Monday 22 December 2014

Are you looking for a career change for 2015? Our Smart Talkers franchises, may be for you


All children can benefit from our award winning  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 have designated areas for franchisees, find out if your area is available by emailing

Friday 19 December 2014

Our friends at Jitta Bugs are launching brand new classes: Phonic Bugs

Jittabugs are proud to announce they use the Jolly phonics system in our Phonics sessions read more about Jolly Phonics It uses the synthetic phonics method of teaching the letter sounds in a way that is fun and multi-sensory, enabling children to become fluent readers. The sounds are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically). This enables children to begin building words as early as possible.
There are five skills taught in phonics, they are –
  • Learning the letter sounds
  • Learning letter formation
  • Blending
  • Identifying the sounds in words (segmenting)
  • Tricky words

At Jittabugs we only concentrate on Learning the letter sounds and using those sounds in song and dance & sensory.

This program is aimed at age 2-5 years old. Some of our tutors offer this class in a 30 minute session, others 45 mins to an hour. We don't sit at desks, this is an informal, fun, educational class. We sit in a circle on the floor and sing songs, use movement and multi- sensory to enhance our learning of Phonics and numbers . In some sessions art and craft may be included at the end of the session using the Phonic & Number handouts.
They are also doing Number Bugs to teach early maths skills.

Tutors offering these classes Dawn -Tyne & Wear, Caroline- Taunton, Lynsdsey-South Shields, Margot-Durham, Jen-Blackpool

Caroline Ashworth

Monday 15 December 2014

Better Communication - Last call for pilot schools for January from the Communication Trust!

The Balanced System® Scheme for Schools is a whole system approach to improving outcomes for children and young people across the whole range of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

The Scheme provides tools for school development as well as the option to gain an award in SLCN and is supported by NAPLIC and Afasic. The Scheme for Schools has been developed in response to demand from schools for a whole system’s approach to understanding the school’s role in commissioning and providing support for children and young people with SLCN, alongside specialist services such as speech and language therapists and specialist teachers.

To find out more about how to register your school for the January  2015 pilot please click here

Thursday 11 December 2014

Product Spotlight: Preschool Make A Book

As you know we are always looking for quality materials we can use in speech therapy. We love this idea from Mojo Publications:

Preschool Make A Book is an activity program geared to clients in the developing phase of language who present with delay or disorder. The book is composed of ten units, each containing  a 4-episode picture sequence. You can use the pictures to make beautiful and versatile mini books by cutting/gluing or folding the pictures. At the bottom of each picture, write your target (based on your goals). 

There are three steps: 1. Choose your pictures 2. Choose your targets 3. Make a book. Here is a finished one that I made by cutting and gluing.

You can write just about anything under these pictures. They can be simple (single vocabulary) or more complex (complete sentences with pronouns, verb tense, etc). You can even use these pictures with your clients who have autism and need more of a social story.

I developed this product when I saw a need for speech therapy products to look a little more modern and fun. I wanted to create something that look distinctive but approachable, to be open and versatile yet simple to execute in therapy and at home. Preschool Make A Book is based on an activity I often chose when working with preschoolers, and I am very proud of how it turned out.

Please check out my website You can download an ebook or purchase a hard copy (which comes with the free ebook). For a limited time, there is a 15% discount. Just type 15%PMAB at checkout. 

Elissa Benjamin

Monday 10 November 2014

Please let me know which one I should use

  I have a voice over by a professional or one by me to add to the video on the front page of the new website. I can't decide which one to use. I'd be very grateful for your views please



Tuesday 21 October 2014

Talking to toddlers: it's not an option, it's a necessity!

I was unfortunate enough to be stuck in an A and E department for 2-3 hours the other afternoon. The only thing to do was people-watch. There were several elderly  ladies who had had falls, a teenage girl who was constantly being sick, two workman who were limping and many more walking wounded. Among them was a mother and her baby with a rash, who was probably about 18 months. He was strapped in his pushchair with nothing whatsoever to occupy him. His mum was talking on her phone, texting, listening to music on her head phones and looking out of the window which was too high up for him to see.

He had nothing to occupy him whatsoever! The best thing he could have had was otherwise occupied with her own things.

The only words she said to him were 'no' and 'stop that'.

He tried making her laugh to get her attention, he tried wriggling to get out, he cried, he made eye contact and jargoned, he pointed....indeed he tried every bit of his communicative repertoire but all to no avail. In the end he just screamed and then sobbed!

This made me feel really sad. The mother obviously cared for him. He was clean, fed and his physical needs were met but he was being neglected! The mother would not have sat there for all that time with nothing to do yet that's what she expected of her son.

I maintain that all parents want the best for their children but they need to know what that is. Let's have a public information drive so parents realise they should be talking to their babies and young children! It took a while before 'clunk, click every trip' took off but now everyone wears their seat belt. What catch phrase can you think of to headline the campaign?

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Working with other professionals... not just a nicety, it's essential!

There are more speech and language therapists moving over into independent practice each week, which is great because it gives parents more choice. However, it also makes it difficult to know who to choose. We'll cover that aspect more in a later blogpost but one of the factors must be whether they work with other professionals. It is vital they do not just work in isolation.

Unless, the problem is extremely simple, it is essential that the speech and language therapist can call upon other professionals. Here at Small Talk we work with Specialist Teachers, Counsellors, Clinical and Educational Psychologists and Occupational Therapists.  
If a child has a communication problem, it impacts all areas of their life. This slide from the ELDP shows that it impacts learning, behaviour, social development and emotional development. Similarly if a child has problems with learning, behaviour, social development or emotional development , it will affect their  communication. In a nutshell, communication difficulties do not exist in isolation so the remediation cannot exist in isolation.

We are finding that more and more we need to call upon Alison Hart and her team at Children's Choice Therapy. Very few people really understand what a Paediatric OT does so we do get some resistance initially from some families. However, once they meet Alison or her team they find her advice and support invaluable.

Occupational Therapists address the question:- "Why does this person have difficulties managing his or her daily activities (or occupations), and what can we adapt to make it possible for him or her to manage better and how will this then impact on his or her health and well-being?" 

Paediatric Occupational Therapists help children develop skills in the areas of self-care, school and play. These are seen as a child's main areas of occupation. By supporting children and enabling them to achieve their maximum potential, Paediatric Occupational Therapists indirectly work on developing confidence, self esteem, social skills and general well being. 

If we are concerned about attention control, potential sensory needs, sleep issues, we call in Alison and her team.They assess the child at home or school and draws up  a plan of action.

We had a joint team meeting last week and it really brought home how we can give a much better service if we can work as a team around the child.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Should you be worried about your 18 month old's language development?

Many people feel that 18 months is too young to worry about a child's communication but in actual fact, if there is a problem, the earlier you get help the better.

We know that 'normal' language guidelines are very loose so that each child is different but generally a  18 month old:
  • has a short attention span i.e. can concentrate for short periods on an activity
  • Shows some early pretend play 
  • Enjoys playing with other people 
  • Plays with a range of toys/activities 
  • Likes routines but can be flexible 
  • Follows simple commands and understands simple questions as part of an everyday routine
  • Uses babble or some words which family understand 
  • Communicates through gesture rather than words (e.g. pointing, waving)
  • Eats lumpy food with no problems

However, the following could indicate a problem and could do with investigating further:
  • Does not seem to understand what is said
  • Does not demand much attention
  • Pays attention for only a few moments
  • No pretend play
  • Reluctant to let others join in their play
  • Interested in everyday objects rather than toys. eg light switches, plug sockets, opening/ shutting doors
  • Unusually distressed if there are changes to routine
  • No babble or words

Small Talk are very happy to see young children to give advice or support you further.

Friday 26 September 2014

No Pens wednesday 2014: free speaking and listening resources

No Pens Day Wednesday is the Communication Trust's national speaking and listening event which provides free resources to support schools and settings to put down their pens and pick up their language! It's back for 2014 and will be taking place nationally on Wednesday 15th October, but you can run your No Pens Day Wednesday any time - the resources remain available throughout the year.
All of the resources are now available to download once you've registered. They have lots of exciting new additions for 2014 and more reasons than ever to take part. In particular,they're delighted to announce that this year for the first time ever they have resources specifically for early years and special school settings.
This year the event is also forming part of the ongoing support to schools in their work to deliver the SEND Reforms that come into force from September 2014. The event gives  tools to deliver high quality speaking and listening activities vital for all pupils and especially for those who struggle.
Register to take part in No Pens Day Wednesday and download all the resources

When my son's primary did this he had a lovely day!

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Saturday 30 August 2014

Through the eyes of a child: 1 - 2 years

I never cease to be amazed at how babies and young children learn to communicate. Have a look at this excellent video by the Communication Trust.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Through the eyes of a child: 6-12months

The Communication Trust has produced 4 excellent videos for parents. Take a look at this one for babies between 6 and 12 months

Monday 18 August 2014

Using animals in speech therapy: Small Talk's latest team member

Small Talk Speech and Language therapy have a new team member: 10 week old Labrador puppy called Ralph. We are the first speech therapy team in the country to want to utilise the power of animal assisted therapy. It will be a while before Ralph can be let loose on the children with speech, language and communication issues, so in the meantime we are helped out by local counsellor Frances Weston and her therapy dog, Tilly. Frances was based in Uttoxeter but now operates out of Sunshine Barn in Ashbourne. She has successfully been using animal assisted therapy as part of her work for a number of years.

It's well-known (and scientifically proven) that interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has significant benefits including physical and mental health and even encouraging children’s reading*.

Many of the children with whom we work, have severe anxiety which gets in the way of being able to assess their needs properly.  The team specialise in working with children with autism and those with selective mutism.

We decided to get our own dog after successful collaboration with Frances and Tilly. One example was a child who had severe behaviour problems, which were characterised by anxiety and a need to feel in control. The first session had been in a children’s centre but had been very difficult as the little girl, aged 9, had literally trashed the place, kicked, screamed, yelled abuse and it had generally been very stressful for all concerned. It’s very sad to see a child in that sort of state and we need to see the behaviour as panic attacks rather than ’naughty behaviour’. I needed to both assess her communication skills and be able to do my part to contribute to a potential diagnosis of autism. I knew immediately that we needed to enlist Frances and Tilly’s help, so the next session was held at Sunshine Barn where there are lots of animals such as Bertie and Beatrice the sheep, Steve the cat, ducks, chickens and lambs.

Tilly is a mature, sensible dog with years of experience of working with children and adults. Just having Tilly in the session made an amazing difference so I was able to do what I needed, the little girl was happy and relaxed and her mother was delighted. It meant that we could identify her needs properly. We were able to diagnose her with pathological demand avoidance, which is a type of autism’.

Small Talk and Frances Weston have also worked together with children with Selective Mutism, which is a phobia of talking and can be seen as a social anxiety disorder which affects many children. It can be very debilitating and affects the whole family. Having a dog in the session can be a first step in encouraging the child to talk.

Ralph will need to be properly trained so he can be recognised as a therapy dog and I am on a training course too so we can work together.  
for more information: 

Libby Hill 0844 704 5888 or 07792 906741
Frances Weston 01335 300996

 Extra info
Physical Health:
·         lowers blood pressure
·         improves cardiovascular health
·         releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
·         diminishes overall physical pain
·         the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some people need
Mental Health:
·         lifts spirits and lessens depression
·         decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
·         encourages communication
·         provides comfort
·         increases socialization
·         reduces boredom
·         lowers anxiety
·         helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
·         creates motivation for the client to recover faster
·         reduces loneliness
·         helps children focus better
·         improves literacy skills
·         provides non-stressful, non-judgmental environment
·         increases self-confidence, reduces self-consciousness

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Toddler not talking?

When we're called in to see  toddler who isn't talking, many parents are surprised that we don't start to work on getting them to say words . We have talked before about there being a pyramid of priority, as below

However, for some children, about whom we may be concerned about social interaction, we will suggest a different approach. As Hanen licensed therapists we might have these 5 top goals:

1. For the child to enjoy social interaction
2. To understand and use non-verbal communication (especially gestures)
3. To pay attention to people’s faces and words
4. To help the child imitate
5. To respond to bids for Joint Attention (RJA)

These can all be done through play.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Wednesday 21 May 2014

What to expect from your first speech therapy visit

The other day I was approached by a parent whose daughter had been referred by their Health Visitor to Speech and Language Therapy. This parent came across very anxious as she did not know what to expect, or exactly why her daughter had been referred. It then occurred to me that health professionals i.e.  a  SLT, Health Visitor, Audiologist, GP etc; need to bear in mind what it must be like for parents coming to our appointments.
With this in mind I would like to take the opportunity to let you know what to typically expect from your SLT appointment. However, it must be noted that SLT services vary across the UK, and between independent and NHS services. For instance, we at Small Talk SLT Ltd; prefer to see children in their homes as this is where they are most comfortable and relaxed.

A referral may have been made by your Health Visitor, GP or Teacher; or in some instances parents themselves may request a referral through their GP or Health Visitor due to concerns regarding their child’s speech, language and communication. You may have to wait some time for your initial appointment; however if seen by an Independent Therapist children are typically seen very quickly.

So what happens at this initial appointment?
Case History: typically a SLT will take a thorough case history of your child’s development e.g. when they first sat upright, crawled, walked etc; the ages they were when they first said their first word. They may enquire about any eating or swallowing difficulties, hearing tests or any difficulties encountered during pregnancy or birth etc. All of which provides an SLT with a holistic view of your child’s development.
Listen to parents concerns: a SLT will typically allow you time to explain any concerns you may have about your child. Or, explain why your child has received this referral e.g. his teacher is concerned about the production of his speech sounds; ‘k’ and ‘g’. Etc.
Assessment: the SLT will then carry out a range of assessments. Some of which may be informal, and can appear as though they are playing games with your child; or they may be more formal e.g. sitting at a table with a book and score sheet. The approach taken all depends on what your concerns are, what the child’s difficulty is, and their age and level of attention. Often, the SLT may need to further observe your child in another setting e.g. school, or home.

So for example, at Small Talk SLT Ltd, if we receive a referral for a child under the age of Five Years. We will make an appointment to see them at home, take a case history from the parents then spend time with your child to build a rapport and observe them in their home setting. We will then carry out any necessary assessments. The areas we are typically looking at are illustrated in the diagram; building blocks to language....

Attention & listening skills are the foundation blocks to your child’s language development. The ability to ‘listen’ and ‘look’ appropriately, and learn to focus their attention will form the basis of all learning. A child’s development of attention is sequential, a SLT will typically use a framework developed by Reynell (1977) to describe a child’s stage of development of attention control.

Play is a good indicator of a child’s general development e.g. physically, cognitively and sensory. It also provides an SLT with an indication of what symbolic level the child is at. Play is also an excellent way to assess and build a rapport with a child; then play can be used during therapy especially with under fives. How else would you motivate them?
Understanding (receptive language) is the ability to understand what someone communicates, either through sound (auditory), or visually (reading and interpretation of sign). A child’s receptive language skills can be affected by poor attention and listening skills. A child with difficulties in this area may have poor auditory memory, poor concept development, poor vocabulary, poor reasoning skills, difficulties with auditory discrimination, difficulty with interpreting complex grammar communicated by others, poor sequencing skills; and so on.
Talking (expressive language) is the ability to formulate a message into words and sentences; which can be spoken, written or signed. A child’s expressive language skills can be affected by their level of understanding e.g. poor vocabulary and concept development can affect how a child expresses what they did at school today. Speech production difficulties, a limited opportunity to communicate, lack of confidence, and motivation can also effect a child’s expressive language.
Speech Sounds, the physical production of sounds e.g. p, t k, d etc. are the ‘cherry on the cake’. The child’s ability to produce speech sounds are affected by the previous language levels; and, or physical difficulties e.g. cleft palate.
An assessment at each level will determine where a child’s therapy needs to target. For example, a child may be refereed due to poor intelligibility. However, assessment reveals that he has a very poor level of understanding. Therefore this area would be targeted first.
If you are worried about your child please see

Georgina White

Monday 28 April 2014

NHS and Independent Speech therapists: Working together

In a previous post I discussed the differences and similarities between NHS and Independent therapists, and the importance of collaboration. But what does collaboration mean?

Collaboration means to work jointly together. Therefore, any example of people working together could be described as collaboration. But what does that mean for Speech and Language Therapists (SLT’s) and their clients?

A SLT may collaborate with a colleague i.e. another SLT, or SLT Assistant; when planning a language group together. A SLT may collaborate with a Health Visitor or GP when concerns are shared about a particular child in their care. Or, a SLT may work with a teacher or Teaching Assistant to set goals for a child in the classroom. Often, these ‘relationships’ can be short-lived; or sometimes they can be long term i.e. when working within a residential school setting. However, the main outcome of these collaborative relationships is that the client remains the centre of professionals focus. Any outcomes set for these children or adults should be client centred

A client-centred approach was first thought of by Rogers in the 1940’s. With this approach the SLT and the client and their family/carers work together to achieve change; the SLT becoming a facilitator and working in partnership with the client and their family and carers.  This partnership then enables SLT’s to develop trust and empathy so that clients and their families, carers, teachers etc. feel empowered.

I would also like to highlight that SLT’s are there to promote a positive change, not necessarily a cure. As, ‘cure’ is determined by an individual’s standards and beliefs about what is normal! Therefore an SLT will aim to offer help and advice appropriate to their clients’ needs, to enable them to attain the best quality of life they can be expected to achieve. This is not only challenging for the SLT but for parents, carers, families etc.

At Small Talk SLT Ltd we always strive to ensure that goals are appropriate to our clients needs. We are also very lucky to have the time and resources available to collaborate effectively with our clients and their families; and other professionals where appropriate.

Georgina White

Monday 21 April 2014

Been busy

We've not posted in a while as we've been so busy this month that we haven't had time to write about it! What have we been doing? Well........

  • Weekly Targeted sessions in nurseries and children's centres in Stafford, South Staffs, Lichfield, Burntwood, East Staffs and Tamworth areas
  • Universal sessions in Children's Centres in Lichfield, Burntwood, East Staffs and Tamworth including Chatter Tots, Stories and Songs and Baby Talkers
  • Bookstart in Stafford for families of toddlers 12m to 3 years
  • Early Words Together in South Staffs, Lichfield and Burntwood. This is a new project from the National Literacy Trust for families of children aged 2 -5 years
  • The Transition project in Tamworth: a really exciting initiative to help children and families plus network with nurseries and schools
  • Various specialist assessments and reports for second opinions and tribunals
  • Assessing children for a new channel 4 programme by Maverick TV called 'Born this way?'
  • Specialist assessment and therapy in a secure mental health unit
  • Individual and group therapy sessions in schools, children's homes and nurseries
  • Therapy sessions for the LEA
  • Training including Elklan 'working with under 3s' ideal for think two staff. It's accredited at level 2 or 3. We've also been running signing workshops and practical sessions on developing language through play in local nurseries.
  • Plus taken on 20 new referrals in March

Erm... I think that's all!

Thank you very much to the team for all their hard work and dedication

We'll update progress on each shortly!

Tuesday 11 March 2014

AFASIC: help and support for parents

Listen to Abby's story as she talks about her early childhood and the frustrations she felt by not being able to express herself and to understand others. There's lots of helpful advice for parents on the AFASIC website


Sunday 9 March 2014

NHS vs Independent Speech and Language Therapy: what's the difference?

We are often asked about the differences between NHS and independent or private speech and language therapy. Georgina White explains more: 


·         Independent and NHS Speech and language therapists (SLTs) both have to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council i.e. all SLTs have to complete registered training and are committed to ongoing professional development.
·         All SLTs follow the same standards and ethics
·         All SLTs should be committed to multi-disciplinary team working i.e. working in collaboration with teachers, other health professionals; including other SLs
·         SLT’s are committed to continuing professional development, so many are trained in specialist areas of communication difficulties.


·         The main difference between these two services is time! Typically, independent therapists offer immediate appointments for assessment; followed by therapy if required.
·         As independent therapists have more time available, they are able to offer more flexibility; especially in terms of where and when they can see clients. Often independent therapists prefer to see their clients, especially children at home; as this is where they are typically more comfortable.
·        However, time and flexibility comes at a cost as independent therapists charge for their time and experience.

Despite any differences or similarities in the SLT services, collaboration is vital. At Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy Ltd, we take great pride and consideration in involving all other professionals in a clients care pathway. We will work closely with other NHS SLT’s involved with our clients so that we can be sure that we are aiming for the same goals, and that families and clients can get the continuity of care they deserve, when and where possible.

Georgina White

Friday 28 February 2014

Early Words Together:coming together nicely

The Early Words together project is in full swing at the Lichfield and South Staffs Children's Centres now. It is a superb new initiative from the National Literacy Trust to help families develop their skills in order to help their children at home. Studies have shown that parents are a huge influence on children's educational success, so if they can help from very early on, it will have a knock one effect to school progress and beyond. The NLT call it the 'home learning environment' or HLE.

The 6 week programme looks at the importance of sharing books, how nursery rhymes are  still important, mark making, choosing stories and also includes a visit from the library staff.

Many people think that libraries are quiet places where children should be seen and not heard but in fact, they actively encourage families. The library staff use puppets to show children the positives of joining the library so they can have access to new books every week.

The feedback from the families so far has been very positive, 'I think its really useful to know about these things,' said Anne-Marie, mum of 2 pre-schoolers. The sessions will be fully evaluated both internally and externally as part of a pilot project running until next March. If successful, it will be run nationwide.

Monday 17 February 2014


I was talking to someone last week about the importance of attention for any form of learning but especially learning for language development. They hadn't heard about the levels of attention to which speech and language therapists constantly refer, so I thought I'd do a quick summary:

There are 6 stages of attention which were identified in the 1970s by Cooper, Moodley and Reynell. No-one has improved on these but the age for the stages are now questionable so that very few children now go to school with mature attention.

ATTENTION CONTROL  - developmental stages (Cooper, Moodley & Reynell)
(All age levels are approx)
Stage 1:  DURING FIRST YEAR                                                                   
Extreme distractibility. Child’s attention held momentarily by whatever is the dominant stimuli
Inflexible and rigid attention- child can concentrate for some time on a task of his/her own choice but cannot tolerate adult intervention. Attention level is better where the activity is one of his/her own choosing
Single-channelled attention, but becoming more flexible. With adults help can focus attention. Child can transfer from his task to adult’s direction and back to the task. Attention is still adult directed making it necessary for the teacher, to ensure she has the child’s attention before giving instructions.
Still single Channelled to one task but the child can now transfer spontaneously. Moves gradually to the stage where she only needs to look at the speaker if directions area are difficult to understand
Stage 5
Two-channelled attention. Where the child is now able to attend to a verbal instruction in relation to the task without actually looking at the adult. Attention can only be sustained for short periods of time.
Stage 6

Mature school entry level. Where integrated attention is well established and well sustained N.B May see fluctuating levels depending on environment, task complexity or health

Many year 6 teachers will be shouting that their children cant keep level 6 for long. We live in such a visually dominant world that auditory stimuli can be harder to deal with. We need to know what level a child is performing at so we can tailor acitivties accordingly and also help to move them to the next stage.

Many children with speech, language and communication difficulties have problems with attention and listening so we may work on this before anything else.