Wednesday 29 February 2012

'Books are old-fashioned, out-dated and a waste of time and space

...... and they just gather dust!' So said my ex-mother-in-law one day when I was reading to my first baby aged 12 months. It was Twinkle, twinkle by Nick Sharratt. I remember he was transfixed by the shimmering star on the front and touched each page with it's different texture. He joined in at the end of each sentence with the well rehearsed rhythmic phrases. He delighted in turning the pages while sitting on my knee, showing me each wonder with a special backwards glance and a smile. 

As I said to her at the time in the politest tone I could muster, 'Actually, books are fantastic!'
i summarised why last year but as it's National Book Day on thursday, I make no apology for re-iterating what I said.


There have been many, many research studies on the influence reading to children has on their educational growth, and in almost all of the studies done, reading to children as early as six months of age has been ‘proven not only as a good parent-child bonding, but as giving the child a good educational start in life’ (Maria-Helen Goyetche, owner of Early Childhood Education, 2009). The following is a summary of the available research & results of interviews with several early years’ practitioners:

General points:
1. Babies: There’s no such thing as too early. It’s good to start showing babies pictures and talking about them as soon as they focus her eyes on the pattern on a jumper or the change-mat. It’s part of parent –child interaction. Sue Gerhardt, discusses the major adverse implications on the developing brain if not there is not this type of quality interaction, (‘Why love matters’, 2004) *

2. Toddlers: discovering new words, learning to "read" pictures to find the meanings of words or the answers to questions hiding behind those thrilling pull-tabs: where's the kitten gone?

3. Pre-schoolers: a realisation that pictures on the page are the introduction to print; being read to helps the child toward written language at this age just as it helps towards spoken language two years previously.

4. School-Aged: Once children are used to being read to, they will never be bored if somebody will read, and since there are bound to be times when nobody will read and they are bored, they'll have the best possible reason to learn to read themselves.

All the research agrees that reading to themselves isn't a signal to stop reading to them though, even when the child starts to read stories to himself for pleasure. 
1. Bonding
Maybe the most important benefit a parent and child have from reading together is a bond which naturally develops as they spend time together. They are connecting with the baby while the baby is doing the things she likes best; being with you and hearing your voice speaking to her. ‘The book isn’t as important as the moment and........ it could even be a comic,’ Lesley Smith, Early Years Practitioner.

2. Attention/listening:
Attention skills are extremely important and need to be learnt to be successful in school. Attention and listening are the main skills in decline in the 21st century. A recent survey of 100 primary schools hi-lighted this (Libby Hill, 2010). By sharing a story book early on, it is helping to develop both attention span and listening.

3. Social interaction
Perhaps the most important benefit is the time the adult spends reading with the child. ‘The book is the vehicle for the interaction, which is the most important thing,’ Deborah Falshaw, Teacher & Early Years Practitioner.

4. Communication
Many of the components of communication are developed whilst sharing a book: turn-taking, listening, shared attention and speaker/listener roles are identified

5. Language
Hearing the adult use different intonation patterns and the full range of phonology of the language they’re speaking helps develop the child’s own speech and language.

a) Vocabulary: linking the names of words to the pictures helps vocabulary development. It’s often easier to find pictures than real objects to show the child. In any event, the pictures supplement the child’s semantic links to aid the acquisition of new vocabulary.

b) Reasoning: Following a character's actions in a story helps develop problem solving skills. Children are just learning about the world they live in. They are beginning to learn that their actions have consequences. Story book characters can help test these sometimes confusing issues without the pain of going through it themselves. The next time a child is confronted by a situation he has encountered in a story that has been read to him, he will know he has options.

6. Intelligence/Imagination
Getting children absorbed in books helps stimulate imagination which has been proved to advance their thinking power. They learn to pretend and put themselves in the story which often promotes a higher level of thinking. Children who are read to at an early age find it easier to express themselves and their feelings, making them more confident as they grow up (Professor James Law, City University, own conference notes 2009).

7. Emotional development
Children’s emotions can be validated through story reading. Sharing stories about characters who have the same emotions, especially negative ones, lets the child know that the feelings are normal. Children can learn from the reactions of the characters in the story (Susan Anderson, ‘The invaluable importance of reading to your child’).

8. Good habits
Children will pass on the love of reading to their children if they have been read to. Children live what they learn. They will be more likely to share reading with their own children.

9. Introducing difficult topics

10. Helping to handle stress
Life can be tough for a child in the 21st century. Books provide escapism as well as a source of comfort.


Maryann Wolf Director/professor of the Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, USA "Children who begin kindergarten having heard and used thousands of words, whose meanings are already understood, classified, and stored away in their young brains, have the advantage on the playing field of education. Children who never have a story read to them, who never hear words that rhyme, who never imagine fighting with dragons or marrying a prince, have the odds overwhelmingly against them."

Penelope Leach, child development guru: ‘When parents read aloud to their children, everyone wins. It's fun for the adult and great for the kids. Easy for you and good for them. You don't even have to ration it because, unlike TV or ice cream, there's no such thing as too much’.

Saturday 25 February 2012

What do I do if I am worried about my child's talking?

Sometimes you just know that your little one isn't developing their spoken language as they should. Other times you compare them to their little friends and see a difference. Sometimes it's a grandparent or friend who mentions something.  However  you come to the tentative or definite conclusion, you need to know what to do about it.

If your child is pre-school, then the health visitor is a good source of information and she can refer to the NHS speech therapy department for you with your permission. In some areas (it used to be all ) you can make a call to the department yourself. If your child is at school, talk to the classteacher about referring your child to speech therapy.

If you want to make  referral to a private therapist, you can contact them yourself. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists recommend a website called On this you can put in your postcode and the age of your child and it will come up with a list of therapists in your local area. These are all members of the Association speech and language therapists in independent practice (ASLTIP). You can be sure that they are fully qualified and experienced, members of the Health professionals Council and members of the Royal College of Speech and language therapists. If you google private speech therapy, then make sure they are members of the HPC. Prices are usually pretty similiar from therapist to therapist. You can ring up and talk to the therapist before you make a decision as to who you choose.

You can have an NHS Speech and language therapist (SLT) as well as an NHS one. There is a protocol which they follow to work together.  

What happens then?
The therapist will need to see your child to assess the level he is at and what he needs to achieve more. This is usually in a clinic but independent ones will more than likely do a home visit. We prefer to do a home visit at Small Talk as they are more comfortable there and more likely to give a true representative of what they can do. In the sterile atmosphere of a health clinic, none of us is at out best! If not at home, we will visit nursery or playgroup.

What is the assessment?
This may be informal observation, play and by talking to you. They will ask about such things as pregnancy and birth and family background in order to complete a case history. Therapists use formal assessments too which will involve looking at pictures or books. It should be stress-free and fun for the child. The SLT will look for the child's level of attention, listening, play, understanding and how they express themselves. They will also listen to speech sounds but this might not be a priority.

The SLT might decide to review progress in a short while or offer therapy.

What is therapy?
A lot of the time we will be working through the parent or nursery staff as it is important for generalising skills. It is a bit like a music lesson, you wouldn't expect that the only time you do it to be the lesson. The lesson is to show you what to do and then you would need to practise all week before the next lesson. We try to make sure that any suggested 'work' fits into your daily routine wherever possible.

1. Is my child too young for therapy?
No child is too young if you work with the parents. Parents are the most important part of the Speech therapy process. Small Talk are licensed Hanen practitioners and offer 'It takes two to talk' for parents.

2. How long will therapy take?
That is impossible to say but the SLT will set targets/aims and discuss these before they start. 

3. I am worried but nursery aren't, should I still see a SLT?
Yes because you can discuss your concerns. She will be able to allay your fears or suggest a course of action.  There might be problems at home that haven't shown themselves at nursery or vice versa.

4. I can't get time off to have therapy, what can I do?
Depending on the problem, many private SLTs offer saturday sessions or via skype.

Have a look at for more information.  You can see stages and ages at

Don't worry in silence, get help!

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Tuesday 21 February 2012

How to talk to a 2 year old: more ideas

The Teeny Talker groups that we do are designed to encourage spoken language development in two year olds. Last time we looked at some ideas to help at home. Here is Part 2 of the ideas from Talking Matters

More ideas to develop language:
Pretend play is great for developing language and social skills. Two year olds are happy to be alongside you, copying the things they see you do every day. They could “cook” with a wooden spoon and some plastic bowls while you make tea, or “peg” some socks on the edge of the basket as you hang your clothes on the line. They can also pretend to look after teddies or dolls, copying the things you do with them such as feeding and bath-ing. These activities which children see repeated over and over are great for teaching action words and func-tions.
Talk out loud as you do jobs about the house. Talk about what you are doing and what you are using and your child will learn all kinds of things. “I’m cutting the carrots, chop, chop, chop” “I need something to mix the gravy, what could I use, spoons are good for mixing”
Sorting and tidying are great ways to practice concepts such as size, shape, colour and position words. As you sort the washing you could talk about size. “here are the big socks and here are the little socks. Daddy’s socks are big and yours are little.” Picking up toys could be a way to develop colours, “here is a red block, let’s pick up all the red blocks first.” Putting away the dishes could help develop concepts of shape, let’s put the square containers here and the round ones here.” and position “let’s put the cups up the top and the pans down the bot-tom.” Bathing and dressing are great for learning to combine words, “arm in, leg in” “wash your face, wash your tummy”.
While many skills can be taught as you go through the day one thing that is really worth setting aside a few minutes each day for in a busy schedule is to read to your child. Those few minutes will pay off in the long term with more success at school and with your child developing a love of reading and learning.

Answering simple questions for toddlers
As children grow older, their ability to answer questions develops. Responding to questions helps us to share information, develop relationships, learn from experiences and demonstrate our knowledge.
Blank, Rose and Berlin were researchers that looked at the types of questions teachers asked year one children in the classroom and then classified them into 4 different levels from concrete to abstract. Level one questions are about concrete items and are the first types of questions children learn to answer. Level 4 questions are the most abstract on this scale and are typically consolidated after a child starts school. By understanding the different levels of questions we can:
 Simplify questions when needed to help our child understand
 Expose the child to more complex questions to stimulate their development
 Help prepare our child to answer the types of questions used in educational settings
Level one is the simplest of the four levels of questions and begins to develop in toddlers. Most children are able to consistently respond to this level by the age of three years. At this level children respond to their senses and talk about the things they see, hear and touch immediately in front of them as they answer these early questions.
Level one questions include:
 Choosing objects “Show me the...”
 Naming objects “What is this?”
 Copying actions “Do this...”
 Naming actions “What is he doing?”
 Naming things seen or heard “What did you see/hear?”
 Matching objects “Find one like this”
 Repeating sentences “Say this”
To help a very young child learn to answer questions:
 give lots of practice with one question type before moving on
 keep your questions short, just three or four words to begin
 give only a few choices, two or three pictures or objects to start with, and add more as your child learns
If your child does not know the answer you can:
 give them a choice “Is is a duck or a bear?”
 guide their hand “Let’s find the duck together”
 model the answer “It’s a duck, you say it…What’s this?…It’s a duck”
Try these activities to practice level one questions:
Peekaboo Have some familiar dolls, animals and teddies and a cloth such as a tea towel or small blanket. Ask your child to close their eyes, hide one toy under the cloth and then ask them to open their eyes and say “Who is it?” Take the cloth off and say “Who is it?’ Hide the toy again and ask “Who did you see?” Make a peekaboo picture game by taping some coloured paper flaps onto a piece of cardboard and sliding photos of family members under the flaps for your child to open and name.

Answering simple questions for toddlers
Try these activities to practice level one questions:
Surprise box You can use plastic containers and recycled boxes or buy a few brightly coloured gift boxes to use in this activity. Have a number of small familiar items that will fit in the boxes. To begin with let your child see the items, touch them, talk about them and tell your child their names. Ask your child to close their eyes and hide an object in each box. Help your child to open the box and ask “What’s this?” When your child can do this easily find some new items to hide without showing your child the items first.
Feely bag Use a cloth bag such as a library bag or pillow case and choose a number of familiar items to put inside it. Begin by showing your child the items. Talk about them and name them as you put them in the bag. Help your child to put their hand in and find an item. Let them pull it out and ask “What did you find?” When they can name the items easily put some new items in the bag without showing them first and see if your child can name them.
Books There are lots of ways to use books to practice these types of questions. Early board books with clear pictures of familiar objects can be used to practice “Show me a ...” Use flap books to practice “Who’s/what’s this?” Open and close the flap then ask “What did you see?” Use animal and vehicle books and make noises for your child and ask them to “Point to what you can hear”. Use picture books of children playing or doing daily activities to practice “What is he/she doing?”
Card games Matching games such as lotto games and snap games with pictures of familiar items can be used to practice several different types of questions. If you don’t have these games you can make your own from photos, clip art or junk mail (Remember you need two junk mail catalogues that are the same)
 Place one lotto board or cards on the table. Hold up a matching card and ask your child “Find one like this”.
 Place three or four cards on the table, name and talk about them then turn them face down. Turn one over, count to five then turn it back down. Ask your child “What did you see?” Once your child able to do this repeat it with new pictures without showing them first.
 Use some pictures of things that make a noise, look at them and talk about their names and the sounds they make. Place them face down, pick up one card but don’t show your child the picture. Make the sound, ask “What did you hear?” and see if they can guess which card you have.
Sound makers Collect a number of things from around the house that make sounds such as squeaky toys, rattles, small bells, musical or noisy toys, crunchy paper or plastic, shakers made from plastic bottles with different things inside. Look at them, listen to them, talk about them and name them for your child. Ask your child to close their eyes, make a sound then hide the item as in the mystery box, peekaboo or feely bag games above. See if your child can tell “What did you hear?” and then find the item.
Animal noises Collect a number of toy animals and talk about them together, name them and talk about the sounds they make. Older children can use picture cards or small plastic zoo or farm animals. Ask your child to close their eyes, hide an animal as in the mystery box, peekaboo or feely bag games above. Make the animal’s noise and see if your child can tell “What did you hear?” then find the animal to see if they were right.
Photo albums Use photos of family, friends, familiar items and daily activities in photo albums or slide shows to help your child practice “Who is this?” “What is this?” and “What are they doing?”
Puppets Use puppets or large dolls or toy animals to practice “Do this...” and “Say this…” Make the puppet clap hands, wave or blow a kiss and ask your child to copy. Make the puppet say “hello” or simple sentences and ask your child to copy. Gradually make the actions or sentences more difficult.

Talking Matters offices are located at the Elizabeth East Shopping Centre, 53 Midway Road, Elizabeth East.  We also have an office in Kapunda for families in the Barossa/Mid North area.

Saturday 18 February 2012

How do I talk to my 2 year old?

As you may know we run classes for two year olds called Teeny Talkers and I keep being asked what parents can do to help at home. Here is lots of communication advice for your two year old from our esteemed colleagues at Talking Matters:

Two year olds are active and sociable and “into everything”. From around two years children go through a period of rapid growth in their communication skills, developing from a toddler experimenting with combining words to a three year old who can use sentences and hold simple conversations. Children who communicate better, interact better with others and manage their emotions and behaviour more effectively, so there are pay offs in the long run for helping your child develop good skills now. Here are some ideas to develop your child’s communication skills.

Two year olds should be using at least 50 single words and putting short phrases of two or three words together. Their speech should include a range of different speech sounds though they may not use them correctly in all words. Not everything that they say may be clear and they may still use some babble when trying to express themselves but familiar people should understand much of what they say.

By two and a half years children can understand:
 what things are used for (what goes on your feet?)
 simple concepts such as big/little, hot/cold, in/out
 the difference between “he” and “she”
 follow simple instructions “find your shoes”
By two and a half years children can say:
 many single words and two word combinations
 some describing words “big”, “hot”
 ask some simple questions “what’s that?” ”where’s Dad?”
 use words for possession “mine, my teddy, daddy’s shoe”
 use plurals “two dogs”
answer yes/no, what and where questions.

To help your child develop word combinations:
1. Build a solid base of single words. Children usually need around 50 single words before they begin this stage. Even after they begin to use two words they will need to continue to learn more single words to continue to develop their language skills. It is usually easier to learn a new word as a single word at this stage e.g. “zebra” then later combine it “baby zebra” “zebra eating” etc.
2. Develop a variety of word types. Children begin by learning lots of names of people and things. To develop two word combinations they often need to combine these nouns with a different type of word such as an action word or a descriptive word. Action words are particularly important as they form the basis of sentences later on.

Help your child learn a range of different words including:
 action words: eat, sleep, jump, dance, run;
 describing words: big, funny, sad, hot, wet;
 position words; up, in, under,
 possessive words: mine, yours,

3. Expand the single words your child does say by adding another word. Try to repeat it a couple of times if you can.
Sometimes you might add another word you know they can say e.g. Child “bye” Adult “bye Dad, Dad’s go-ing shopping, bye Dad”. Sometimes you might add a new word. Child “more” Adult “toast, more toast, you like the toast, more toast.”
Your child does not need to copy you, just hearing what you say will help and they will use that phrase when they are ready. If they do try to copy you though, respond positively. If what they say is not clear still be positive and say it again clearly for them. E.g. child “more toat” Adult “yes more toast”.

Practice games and activities where you can repeat word combinations over and over a number of times.
Activities could include;
 Bath time: wash + body part “wash face, wash arms, wash tummy”
 Mealtime: eat + food name “eat peas, eat carrots, eat meat”
 Dressing: clothing name + on “shirt on, pants on, socks on, hat on”
 Ball play: action + ball “roll ball, push ball, kick ball, catch ball”
 Car play: car + action/position “ car go, car stop, car up, car in, car down”
 Block play "build up, more blocks, fall down"
 Outside play "Alex + run/jump/climb/slide" "Alex under/over/in/out/through"
 Hiding dolls or animals and finding them “hello teddy, goodbye puppy”
 Matching games “Two apples, more dog”
When your child does produce two words together all by themselves expand them to three words to keep them learning.

We'll look at some more ideas next time

Talking Matters offices are located at the Elizabeth East Shopping Centre, 53 Midway Road, Elizabeth East.  They also have an office in Kapunda for families in the Barossa/Mid North area.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Advertise to Speech and Language professionals across the globe

We have kept our advertising rates the same this year so if you have a product or service you would like speech and language therapists/pathologists to be aware of let me know. Our prices are very competitive based on £850 for a full page. We anticipate 12,000 copies of the February issue will be downloaded.

Readership breakdown is
United Kingdom
United States


Artwork specifications
Size: Adverts submitted must be full size at a minimum of 72dpi.
Format: PDF or jpg format.
Delivery: All artwork to be emailed to:
All new advertisements must be approved by the editor before they can be included in S&L World
In-house artwork service
If you would like S & L World to create your advert for you, costs are as follows:
Display from £250 each,
Recruitment at £200 each.
Please allow 5 days for artwork production.

You can download the first issue for free at

Email to: or call  Advertising Sales 07792 906741

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Monday 13 February 2012

Do you use sign with babies and children under 8 years?

If so please complete the attached survey 

This survey is being conducted to gain an understanding of resources and materials that you, as a parent, carer or professional, would find useful in supporting your learning and making signing more accessible, interactive or memorable in your home or workplace. 

Please do share this with anyone who uses signing in any context with children under 8 years as every response provides us with valuable insight into future projects.

If you enter your email address at the end of the survey, you'll be entered into a draw to win some fantastic signing resources from BSL Early Years author, Cath Smith.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Help! my child is not talking

Are you concerned that your child's speech, language or communication is not developing as it should? Sometimes, if you don't see other children of the same age, you just don't know what is expected. Other times you may see others of the same age chatting away while your child isn't. How are you supposed to know whats OK and when you need to worry? When should you seek help? 

We strongly recommend that you seek help from a speech-language professional if your child:

By 12 months

  • doesn’t babble with changes in tone – e.g. dadadadadadadadada
  • doesn’t use gestures like waving “bye bye” or shaking head for “no”
  • doesn’t respond to her/his name
  • doesn’t communicate in some way when s/he needs help with something

By 15 months

  • doesn't understand and respond to words like "no" and "up"
  • says no words
  • doesn't point to objects or pictures when asked “Where’s the...?
  • doesn’t point to things of interest as if to say “Look at that!”  and then look right at you

By 18 months

  • doesn’t understand simple commands like "Don't touch"
  • isn’t using at least 20 single words like "Mommy" or "up"
  • doesn’t respond with a word or gesture to a question such as “What’s that? or “Where’s your shoe?”
  • can’t point to two or three major body parts such as head, nose, eyes, feet

By 24 months

  • says fewer than 100 words
  • isn’t consistently joining two words together like "Daddy go" or “ shoes on”
  • doesn’t imitate actions or words
  • doesn’t pretend with toys, such as feeding doll or making toy man drive toy car

By 30 months 
  • says fewer than 300 words
  • isn’t using action words like “run”, “eat”, “fall”
  • isn’t using some adult grammar, such as “two babies” and “doggie sleeping

3-4 years 
  • doesn’t ask questions by 3 years
  • isn’t using sentences (e.g., "I don't want that" or "My truck is broken")  by three years
  • isn’t able to tell a simple story by four or five years 

If you’ve noticed one or more of these warning signs in your child, it’s important that you take action right away to ensure that he receives the help he needs.

Taken from the Hanen website which has useful info for parents as well as professionals. We are Hanen accredited SLTs

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Smart Talkers Pre-School Communication Groups: nominated for award!


We are delighted to have been nominated for the best local pre-school activity in the annual What's on for Little ones awards. Its the 3rd year in a  row that we have been entered in this category and I don't expect to win but its good publicity for the cause of children's communication. Anything that gets people thinking about this subject can only be good.
There are 20 award categories for 2012 with some really exciting new awards and developments! Nominations will open on 4th January 2012 and will close on 29th February to make sure your favourite gets the recognition they deserve - each nominee will need 5 nominations to go through to voting as sponsored by The Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC) which will commence on 7th March 2012 and close on 6th May at 5pm.

They received over 32,000 online votes for last year's awards and already the momentum is building to make 2012 another record year! Even more exciting - for the 1st time the UK awards will run alongside the 1st What's On 4 Junior Awards to be held in Australia! For more on the Aussie awards and What's On 4 sites down under see 
here!  (What's On 4 Junior Sites are also now in Ireland, the USA and will soon be supporting parents in New Zealand too!)

For more info
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