Saturday 21 January 2012

Do you get sick of hearing "They grow up so fast!" ??

....... Well they do and yet we take so much for granted and rarely take time to really appreciate what amazing things happen as a baby grows. I know harp on about the fabulous achievement from helpless reactor at birth with no words to interactive communicator with approx 900 words just 36 months later but there's so much more that goes on in addition to this. 

The website portrays this succinctly and superbly. Take a look........

Wednesday 18 January 2012

"Despite progress, still too many gaps in support for 10% of children with communication difficulties"

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, this week expressed concern that there are still many gaps in the support available for more than a million children across the UK with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), despite recent advances.
Responding to the report of the outgoing Communication Champion for Children, Jean Gross CBE, the charity welcomed evidence of improved awareness amongst parents, policy makers and professionals about children’s communication. Her report, Two Years On: Final Report of the Communication Champion for Children also highlights good practice for children with SLCN. However, it makes it clear that this is the exception rather than the rule: joint commissioning of integrated approaches across health and education, is still not happening in 70% of local areas.
I CAN backs the report’s 30 major recommendations. In particular, it supports Jean Gross’s proposal for the Health and Social Care Bill to be amended to make joint commissioning of children’s community health services compulsory to improve services for children with SLCN. The charity also called for better support for school-aged children with communication difficulties. Without continued focus and investment, there remains a long way to go before every child with SLCN receives integrated support, particularly once they get to primary and secondary school. Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN CEO said: "This report, coming at the end of the 2011 National Year of Communication, tells us what works best for children with communication needs and how far we’ve come, both on the ground and at government level in recognising the importance of this issue.

Despite this progress, children and young people are still not getting the help they need when they need it. I’m deeply saddened that joint commissioning, which is the cornerstone of good services, is still a ‘minority sport’ across the NHS and local government. And we know from the families who contact I CAN every day, parents face real barriers to finding information and practical help which meets their children’s needs. 

Speech, language and communication skills are essential for children to start school ready to read, learn, form friendships and grow into thriving adults. Without early intervention SLCN impacts on all aspects of a child’s development - unsupported, around one-third of young people with SLCN will go on to develop mental health problems.

Jean’s report shows the benefits for children’s communication when communities, parents, health, education and social care professionals combine efforts to identify and support those who are struggling. Integrated, area-wide approaches and focus on workforce development is illustrated by I CAN’s work with early years staff, settings and local authorities. But we need to expand this approach from the 30% of local areas identified in Jean’s report and plug the gaps in support for school –aged children. 

Much has been achieved since the 2008 review by John Bercow of children’s speech language and communication. We need a continued focus on this issue to ensure that our gains are not lost and that the 1 million plus children and young people with speech, language and communication needs can go on to fulfil their potential."

I would agree that we are making progress in both the identification and acknowledgment but we are not moving forwards with what happens next. Small Talk Independent SLT has been inundated with referrals in 2012 already. Unfortunately most of these parents are at the end of their tether having being massively let down  by the system in place. These are not referrals of minor difficulties such as lisps or the like but serious language problems which are having a major impact on the child's life, relationships and progress. We need to keep up the momentum!!

Saturday 14 January 2012

A potty list?? What's that?

You have all heard of a 'bucket list' but Parent Dish brought to my attention the 'potty list'. This is a must do list for 3 year olds. 
The 36 must-do activities that make up "The Potty List" are:
1. Made a mud pie
2. Baked a cake
3. Finger painted
4. Sung loudly in public
5. Climbed a big hill
6. Picked fruit
7. Danced with no inhibitions
8. Made sandcastles on the beach
9. Been chased by a monster
10. Jumped in a puddle so hard the water went in mummy's shoe too
11. Belly-flopped
12. Fed the ducks
13. Blown bubbles
14. Had a teddy bears' picnic
15. Chosen a favourite book
16. Ridden on the top of double-decker bus
17. Visited a museum
18. Been on a train ride
19. Fed an animal
20. Grown cress in the shape of your name
21. Worn pants on your head
22. Ridden the tea-cups at the fair
23. Flown a paper aeroplane
24. Pooed in the bath
25. Stayed the night away from home
26. Ridden on daddy's shoulders
27. Scribbled somewhere you shouldn't
28. Cleaned your own teeth
29. Answered the phone
30. Mastered a party piece
31. Had a "first love"
32. Bought something in a shop
33. Set your sights on a future career (pirate, fairy or builder, perhaps?)
34. Told a fib
35. Made up an inappropriate nickname for someone
36. Broken something valuable

Having said it's for 3 year olds, I do have at least one friend who is still revisiting this list. Not mentioning any names Helen! It's fun and lovely for your 3 year old or your 43 year old. However, it makes me really sad because there are so many children who won't ever do such fun activities. 

Do I mean the toddlers from war torn Iraq or youngsters from the Yeman? No! I am referring to children from our own families here in the UK. Children of parents who are just so stressed, busy , hassled or perhaps don't know about creating fun experiences for their little ones.

May be the Health Visitor's little red book ought to include the list so parents can consciously work though it?!!  What are your thoughts?

Check out Parentdish as it has some really useful articles

Friday 13 January 2012

Are you a trainee teacher? What do you know about speech, language and communication difficulties?

....Let's talk about it!

The Communication Trust have developed a booklet for people who are training to become teachers to give advice and guidance on children's communication skills. Let's Talk About It includes information on:
• The importance of communication
• The impact that speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) can have for children and young people on learning and attainment, and on social, emotional development and behaviour
• How teachers can better identify children with SLCN and through making communication a priority, work more affectively with all children in their classroom
• Signposts trainees to a range of further information sources

The booklet will be available to order shortly. If you are interested in receiving copies please e-mail with your full postal details or call 0207 843 2526.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

What is your favourite nursery rhyme?

What is your favourite? Why do you like it? We would love to know!

Some that we sing:

  • Old MacDonald. You can add to this by having pictures of animals so that younger ones can choose what to sing next
  • If you're happy and you know it: get the child to choose, if they don't you could always sing about what they are doing e.g. Wriggle your legs, give a smile, 
  • Incy wincy Spider, add the actions
  • Twinkle Twinkle: by far the favourite of the Bony Hay Teeny Talker group!
  • The Scarecrow song; they love the adult lying on the floor too
  • Baa baa black sheep: some of the language is bit obscure e.g. dame, master etc but it doesn't matter
  • Humpty Dumpty: sad but they like it
  • Hickory Dickory: all four verses to make full use 
  • Wind the bobbin up: simple but effective
  • Wheels on the bus; have pictures of the options so the can choose what's next
  • Sleeping bunnies: I'm always surprised how they love this given that it's so simple.
  • 5 little monkeys: add sign or actions
  • 6 fat sausages: add sign or actions
  • Head, shoulders, knee and toes: do it really slowly so they can access it
  • 5 Little ducks:  add sign or actions
I have a bag of props and a little book of pictures so that children can choose what they want to sing. You can make it into a spoken language activity too by hiding 1 prop in a bag, talking about it then asking what song you could sing about it.

Friday 6 January 2012

Too busy to talk to our children... so what?

If you are asked the question: what makes humans different to animals? Many people would answer that it is our unique ability to communicate. However, in the 21st century this fantastic achievement is being eroded. Language learning just seemed to happen effortlessly and easily in the past. Without TV, computer games, DVDs etc it was much easier to 'just' interact. 

As well as the technological developments there are other pressures of modern living which are having a major impact on this interaction.This was conformed by a recent ICAN survey which reported on parents' busy lives.The survey of 2,000 parents by children’s communication charity I CAN found that parents often have to work longer hours and therefore spend less time with their children. Three-quarters of those surveyed are taking on extra work and 35 per cent admitted increased workloads meant they rarely have time to talk to their children. One in five parents said they are too tired to talk with their children when they get home from work and 55 per cent said they have less quality time with them due to work.
Click here to find out more!
Among those surveyed, one in five has taken a second job and a similar proportion is taking work home. A third said work calls or responding to emails at home often hampers attempts to talk with their children. 
Yet the lack of parental interaction can cause a huge knock on effect. Parents have a major role to play in developing their children's speech, language and communication skills so paucity of their interaction means that spoken language skills will not be as good as they should be. This will then later affect schooling as they need an appropriate level of spoken language  before they are ready to learn written language.Too many children are starting school without these necessary levels.

It is very hard being a parent today, we have many, many pressures to cope with which weren't around in the 60s and 70s and so many other issues that make us feel guilty for not being the perfect parent. I should know, I am a single parent with my own business,  which is may be the worst combination for time demands. However, it's vital to make time for them as that's probably the most important thing you can do.

We've all made New Years resolutions about dieting, getting fit, earning more money but may be we should have a resolution of just spending more quality time with our children. I want mine to look back at their childhood and remember the time we had together, not that I was too busy for them. At the end of the day they are more important than anything else. 

I've just done a reality check and know I could be better, how about you?

Our Pre-School groups are ideal to focus on pre-school interaction. We are also Hanen licensed Speech and language therapists so qualified to encourage parent-child interaction

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Why buy a franchise?

I read 2 great posts about franchising by Pippa Middleton on the Business plus Baby site from Helen Lindop. It made me realise that perhaps people need more information about franchising and why it may be preferable to starting out on your own. In the first of the two posts Pippa looks at her top five reasons to consider buying a franchise. I have looked at them from the Smart Talkers Pre-School Groups franchise perspective:

  • Greater financial certainty: We have a tried and tested format of working. Yes we have made mistakes along the way and learned from them. You don't have to make the mistakes because we did. We have tested it out, we know what works and what doesn't. Obviously nothing can be guaranteed 100% but you can see how we have achieved it. We also did a pilot that was separate to the first groups to make sure it was the groups that worked rather  than the personalities involved here. These financial books are available so you can see the necessary outlay and also the income. 
  • Business support and training: Starting off on your own is a huge step and not one to be made lightly. There is  so much to learn that this can be very time consuming. We are here to help with that. We work on your business plan together, not just the piece of paper you might need for the bank bur a real action plan with timescales. We then make sure you are keeping to the schedule that you have set yourself to support you all the way.
  • A recognised brand and business model: Pippa says 'it takes most companies many years and a big budget to build a reputation. By buying into a franchise you are piggy-backing on a brand that has national backing giving your business kudos and credibility. As well as a brand, you are buying a business model or way of doing business'. We have a detailed manual and session plans so you can get on with things straight away. 
  • Easier route to financing your business: We offer a payment plan for successful franchisees  so this is less important with us.
  • Franchisee support network: We have a team approach so that you can talk to others in the same position. Annual training days are planned and an on-line forum for franchisees.
I will look at her second post in relation to what we do next time.

See for more information

 Pippa can be contacted on 01908 583232 or  If you are starting out in business, you will gain lots of inspiration, information  and sensible ideas from Helen's site

Are nursery rhymes out dated?

A recent Small Talk survey showed that many people today are not really aware of nursery rhymes. People over 40 were more likely to recall one or two, whereas, an entire class of 17 year olds studying child care, could not think of even one.  May be nursery rhymes have had their day, are old fashioned, out dated, even boring? 

Does this matter if they are dying out and parents are not singing to their children?


Nursery rhymes are important for many reasons:

1. Most importantly (to me as a speech and language therapist) is that they help develop spoken language skills. They are a  powerful tool in the repertoire of language developers. They show the child the rhythm and flow of language, help connect words to actions and help a child to understand and remember words. They also help attention and listening. A room full of noisy babies will still and quieten when I start singing (No, that's not my awful voice!!) and to add action keeps their attention for longer.

2. Bonding: Singing together helps language development but also interaction between parent and child or carer and child.

3A recent Swedish study published in the journal Integrative Physiological and Behavioural Science suggested that singing, not only increases oxygen levels in the blood but triggers the release of “happy” hormones such as oxytocin, which is thought to help lower stress levels and blood pressure. As other studies show the increased levels of  both parental and child stress levels in the 21st century, this must surely help.

4. They can be used in conjunction with other communication enhancers e.g. choice making. The ability to be able to make choices is fundamental to human communication. Choosing which song to sing from a variety of props or choosing the next behaviour for action rhymes such as  'if you are happy and you know it'. These are non-verbal behaviours so do not require a verbal response. 

5. Increases confidence. Even if they haven't got the necessary expressive skills to join in verbally, they can take part with the actions.

6. There is overwhelming evidence that early learning of nursery rhymes and rhythmic poems, songs, and chants significantly enhances early reading skills and phonemic awareness.  In fact research highlights phonemic awareness as a strong predictor of a child's reading success. It helps them:

  • to hear rhymes or alliteration
  • to blend sounds to make a word (e.g., /a/-/t/ = at)
  • to count phonemes in words ( how many sounds do you hear in "is"?)
  • to identify the beginning, middle, and final sounds in words
  • to substitute one phoneme for another (e.g., change the /h/ in "hot" to /p/
  • to delete phonemes from words (e.g., omit the /c/ from "cat")"
Does it matter if they are not the traditional nursery rhymes? I would say that singing anything with your baby and toddler  is better than not singing at all but the latest Adele or Beyonce track is not designed to assist phonological awareness skills which will give all the benefits above.

Does it matter if you can't sing? Definitely not. A parent's voice is the best in the world to a baby or a toddler. They are no X factor judge, likely to shoot you down in flames. They will just enjoy the interaction and see it as great fun.... and whats more it's free!

The next blog post will look at which nursery rhymes we use in the Smart Talkers Pre-School Communication groups