Saturday 29 October 2011


Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, joined The Communication Trust’s
parliamentary event to celebrate anniversary of national year of communication launch.
The Communication Trust, a 40‐strong coalition of voluntary and community sector organisations with expertise in children’s speech, language and communication, this week marked ‘one
year on’ since the launch of the Hello campaign (national year of communication) at a celebration event at the House of Commons, London.
Over 200 Hello supporters, including sponsors BT and Pearson Assessment, gathered with MPs and Ministers at The Communication Trust event – sponsored by Annette Brooke MP  ‐  to celebrate the achievements of the national year to date and to unite efforts to ensure that children and young people’s communication development remains a national priority.   
Attendees were praised for their efforts in raising the profile of Hello – a campaign, run in partnership with Communication Champion, Jean Gross, to make children and young people’s communication development a priority in homes and schools across the country. A particular emphasis has been on creating tangible improvements for the 1 million children and young people living in the UK today with some form of speech, language and communication need (SLCN) that can affect them early, severely and for life.  
Highlights at the event included a speech from 18‐year old, Ben Morfey, a remarkable young man who uses alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) to express himself. Ben, who attends the Dame Hannah Rogers School for children with physical and learning disability, used his cheek to activate his
electronic voice output communication aid (VOCA), which allows him to communicate his thoughts. Ben has quadriplegic cerebral palsy (affecting four limbs), dystonia and a moderate learning disability. Ben’s speech was timely as the Hello theme for October is ‘Not just Words’ coinciding with International AAC month.  
Bronwen Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust, said; “We are all incredibly proud of Ben and honoured The Communication Trust has recognised him to support them at that notable event. Ben has mastered his communication and just by clicking a button with his cheek he is able to develop sentences, send text messages and tell jokes! Ben is testament to our mission at Hannahs of empowering, advocating and enriching the lives of people with disabilities.”
Anita Kerwin‐Nye, Director of The Communication Trust, said; “Today, we are one year on since the launch of the Hello campaign, which built directly on John Bercow’s landmark review. We have worked with voluntary, corporate and public sector bodies to improve understanding of what ‘typical’ communication2
development looks like, how to identify if children are struggling and where to turn for help and support.
So far, this collaboration has produced fantastic results. 300,000 resources have been distributed, a new ‘good communication’ best practice awards scheme has been developed and over 200 Hello co‐ordinators
are supporting the campaign locally.  “We also have a new City & Guilds Level 3 Award in place enabling the current and future children’s workforce to support the speech, language and communication development of all our children. The focus of Hello is now centred on the legacy programme into 2012. We are continuing our work around multi‐ agency commissioning and supporting strategic planning between primary care trusts and local authorities.
It is vital that this work is not lost as we go into a phase of public service restructuring.    
“On behalf of everyone involved in Hello, heartfelt thanks go to our Communication Champion, Jean Gross, who has worked tirelessly to support the national year and to directly influence changes in policy and local
practice. We are hugely grateful to our sponsors, BT and Pearson Assessment, for their long standing commitment to this area and for working with us to develop a portfolio of resources and initiatives that will exist for many years to come. Finally, our on‐going appreciation goes the Minister, Sarah Teather for
her commitment to improve services for children and young people with SLCN. Hello embodies in practice the success that comes with The Communication Trust’s effective model of third sector collaboration.”
Jean Gross, Communication Champion, said; “Hello, the national year of communication, seeks to make children’s language development everybody’s business. I feel we are really beginning to achieve this when I hear about the range of people getting involved. Two recent examples to highlight are the North Yorkshire school meals service, where staff have been using signs, symbols and pictures to help them communicate with the children and the Hertfordshire’s school travel service. They are running a Buggy Buddies scheme
in ‘walk to school week’ that involves parents and children in fun talking and listening activities. Everyone from schools and nurseries to museum services, midwives and Mayors are coming on board with the Hello campaign.
“It is starting to become much more widely known that children’s communication is the core life skill for success at school and future wellbeing. This is new, and will be key to improving outcomes for children and
young people in the future. The parliamentary reception has been an important opportunity to acknowledge the vital work of The Communication Trust – representing 40 organisations that lead in the field of children’s speech, language and communication. The Trust’s leadership of Hello, and the
enthusiasm, creativity and tenacity of our local Hello champions has been incredible. In the coming months, I look forward to working with The Communication Trust on embedding the success and learning from Hello into future work plans.”   
In addition to Ben, other speeches were given by Children and Families Minister, Sarah Teather; Annette Brooke MP, Jean Gross; the Government’s Communication Champion for children and Gillian Gaskell – Speech and Language Therapist at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Hello local  co‐ordinator.    
Communication is a skill that anyone can learn and improve. It underpins everything we do in life. to help thousands of children and young people across the UK to improve their communication skills so they can live life to the full.  Please visit for further information.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Does watching TV damage my baby's development?

Doctors warn TV harms baby development:
This week a group of American Paedatricians warned that passive TV viewing could slow development in children under 2 years of age.
When I do home visits, I almost always have to request that the TV is turned off. Unfortunately, as with most homes these days, it is like some resident big brother consuming a whole wall of the living room, dominating the vicinity with its looming presence. It used to be the norm that parents would apologise and immediately turn it off but NOW they usually just turn it down. This is true of all sectors of society.
At a recent exhibition I attended, parents were discussing the brilliance of TV for babies but according to the study, these have the same effect.
Instead of allowing infants to watch videos or screens, parents should talk to them and encourage independent play, said the first guidelines issued in more than a decade by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The advice is the same as that issued in 1999 by United States' largest association of pediatricians, but this time it also warns parents of how their own screen-watching habits may delay their children's ability to talk.
"This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media - both foreground and background - have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than two years," it said. "Thus the AAP reaffirms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group."
What about interactive videos?
The latest guidelines do not refer to interactive play such as video games on smartphones or other devices, but to media watched passively on any kind of screen, be it phone, computer, television or other.
Texas-based pediatrician Ari Brown said the update was needed because of the explosion of baby DVDs targeting the 0-2 age group, and because as many as 90% of parents acknowledge that their infants watch some sort of electronic media.
"Clearly, no one is listening to this message," she said. "In this ubiquitous screen world, I think we need to find a way to manage it, and make it a healthy media diet."
The AAP urges pediatricians to discuss media use with new parents, and says adults should be aware of how distracted they become when the television is on.
"I like to call it secondhand TV," said Brown, who is the lead author of the AAP guidelines.
Less talking, poorer language development
Studies cited in the guidelines say that parents interact less with children when the television is on, and a young child at play will glance at the TV - if it is on, even in the background - three times per minute.
"When the TV is on the parent is talking less," Brown said. "There is some scientific evidence that shows that the less talk time a child has, the poorer their language development is."
About 50 of the cited studies have been done in the past decade on media viewing by tots, but none have followed heavy television watchers into later childhood or adulthood, so any long-term effects are not known. Heavy media use is defined as a household in which the television is on all or most of the time.
Play is more important
Also, the AAP guidelines point out that research to date suggests a "correlation between television viewing and developmental problems, but they cannot show causality."
Even so-called educational videos are not benefiting kids under two because they are too young to be able to understand the images on the screen, said the AAP.
"The educational merit of media for children younger than two years remains unproven despite the fact that three quarters of the top-selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims," it said.
Pediatricians are therefore discouraging any screen viewing for infants, and urging parents to limit media viewing to under two hours per day for children two and over.
"Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure," the AAP guidelines said.
What do you think?

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Wednesday 19 October 2011

More than words:Hello October

The Hello theme for October is 'more than just words'. Often people don't realise that Speech and language therapists work with people who don't talk or have little speech.  Check out where you will find  information on methods of communication which can be used to supplement the more usual methodsof speech and writing. These methods are called Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC for short.

Communication Matters is a UK wide organisation and helps people of all ages and ability who need to use AAC.
They are supporting a range of exciting AAC events and activities across the UK, linked to the 'Hello'campaign in the National Year of Communication.
Communication Matters is leading a groundbreaking research project to gather evidence about theneed and provision of AAC, and is also involved in developing and publishing National Standards for AAC services. We have been in touch with the project co-ordinator and will be featuring the conclusions of this project in a future edition of S & L World:the global bulletin for SLT/SLP