 a day plan to help

Parents should adopt a "five-a-day" approach, with daily activities to help children reach their full potential, a report has said. A BBC news article last week discussed that parents need help to bring up their children in the best possible way. I believe that many people have lost their way with parenting; we have many families where there are 2 or 3 generations of poor parenting now which is bound to have repercussions. I see the knock on effect of this almost everyday where children are not being stimulated sufficiently so their spoken language skills are detrimentally affected. Obviously the Hello campaign is working to address this issue but what about the other aspects? How much screen time, how to say no, how to build their self esteem. Everyone has a right to be secure, loved and valued; would these 5- a day rules help?
You can read the full story at  These steps include reading to their child, praising them and talking to them with the television switched off. 
The think tank CentreForum says the government should start a national campaign promoting better parenting with a model similar to the five-a-day scheme which encourages people to eat fruit and vegetables, to give parents manageable steps.

Five steps to help your child

  • Read to your child for 15 minutes
  • Play with your child on the floor for 10 minutes
  • Talk with your child for 20 minutes with the television off
  • Adopt positive attitudes towards your child and praise them frequently
  • Give your child a nutritious diet to aid development
The report's author, Chris Paterson, said the most important factor influencing a child's intellectual and social development was the quality of parenting and care they received.
He said evidence suggested children from poorer backgrounds were much less likely to experience a "rich home learning environment" than those growing up in wealthier households.
Studies showed that more affluent parents spent more time reading to their children and talking to them and were more likely to praise them than tell them off, he said.
He said mothers and fathers from all backgrounds could make a difference to their children's life chances by following some simple rules.
"Parents from all social and educational backgrounds can and do provide home environments that are highly conducive to child development," the report said.
Mr Paterson told the BBC it should not be assumed that everyone knew how to be a good parent.
I believe the recent rioting reflects poor parenting; they didn't respect anyone else's property, felt it was OK to steal, throw missiles at police and set fire to cars and shops. They just thought of themselves and wanted to get rich quick. The values that would have prevented this are all things we need to teach our children. Plus, where did the parents think they were? 
I'd welcome your comments 

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Talk Gym: Helping young people aged 14-19

BT and The Communication Trust, have launched a new Facebook application, called Talk Gym, to help young people aged 14-19 develop their communication skills.  The free resource can help build verbal communication skills, so young people can express themselves more effectively. Whether it be face-to-face or via technology such as social media, Talk Gym can help young people prepare for life after school. The application has been developed as part of BT’s sponsorship of the Hello campaign, the 2011 national year of communication. The campaign, run by The Communication Trust in partnership with Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion, aims to make children and young people’s communication skills a priority in homes and schools across the UK. The Hello campaign is backed by the Department for Education and Department of Health. Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion for children, said “47% of employers in England have reported difficulty in finding recruits with an appropriate level of oral communication skills. Young people often don’t realise how essential their communication skills are until they enter the job market.  “This is too late; we need to be reaching young people much earlier. I applaud initiatives like Talk Gym, which are an excellent solution to this growing concern. The use of innovative routes like Facebook to reach young people on their own territory is a real ‘first’. I recommend that teachers embrace this new resource and use it to help ensure young develop the
communication skills needed for work and life.”  Chris Pike, a Talk Gym trialist aged 17, said, "People my age are constantly being told that we need good communication skills to be successful in life. I think that Talk Gym is a fantastic way for young people to learn more about their communication. It's accessible to
everyone, being available online and on Facebook; and it helps young people to overcome issues they may face with communication. It also encourages them to consider how difficult it must be for those with communication difficulties.  “I'm delighted that my friends and peers will be able to use this tool in order to
understand everyone a little better, no matter how well they can communicate."

The Talk Gym app gets users to check their ‘talk fitness’ by asking six questions about themselves and then asking the same questions to a friend or relative via Facebook. The answers appear anonymously in a graph and the app uses the responses to assess the individual’s communication ability. The feedback highlights why communication skills are so important and gives tips on being clear, listening, talking in groups and being interviewed. There are also videos presented by young people on giving peer-to-peer advice on becoming better communicators. Julie Hindley, BT Learning & Skills Manager, said, "Young people are constantly told that they need good communication skills to succeed in school, in the workplace and in life in general. We believe Talk Gym can play a part in prompting a conversation to raise awareness of good communication by young people. Technology is progressively changing the way we communicate and we have created the Facebook application so that young people can easily engage via a social network that they are familiar with."

As with every product in BT’s suite of learning and skills resources, Talk Gym was developed in close consultation with teachers and young people. A series of educational
resources are available to download for free in order to help teachers make the best use of the Talk Gym Facebook app in the classroom which include guidance for teachers using social media as a learning tool. Talk Gym has been designed to support Speaking and Listening in the National Curriculum for England and Wales, the Cross-Curricular skills in the National Curriculum for Northern Ireland curriculum and several strands in Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.

To find out more Talk Gym visit to get your fitness tested now.

Friday 5 August 2011

Better Communication - Shaping speech, language and communication services in the light of outcomes from the Bercow Review


To mark the national year of communication, the Communication Champion and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) are hosting three autumn conferences for NHS and local authority commissioners, together with their local speech and language therapy service provider or providers.
These conferences aim to draw together learning from the three-year period of action following the Bercow Review, which set out to improve the situation for children and families - the  pathfinder programme to develop new speech, language and communication needs-specific commissioning tools; a major research programme to enhance the evidence base and inform delivery of better outcomes for children; a workforce development strand; and the national year of communication itself. The conferences will provide commissioners and service managers with the information they need to ensure high-quality, cost-effective services for the future.
The conferences will take place on:
• Tuesday 20th September 2011 at Aspire, 2 Infirmary Street, Leeds, LS1 2JP
• Tuesday 11th October 2011 at the Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0DG
• Thursday 24th November 2011 at the University of Warwick, Rootes Social Building, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry, CV4 7A

For more information and to book a place, please

Monday 1 August 2011

Are you looking for a way to earn money, make a difference AND have fun?

There can't be many ways of combining all three plus achieving a work-life balance. Smart Talkers Pre-School Groups are looking for franchisees to run their own business in their own area. We have a training course in starting in September which can be done mostly on-line as we know you are probably busy with children and partners etc.

We run groups which focus on spoken language skills to help children achieve their potential. We do Small Talkers to help prepare for school, Teeny Talkers for 2- 3 year olds, Baby Talk for parents of babies (or ante-natal classes) plus we do signing for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. We also show you how to do other courses such as Stories with Jack and to deliver other related programmes. There is a variety which means you are never bored!

We aren't looking for qualifications (although speech and language therapists might be interested) as we offer full training on communication development, ways to encourage, how to manage groups etc as well as business training. We also support the business development so it's an easier way of starting and running your own  business. We know that it's a scary thought and that could put you off but I have had years of running businesses; experience which will help you.

Have a look at the video or listen to the podcast to see if you might be interested, As a bonus we're offering a discount on the franchise fee to celebrate 2011, the National year of Communication.

Smart Talkers (mp3)

See the web site There is a video and another podcast