Monday 27 August 2012

Too much pressure on our children? Yes, sometimes!

Any one who knows me, knows that I go on about children not having sufficient stimulation these days and I have even been heard to say that there is no such thing as 'too much'. I now wish to amend that somewhat following a meal out on Saturday night.

The next table had two parents and an obvious 'only child'. The poor girl aged about 4 years was constantly taught and tested throughout the meal. The parents said absolutely nothing to each other through out their prawn puree starters and chicken kormas, they just bombarded poor Victoria with question after question after question.

There was no encouragement and occasional undeserved criticism. 'Lets play Ispy Verity, you go first,' said Daddy. 'I spy something beginning with pink,' said the poor child. 'Clever', I thought for a pre-schooler but Daddy didn't think so. It was met with scorn and derision.

'What letters can you see on that sign,Victoria?'  asked Mummy. 'I can't see a sign', said the poor child hoping to avoid the lesson'.

'What does 'stunning' mean asked Daddy?'. 'It means really good', said the child. 'No!', scoffed Daddy ' it doesn't. If I called Mummy stunning would you agree?' At this point the poor child just wanted to escape and so did I!!!

When a man collapsed on the floor, they ignored her questions about it and re-directed her to her food. This could have been a really good discussion topic as the para-medics arrived and began to minister to him but they were too busy 'teaching'.

There were lots of lessons the child could have learned about social language and conversation at a meal table. The parents could have been good role models and demonstrated the etiquette of eating out and how she should behave. They could have enjoyed her company and each others but they obviously thought the tirade of questioning, is what they should be doing. They even kept giving us smug looks as if they were showing  us how it should be done (We were without our 6). How I kept my mouth shut, I don't know!!

My book, 'How to prepare your child for school' isn't ready yet but when it it is I'll keep a copy in my bag... to give to parents like them? NO, to smack them round the head with..... hard!!

Saturday 25 August 2012

Is it ADHD, ASD or SLI?

The overlap of ADHD symptoms and autism symptoms have confused many families. When a child can’t sit still for homework or a meal, or stay in his chair in class, when he fidgets or talks too much and too insistently, most parents and practitioners think, “This child must be hyper-active!”
The first explanation most doctors arrive at is also attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The condition is familiar, it’s been around for a long time, and there are effective strategies to manage it. It is important to remember, however, that almost any psychological or developmental disorder of childhood can look like ADHD, with or without the hyperactivity. Children under stress, due to learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, communication based difficulties, specific language impairment (SLI) or sensory integration problems, may exhibit the same symptoms. It takes a skillful evaluation to tease out explanations for the behaviors.

The biggest part of our case load have had an ADHD query at some point but with time getting to know them, listening to parents and careful assessment show those who do and those who just have attention control issues.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Hanen: A tip for parents of young children who communicate without words

Take a look at this tip from Hanen
They offer sensible, practical advice and programmes to help parents and practitioners. Communication opportunities are everywhere. Have  a look at this one:

Sing songs with your child and build in opportunities for him to take turns

Sing simple songs with your child, especially ones with actions, like “Row Row Row your Boat”, and build in opportunities for him to participate. This is a fun way for him to learn to take his turn in an interaction, as well as to learn new words.

  • Sing a new song the same way a few times so your child learns the song and its “high point”. High points are the most interesting parts of a song. In “Row, Row, Row your Boat”, the high points are the rocking back and forth while you and your child sit on the floor, holding outstretched hands, and saying the last word after a long pause – i.e., “dream”.
  • Once your child is familiar with the song, pause before a high point and wait for him to respond.
For example, when singing “Row Row Row your Boat”, sing the song through once or twice and then, still holding his hands, WAIT for him to ask you to sing it again (he will probably make a sound or rock back and forth to ask you to do it again).
Or, you can start to sing the song while rocking back and forth, pausing mid-song so he can ask you to continue.
Or, you can slow down and pause before the last word (“dream”), so he can make a sound - any sound - to end the song.
  • To take his turn during songs, your child may wriggle, make a sound, look at you, point to something or perform an action. Accept anything as his turn and then continue immediately. The most important thing is that he takes a turn and has fun while doing it.
Small Talk are licensed Hanen Trainers Please let us know if you would like to know more about the training we could do for you

Sunday 19 August 2012

Communicate without writing!

The Communication Trust is calling on primary and secondary schools across the UK to put down their pens and pick up language on October 10th 2012. 

The Trust will be providing a portfolio of free materials including an activity pack, assembly plans and lesson plans for primary and secondary that reflect the increased focus on embedding speech, language and communication into all subjects. 

Schools will be encouraged to run No Pens Day Wednesday activities including podcasting, 
interactive story-telling, maths games, debating, vocabulary games and talk homework that will highlight the importance of language for learning for pupils and provide a day of 'no marking' for school staff. 

Anne Fox, Director of The Communication Trust, said: "No Pens Day Wednesday is a fantastic initiative that highlights the importance of speaking and listening approaches in the classroom. Ofsted has emphasised that pupils need more opportunities to become articulate and research has shown that too often our classrooms are dominated by teacher talk. 
"We are calling on schools to run their No Pens Day on October 10th or at another time that suits them. Feedback from schools last year was overwhelmingly positive.  No Pens Day Wednesday increased pupils engagement in activities, improved confidence and respect between pupils and helped those who struggle with the written word. Teachers reported back the benefits of lots of talk in the classroom, particularly on pupils vocabulary." 

My son George aged 9 yrs thought it was 'the best day ever!' last year when St Peters, Hixon joined in.

No Pens Day Wednesday was originally run as a flagship event of the Hello campaign (national year of communication) last year. The unique event proved popular with 800 schools taking part and leading academics including Professor Andrew Pollard and Jean Gross, formerly Communication Champion, backed the whole-day focus on  speaking and listening. Schools can register to receive the No Pens Day Wednesday materials here  

For more information, visit  

Sunday 12 August 2012

Are you worried about your child's hearing?

Approximately one child in a thousand will be born with hearing difficulties in the UK every year.  Early diagnosis is very important. When your baby is born, his/her hearing will be tested before you leave hospital.  This is part of the Newborn Hearing Screening 

The following may indicate a potential hearing difficulty:

  • The child may not respond when called
  • Delay in learning to speak
  • Difficulties in listening and attending to speech
  • Speech is unclear
  • Possible inappropriate behaviour or temper tantrums
  • Watches the face/lips intently

If you are worried about your child’s hearing, do not hesitate to contact your doctor who will be able to refer you to an audiologist.  They will carry out some tests to establish whether or not your child has a hearing loss.

There are two main types of hearing difficulty or deafness:

1.  Conductive deafness – sounds are unable to pass through the outer and middle ear.  This is often caused by a build up of fluid in the middle ear known as “glue ear”.  This type of deafness can be temporary and may be aided by the insertion of grommets to drain the fluid.

2.  Sensori-neural deafness – due to damage or loss of hair cells in the cochlea in the inner ear.

A child may sometimes have a mixture of the above two forms of deafness.

A child may be born deaf or become deaf following an illness such as meningitis.  Sometimes a child may become deaf and the cause is not known.

There are different levels of deafness.  They are measured in decibels (dB).  These are usually classified as:

  • Mild                  20-40 dB
  • Moderate       41-70 dB
  • Severe           71-95 dB
  • Profound       95+

If a child is deaf in one ear it is known as unilateral deafness; in both ears, bilateral deafness.

A speech and language therapist will help to assess the impact on speech, language and communication.

Friday 10 August 2012

What's your favourite children's book?

The parents of our Smart Talkers groups have voted for their favourite story. Here is their list:

  • The hungry caterpiller
  • What the lady bird heard
  • Stick man
  • Walking through the jungle
  • Whatever next?
  • Room on the broom
  • Dear Zoo
  • We're going on a bear hunt
  • The tiger who came to tea
  • The Grufello

What do you think, is yours on the list? We'd love to know....

Tuesday 7 August 2012

New director for Communication Trust

The Communication Trust, a coalition of nearly 50 voluntary organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication, has welcomed its new Director, Anne Fox. Fox, who previously worked at NCT as Head of Corporate Communications, will lead the organisation through its next strategic period. 

Anne Fox, Director of The Communication Trust, says: "I am delighted to join The Communication Trust at this exciting and challenging time. Moving forwards, the Trust will work to ensure children’s communication is a burning issue. We will do this by sharing what works for all children and those  with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) to the widest possible audience.  

“Good communication skills are key in the 21st  century and every child should have the opportunity to be understood. In five years, the Trust has achieved so much and we have trail blazed the way for collaborative working with our consortium members. Our challenge now is to build on the success of the  Hello campaign and to leave no stone unturned as we make the clear link between communication skills and life chances.” 

Adrian Hosford, Chair of The Communication Trust, said: "We are delighted to welcome Anne to The Communication Trust. Anne brings with her a wealth of experience around collaborative working and uniting different groups under a common cause.  Her valuable expertise and leadership will drive the Trust forwards and help us achieve the best outcomes for children, young people and their families.”