Monday 30 September 2013

Would you like to be your own boss, do something you love, make a difference AND have fun?.... you can as a Smart Talkers franchisee?

pre-school communication groups

All children can benefit from our award winning pre-school communication groups. They are designed to help develop confident, successful communicators. Spoken language skills are the basis for most educational tasks so the better the speech, language and communication skills the easier they will find it when they start school.

We use puppets, games, stories and songs to make it as fun as possible. We get great feedback from parents, carers and the children themselves! It's not really like working, as it's tremendous fun working with pre-school children.

We have lots of different groups: Small Talkers. Teeny Talkers. Baby Talkers, Chatter Tots and Stories and Songs. There are also lots of other packages for nurseries and projects for schools that we do.

We are looking for franchisees in many areas of the UK or further afield. No experience or qualification required as full training is given. Business support and back-up is an important part of the package. We also have licenses for speech and language therapists so they can run groups in their areas.

We are having an open afternoon so you can find out more::

26th October 2013
2-4 pm
Uttoxeter Fire Station
Cheadle Rd

Places are limited so early booking advised

Friday 27 September 2013

Tell us a joke.........

Voice Box
The communication Trust has teamed up with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) to launch Voice Box 2013 – a national joke-telling competition designed to raise awareness of the fun and importance of communication.

RCSLT are inviting mainstream primary and special schools in England to work on their own, or with their speech and language therapists, to hold a joke-telling competition between 2nd September and 4th October 2013. You then send RCSLT the winning joke from your school by Monday 7th October and a judging panel will shortlist the 10 best jokes they receive.

RCSLT will invite the shortlisted joke tellers and their parent or guardian to the Houses of Parliament on Monday 28th October for a national final, hosted by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons.
For more information please click here.

Monday 23 September 2013

The confusing terminology used by speech and language therapists, hopefully will become clear.....

I am always conscious of the terminology we, as speech and language therapists use when talking to other professionals and parents, and those terms that we use in our reports. To us, after 3-4 years of training these terms become second nature; and sometimes we can forget that the words we use can seem a little confusing to say the least. So I thought I would define some commonly used words and terms used by speech and language therapists. But first, maybe it would be useful to know what speech and language therapy is, what we do, where we work, with whom we work etc.

Speech and Language Therapy is used to help people that have speech, language, and communication difficulties; it can also be used to help people who have difficulties swallowing, eating and drinking.

The role of a Speech and Language Therapist, or commonly used term SLT, or even SALT within a hospital environment, is to assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in adults and children. With the desired outcome that individuals will communicate to the best of their ability. They may also work with people who have eating and swallowing difficulties.

What type of difficulties will a SLT come across?
       difficulty in producing and using speech
       difficulty understanding language
       difficulty using language
       difficulty with feeding, chewing or swallowing
       a stammer
       a voice problem

Where do SLT’s work?
       Schools (mainstream & special schools)
       Hospitals (inpatients & outpatients)
       Clinics/community health centers
       Clients homes
       Sheltered accommodation
       Prisons, young offenders institutes
       Courts, as a intermediary
       Mental healthcare settings
       Private/independent practice
       Assessment units & day centers

What type of work does an SLT do?
       work directly with children & adults e.g. using games and interactive learning; carrying out exercises e.g. speech exercises, breathing exercises etc.
       provide clients with work to carry out at home
       work with children & adults with similar difficulties in a small group
       provide clients with relevant resources & information
       provide clients with relevant contacts and support with other professionals, co-workers, support groups etc.
       an SLT will also endeavor to provide clients and their parents or carers with emotional support and appropriate skills to help them on a daily basis.
       a large part of a SLT’s role involves working closely with others e.g. teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, doctors, nurses, GP’s, psychologists, health visitors, social workers , orthodontists/dentists, dieticians,  audiologists, politicians/government, other SLT’s i.e. team work.

Ok, so what about some of those terms we use, what do they mean?
Attention and Listening is the foundation to all learning. Children must practice, and learn to ‘listen’ and ‘look’ appropriately to control their own focus of attention. The ability to listen and concentrate is an important part of all children’s speech, language and communication development. It is so important to encourage and develop ‘good’ attention and listening skills for all children; especially those that have difficulties in speech and/or language development.
Communication is the exchange of information between two or more people; using verbal and non-verbal means.
Language takes the form of two parts; receptive language is the ability to understand what someone communicates, either through sound (auditory), or visually (reading and interpretation of sign). Expressive language is the ability to formulate a message into words and sentences; which can be spoken, written or signed.
Non-verbal communication (NVC) is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. For example, your facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice etc. can all convey meaning to our listeners i.e. about how we are feeling; without actually using words. NVC, is influenced by culture and society, and is shaped by experience, observation and practice.
Phonology is the sound system of a language, and the rules for combining these sounds to produce meaningful units of speech.
Play, why do SLT’s look at this? Symbolic play skills are important for language development. It is a lovely way for children to learn about communication, language and other people. A child’s play skills can help to aid a diagnosis, and is the best way to implement therapy as it is fun and interactive!
Pragmatics/social skills refer to the ‘rules’ of language in social situations. It includes the speaker-listener relationship, the context, and the intentions of the communication. Therefore, speech and language are not the only components important for effective communication.
Social interaction skills include:
·         appropriate eye contact,
·         ability to listen,
·          ability to express ourselves,
·          ability to take turns,
·         ability to process what others are saying,
·         ability to initiate a conversation,
·         ability to maintain a conversation
·         ability to close a conversation appropriately,
·         awareness of a listeners feelings,
·         an awareness of the impact of what you are saying on others
·         the use of appropriate gesture, and the ability to understand it
·         the use of appropriate facial expressions, and the ability to understand them
·         ability to understand the intent of the communication, not just the literal interpretation
·         ability to be flexible in using and adapting language in a particular context
Phew, amazing isn’t it? All these things we do all day everyday; and we quite often take it for granted! So how do we do it? Well, all these social interaction skills are culturally determined, and learned through observation, trial and error, and life experience!!
Semantics is the meaning behind the language that is transmitted by words, phrases and sentences.
Speech is the physical production of sounds e.g. p, t k, d etc.

There may be more terms that you have probably heard used by professionals but I hope this clarifies some things for you. My advice would be, if you’re with a professional i.e. doctor, dentist, teacher, SLT etc; and they are using words you find confusing don’t be afraid to stop and ask them what they mean. Sometimes we can forget how ambiguous we can be!

Georgina White

Thursday 19 September 2013

Mobile phones are a huge barrier to communication development!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to respond to another report in a newspaper:

Head teachers have accurately said that parents shouldn't check their phones when their children are talking to them, as this can make sure they feel important and valued.

Why is this so important?
Communication is a two way interaction between people, children need to have the opportunity to interact with people that will listen to them; and respond to their questions and comments about the world around them. This will help them to learn how to communicate and use language skills that are appropriate and expected by others i.e. turn taking, listening attentively etc.; and also why we communicate i.e. for our needs and wants to be met.
Realistically can this be done if mum or dad or, our child’s carers spend a large proportion of this valuable time texting, responding to emails, accessing social media etc. Previously, a large impact on a child’s speech, language and communication was the effect of ‘wallpaper television’ i.e. the television being on constantly in the background, impacting on effective interaction and communication between children and adults. Today, I think another challenge is the mobile phone, as this can be taken anywhere.

What affect can mobile phones have on effective communication?
·        Reduces the time spent talking to each other, face to face
·        Reduces vocabulary expanding opportunities
·        Reduces effective modelling of social interaction skills i.e. listening attentively to the speaker, turn taking, ending conversations appropriately etc.
·        Reduces opportunities for parent-child interaction, affecting the quality and quantity of that interaction
·        Prevents good eye contact
·        You may not be aware of non-verbal communication i.e. pointing, body language, gestures; your child may be using to support his/her communication
Fortunately, I have not come across many parents in my pre-school language groups who regularly access their phones rather than join in with the session. However, I do know that many of my colleagues have. So if you work with parents and their children, think about talking to them about the use of mobile phones and the impact it can have on their children’s speech, language and communication skills.

Georgina White

Monday 16 September 2013

A third of parents don't read a bedtime story!

On Thursday, when I was on my way home, I heard a report on the radio about the fact that a third of parents are no longer reading their children a bed time story!

I was both shocked and worried to hear such a report. The article states that some parents claim they do not have the time, or are to stressed to read to their children! In fact a parent said this to me last week. Yes, we do have very stressful and busy lives but, one story can open the door for a lot more opportunities for our children. We, as adults (parents, carers, early years practitioners, teachers etc) should be providing children with the opportunity to access books and stories, or even stories we make up ourselves. There are no rules or regulations to what we should read, how often, when or where; just take the opportunities while you can. For example, you may be waiting for the bus, you could read the advertisements on the bus and talk about what they might mean; or you may be having a coffee and you could look at a magazine or newspaper together. The possibilities to access written print and encourage language around it are endless.

There are so many benefits to reading to children that I could just fill a whole page, and more telling you about it. However, instead of 'reinventing the wheel', please see links below for a previous blog written by Libby Hill; detailing and evidencing the benefits of reading to your child.

In all of our pre- school language groups we always include a story. The children love it, and so do the parents. Whenever I look around the room I can see that parents are just as engrossed in the story, and will often laugh along. In fact, I often find that a story at the start of session can often act as a good 'ice breaker' for those children, and adults that find these situations difficult. I also like to choose a 'special helper' each week, and they get to choose a story for the group.

So please, make it your resolution to include stories, and books into your everyday routine with the children you know!

I would love to hear how you incorporate stories and books into you everyday life.

Thank you,

Georgina White

Thursday 12 September 2013

No Pens Day Wednesday is back! Wednesday 9th October 2013

No Pens Day Wednesday, a national speaking and listening event organised by The Communication Trust, is now in its third year. They now have over 1,500 schools signed up to No Pens Day Wednesday- why not join them!
To find out more and get ideas for planning your No Pens Day they have produced the 2013 activity pack available to download here. The activity pack provides more information about why schools should get involved with No Pens Day Wednesday, what it involves, some useful guidance for teachers about supporting effective talk in the classroom as well as a handy timeline to help you plan your day.
Alongside the activity pack, they are producing some exciting new materials to support schools getting involved in No Pens Day Wednesday 2013. These will be available via their website very soon and they'll be in touch by email to all those who register their interest once the new resources are available. They also currently have all the resources produced for last year's event available on the website to help you start your planning early should you want to.
New for 2013 resources include;
• Downloadable poster for display in schools
• Print out poster to send home to families
• Speaking and listening outcomes matrix for lesson plans
• A handy how to guide to planning a good speaking and listening lesson
• Working effectively with support staff  in speaking and listening lessons
• New primary and secondary activity ideas
• Follow on factsheets on No Pens Day Wednesday
To access these and the new for 2013 resources as they become available, please register your interest on the website here.
Please help them to make the day as successful and wide reaching as possible by circulating this one pager to any of your networks who may be interested in getting involved in No Pens Day Wednesday on Wednesday 9th October 2013. 

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Activities and Tips for Parents to Help Develop their Child’s Speech, Language and Communication Skills.

We currently live in a very fast paced world; sometimes we take for granted the skills we need to be effective and successful communicators. During my pre-school language groups I try to take the time to discuss with parents the importance of means, reasons and opportunities.
In brief, this model is a holistic approach to describe communication, and was devised by Money,D. & Thurman, S (1994).

Means refers to HOW we communicate e.g. speech, signs, pictures, gestures etc.
Reasons is the WHY we communicate e.g. wants/needs, feelings, choices, requesting information, giving information etc. Giving your child choices is really important!
Opportunities is the WHEN, WHERE and with WHO we communicate e.g. time and place, shared communication system, family, friends etc.

Therefore, according to Money, D and Thurman, S; to be a successful and effective communicator ideally you need an element of each aspect. These means, reasons and opportunities are important to bear in mind when interacting with children. Please see below for a few suggestions of things you can do with your child to help them become successful, effective and confident communicators.

Nursery Rhymes and Singing:
·     Working on a child’s language skills. They can hear the rhythm and flow of language, speech sounds, and words; it helps them connect words to actions, to understand and remember words.  They also help attention and listening skills.
·         Increases their confidence. 
·         Helps with their pre-reading skills.
·         You can let your child make a choice of which song to sing, giving a child choice is really important; it gives them a reason to communicate.
·         Use songs that have actions and repeating lines, this helps maintain their focus.
·         Try stopping in the middle of the song and encourage your child to continue with the next action or word.

Daily Routines: Daily routines provide a good opportunity to help your child to learn new words.  Mealtimes and bath-times can give you a chance to reinforce some new words without even thinking about it!  Choose some Key Words that you will use every time – this helps your child learn through repetition. Just like us, children will have some days better than others. Tiredness, behaviour, time constraints etc. can all have an impact on the ability to learn new words.  But as often as you can, try to use these natural routines to help your child learn and use these common words.
Bath Time: During bath time you can use the words ‘wet’, ‘wash’, ‘dry’ etc. lots of times to show your child what these words mean. You can also name body parts e.g. ‘wash your feet’ ‘dry your tummy’ etc. Always make it fun!
Meal Times: offer constant opportunities for learning. Children benefit from the social aspects of eating together; learning how to take turns and sharing. This is a great time to talk about different foods; developing their vocabulary. Meal times can provide an opportunity for your child to use his/her language to request things.  Help your child to repeat some new words ‘more’, ’hot’, ’yummy’, etc. Name things as you put them on the table. Give your child a choice of foods & drink – juice or water?  This gives you child a reason to communicate and helps them to ask for things in a meaningful & functional way.
Reading Books: Story-time is a routine which is enjoyable for you and your child. It is a rich language activity, it can help develop your child’s attention and listening, their understanding, extend their vocabulary and; develop their reasoning skills.  It also provides a fantastic opportunity to introduce your child to literacy; letters and written words and the concepts of beginning and end.

Books aren’t just for bed time; they are great for any time of the day! Again, give your child the opportunity to choose a book and show you what he/she finds interesting to talk about. Again incorporate some Key Words e.g. – book, again, finished, my turn etc.

Play: Is a fantastic opportunity for you to interact with your child, and is an enjoyable way for your child to learn:
·         They can become familiar with objects, touching, textures, looking etc.
·         They can practice new skills
·         Improve motor skills and co-ordination
·         Integrate many of the senses i.e. touch, sight, smell etc
·         Learn about communication i.e. turn taking, asking questions etc.
·         Learn about language i.e. vocabulary
·         Learn about other people
·         It is a safe way to release excess energy and reduce the build up of any frustration.

General Hints and Tips:
During play and day time routines these tips can really help your child:
·         Comment on what your child is doing but, try not to ask too many questions
·         Show your child that you are listening and interested in what they are saying by repeating what they say.
·         Follow your child’s lead during play activities
·         Play pretend games e.g. tea parties
·         Allow your child plenty of time to respond
·         Talk to your child about what you are doing every day e.g. when you are in the car, doing the washing, cooking etc.
·         Try not to put too much pressure on your child to talk or say words they find difficult
·         Try not to criticise or directly correct your child when he/she makes an error with his speech sounds, just give them the correct model.
·         Get on your child’s level when playing; don’t be afraid to get on the floor with them.
·         Try and get your child’s attention by saying their name first, or tapping their arm before you ask them to do something, or are making comments about things around them.
·         Use simple repetitive language
·         Make learning language fun!!!!

   By Georgina White

Monday 9 September 2013

How to help in the classroom by those who really know

See how pupils at Hetton School have provided their own training film and compiled a leaflet of how teachers, therapists and parents can help children with speech and language difficulties in the classroom

Thursday 5 September 2013

ADHD or just poor attention and listening skills?

I was concerned to hear a report in the news the other week regarding an increase in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children and adults resulting in the  steady rise in "attention drugs". According to the Care Quality Commission in the UK prescriptions have gone up by 56 per cent since 2007.

I question as to whether the diagnosis of ADHD is always accurate? Are drugs to treat ADHD given out to quickly before a thorough assessment is established?

Since working with children that attend our language groups within schools and children’s centres, I have found that the majority of children have very poor attention and listening skills. These skills are essential for all learning especially for speech, language and communication development. Furthermore, social communication can be greatly affected if a child or adult cannot attend to people by looking, smiling etc.

There are many factors that can affect a child’s attention i.e. neurological components, medication, environment, poor motivation etc. As accurately described by Libby Hill, ‘It is a known fact that today we live in a very visual, fast- paced world, and often the first time a child is required to do any formal listening is when they start school. Many children have to be taught to attend and listen before they can begin the demands of the national curriculum.’ All these possibilities and potential reasons for poor attention and listening need to be considered in our assessments as speech and language therapists; and those of other professionals; i.e. we need to remain holistic.

Some children are naturally more energetic, restless and excitable; with these more ‘lively children’ I try to take the following approach:

·         I always have a positive approach to all children, providing praise when necessary no matter how big or small others may observe their achievement to be.

·         I always remember that all children have their own strengths and weaknesses; and I will often reassure parents by highlighting these strengths.

·         I will include an activity I know they enjoy

·         I implement a routine so that they know what to expect

·         I will often include energetic activities; therefore putting their energy to a positive use, goals can still be met

·         Observe when their attention is better i.e. particular times of the day, particular activities, with particular people etc. All of which can inform your management of that child so that these opportunities can be repeated more often resulting in success.

·         Depending on the child/children I will include a reward; given at the end of the session i.e. stickers, or a particular activity etc.

·         Reduce my demands on that child i.e. reduce the level of information given at a time, ensure to reduce questions.

·         If needed repeat instructions/comments several times.

These are things that I find useful when working with children that ‘struggle’ with their attention and listening. I would love to hear about your experiences and suggestions.


Thank you,

Georgina White