Tuesday 31 July 2012


The Communication Trust has welcomed recommendations from the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum to improve health-related care for children and young people and address long-standing system issues.

The Forum launched by the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, included the Government's former Communication Champion, Jean Gross CBE. Last year, The Communication
Trust managed and delivered the National Year of Communication (Hello campaign) in partnership with Jean Gross. Cara Evans, Interim Director at The Communication Trust, said: “The Communication Trust is  particularly pleased the  Health Outcomes Forum report makes strong recommendations around more effective integration of health with education, social care and other local authority led services.

"Over 1 million children and young people in the UK today have some form of long term and
persistent speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). For too long these children have
fallen through the cracks of health and education, being passed from one agency to another, with
families stuck in the middle of local disputes.

"Improving joint commissioning of services for children and young people with SLCN is vital and we
need to take their views, and those of their families, firmly into account. The Trust wants to ensure
that children with SLCN and users of alternative and augmentative communication aids (AAC) are
supported to express their opinions on matters that directly affect their life chances.

“The Trust wholly endorses the recommendation that  all those working with children and young
people should possess the right knowledge and skills to support children and young people's
communication development and to be able to identify when they are struggling."

Julie Wagge, Director of Speech and Language Therapy Services at Symbol UK, one of the Trust’s
consortium members, said: “Getting it right for children and young people with SLCN relies heavily
on effective joint commissioning. An inherent difficulty has always been that the specialist resource -
speech and language therapists - sits within the NHS but the ultimate legal responsibility to provide
therapy sits with the local authority as the education provider.  "The care pathway for children with SLCN includes nursery-based provision and schools. Effective clinical outcomes rely heavily on the collaboration between practitioners, teachers, speech and language therapists (SLTs) and parents. Early and timely intervention is critical or we face great economic and societal costs down the line."

At the end of the National Year of Communication, Jean Gross CBE published her final report as the
Government's Communication Champion for children. It highlighted that joint commissioning is still
not taking place in seven out of ten local areas. The report can be downloaded from

Saturday 28 July 2012

We need to be very aware of HOW we are interacting with our babies and children

Why Love Matters With Sue Gerhardt

Start date04-Sep-2012
Duration1 day, 10am - 12noon
Price£35.00 (inc. VAT)
  • Course Description
    Why Love Matters
    The daily challenge of looking after you kids, getting them to school, making sure they don’t only eat junk food, and putting them to bed before you fall asleep, doesn’t leave much time to think about how your choices as a parent are affecting society. But it is dangerous not to, argues practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist and parenting guru, Sue Gerhardt. Looking outwards from our self-contained domestic worlds also sheds light on how the ‘broken society’ might be affecting our children.
    You won’t be preached to or chastised here, but persuaded to re-evaluate your family and community dynamics. When a baby’s behaviour is observed, it is clear that human beings are naturally communicative and want to be connected to others. But if we don't change the way we bring up children, beginning from the moment they come into the world, Britain will remain disintegrated, disengaged and depressed.
  • What's Included
    An informative session on how the daily rushes and challenges might be affecting our children, in what Sue Gerhardt terms the 'broken society'.
    A chance to think about the way children are brought up and to consider the impact families and communities have on a child's behaviour.
  • Tutor Details
    Sue Gerhardt is a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She co-founded the Oxford Parent Infant Project (OXPIP) which provides psychotherapy to around 50 families each week. She is the author of Why Love Matters (2004) and Selfish Society: How We All Forgot to Love Each Other and Made Money Instead (2010), and also has two children.
  • More Information
    Maximum number of people: 25. First come, first serve basis.
    Light refreshments will be served
    Venue: The School of Life, 70 Marchmont Street London WC1N 1AB

    This course will be run by The School of Life, whose goal is to challenge, provoke and inspire you to think deeply about the issues that matter most, and to provide a space for you to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with other curious, open-minded individuals.They don’t have all the answers, but they will direct you towards a variety of useful ideas – from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts – that are guaranteed to stimulate, provoke, nourish and console. 

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Texting overtakes talking!

The Community Trust Logo

The Communication Trust has reiterated the vital importance of good spoken communication skills and interaction, in light of Ofcom’s findings released last week that many  more people are sending text messages instead of having face-to-face conversations.  

Communication skills are fundamental in the 21st  century and are directly linked to learning and life  chances.  Previous Communication Trust research commissioned last year as part of the Hello campaign  (national year of communication) highlighted that an ‘urban myth’ exists that children will automatically pick up communication skills when in fact they have to be learned and nurtured.  Wendy Lee, Professional Director for the Trust, said: “We cannot underestimate the importance and value of face-to-face communication. Whilst technology plays a vital role in our lives, it is essential that children and young people develop good social interaction skills, express their thoughts and can make  themselves understood. 

“Children learn to communicate through face-to-face communication and interaction with adults and it  provides excellent opportunities to develop a wider vocabulary. They cannot pick this up through using technology when so much of this information is bite-sized and they miss out on the richness of  language.”  Lee continues: “Learning to speak and listen are some of the most complex skills we ever learn and in some socially deprived parts of the country upwards of 50% of children are starting school with language delay. Without good communication support, these children often don’t catch up with their peers. “Adults play a crucial role in ensuring children and young people develop these skills by engaging them in 
conversations. It is important they nurture good speaking skills and hold conversations so they model this approach, so it is concerning that the Ofcom study suggests we are relying more and more on texting and other forms of technology to communicate. 

“There are many positives about the way technology has developed. It has increased the number of people we can communicate with, which widens our experiences and can be enriching linguistically. 1 million children in the UK have some form of speech, language and communication need and for those  who use communication aids and alternative methods of communication, technology is their lifeline.  

 “If we consider teenagers, technology is very much part of their culture. We also have to ensure they are confident in face-to-face communication skills so they can succeed in the world of work. Employers have  highlighted that they are crying out for young people with good communication skills and that too many are starting work without them.” 

The Communication Trust has developed a number of resources to help adults and members of the children’s workforce to increase their awareness and confidence in supporting children’s language  development, being aware of the typical ‘ages and stages’ and knowing when a child is struggling and in need of support. These are available from www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/resources  The Trust has previously worked with BT (as part of Hello) to create top tips to make using technology a communication opportunity. This can be downloaded here www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/aboutthe-trust/what-do-we-do/latest-news.aspx  

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Great courses for early years staff: Hanen's Teacher Talk

What Educators Learn from Teacher Talk™ (the term teacher means any Early Years worker)

The Teacher Talk Training Series is designed to actively engage participants through discussions, small group activities, analysis of video examples and completion of practical Action Plans that participants take back to their classrooms. Teachers receive workbooks for each session that allow them to personalise the content and think about how they will meet the needs of the individual children in their classroom.
Teacher Talk is divided into three full-day training sessions:

►Teacher Talk™ Training A: Encouraging Language Development in Early Childhood settings

This training addresses how educators can use everyday conversations, play and daily routines to promote the communication and social development of all children, including those with language delays and those who are second language learners.
Participants learn how to:
  • Identify children’s conversational styles and the role teachers play in interactions
  • Implement six steps to following the child’s lead: Observe, Wait and Listen, Be Face to Face, Imitate, Interpret, Comment, and Join in and Play
  • Help children become better conversation partners by using appropriate questions, comments and turn-taking cues
  • Use five important steps to ensure that no child is left out of the interaction during group activities

►Teacher Talk™ Training B: Let Language Lead the Way to Literacy

This training discusses the important links between oral language development and literacy, and provides teachers with practical strategies for paving the way for children to read and write.
Participants learn how to encourage and support literacy development by:
  • Helping children develop a positive attitude toward the use of print
  • Choosing books that match children’s interests and stages of development
  • Using book reading as a time for interaction and conversation
  • Making print a natural and meaningful part of every day

►Teacher Talk™ Training C: Fostering Peer Interaction in Early Childhood Settings

This training addresses how educators can provide a physical and social environment that encourages peer interaction and creates many opportunities or successful interactions with other children.
Participants learn how to encourage and support peer interaction by:
  • Making the most effective use of space in the classroom
  • Encouraging a variety of groupings for interaction
  • Providing appropriate materials and activities
  • Creating reasons for interaction and providing specific coaching

 The Teacher Talk Training Series may be offered flexibly. Training A may be offered on its own, or in combination with Training B and/or C, and the trainings do not have to be held on consecutive days. Training A, however, must be completed by the participant before he or she attends either B or C.

We will be running these courses in Northampton and Staffordshire next term (dates to be confirmed). If you'd like us to run these in your area, please let me know info@smalltalk-ltd.co.uk

Thursday 12 July 2012

Tips for talking:by parents, for parents

A group of Stafford parents have been attending a unique, new course called Chuckle Talkers at one of the Sure Start Children’s Centres. It combines two of the service providers at the centre; Sara from Chuckle Productions and yours truly from Small Talk speech and language therapy. We have written a 10 part programme to look at encouraging speech, language and communication and gross/fine motor skills throughout the day. This was a pilot project and involved 10 families who have children under 5.

One of the main aims was to show that communication takes place in everyday situations all the time so that there is no need to make extra time for this. Parents can use the activities they do several times a day,  everyday e.g. parents change a baby or toddler’s nappy 5 or 6 times a day so if they know how to make this a communication opportunity, that’s 5/6 opportunities a day without extra time being involved. ‘Parents are extremely busy these days so it’s important not to give them extra to do, rather to get them to optimise what they do’, says Sara, ‘It’s quite stressful if you feel you need to make extra time when you’re already busy’. A current buzz word in management is to work smarter not harder and this applies here too. Sara has shown the parents how motor skills develop and the tie in with communication.

The families have looked at 10 different scenarios from a child’s day. The parents have had a classroom session and then joined the children for an imaginative journey to re-inforce what they’ve discussed. We have used a variety of videos to look at each aspect e.g. meal time, bedtime, story-time, music, and lots of discussion. By the end the parents were really good at identifying what made a good communication opportunity. We had looked at ICAN’s top tips for encouraging children’s communication but I was so impressed by their insight, I asked them to come up with their own.

Here are the 10 top tips written by parents for parents:

1.       Make talking fun

2.       Listen to your child

3.       Use simple language, keep sentences short

4.       Don’t use too many questions. A ‘handy’ rule is 1 question to 4 comments

5.       Give the child time to respond

6.       Let the child take the lead/go at their own pace

7.       Think about limiting the amount of TV a child watches. Only have it on when actually watching it and not as ‘wall-paper’ .

8.       Think about dummy use. May be limit to bed/nap times or when needs comfort and never when they’re talking

9.       Be kind to yourself, don’t set yourself unrealistic targets

10.   Don’t  compare yourself or your child to others. We are all different and develop at our own pace

The parents have suggested topics for a Level 2 of Chuckle Talkers, which hopefully will be carried out next term.  

Sunday 8 July 2012

What modifications can help CAPD in the classroom?

Last month we looked at the issue of Central Auditory Processing Disorder. The classroom can be an ordeal for a child with CAPD and often for his/her teachers! What techniques can help?
  • Present directions at a slower rate, with more expression in your voice.
  • Use simpler, shorter sentences.
  • Ask the child to repeat the direction over and over in a low voice (or silently) until the task is finished.
  • Have the child visualise the task before doing it.
  • Brainstorm with the child for ideas that will help her remember directions. Some children write notes to themselves, wear clothing items or markers of some kind like stickers on a belt.
  • Present directions in short, concrete segments, with visual cues.
  • Be sure the child is making eye contact when you speak.
  • Have the student seated up in the front of the classroom or very nearest the place of instruction where there is a good view of the chalkboard and other visual means of instruction.
  • Provide “quiet” areas in the classroom where concentration may be easier to maintain.
  • Have the student eliminate excess movement during instruction, chewing gum, talking to a neighbour, etc.
  • When working on projects, allow children to work in small groups as opposed to large ones
  • Earplugs or muffs can be worn during study time.
These are all good practise and will benefit any child who has language difficulties too. 

Tuesday 3 July 2012

A child's communication aid with a proper voice....at last!!

It's fantastic when a child can use a communication devise to let those around him or her know what they want, how they feel  and other previously unattainable basics that we all take so much for granted. However, up to now we have had to ignore the fact that the computer generated voice sounded more like something off a sci-fi film. Think of Stephen Hawking's machine for a child.
Now though, a ground-breaking project has unveiled the world's first genuine, natural-sounding children's voices for users of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC).
The voices, created by Acapela Group and AssistiveWare, are included in the Proloquo2Go App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch through a new free update released on the App Store.
'Harry' and 'Rosie' were recorded by and for children to use as their preferred 'Text to Speech' voice to communicate a want, need or thought using symbol-based communication or typing with word prediction.
Anna Reeves, National AAC Coordinator for England, said: "These new voices will further transform the lives of children who cannot speak and the lives of those around them. It may be the very first time that families hear their own children speak with a child's voice - you can't put a price on that."