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.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Reasons, means and opportunities: choice making opportunities

Children will not develop language without a reason, a means and an opportunity. One of the best ways a parent can give the opportunity to communicate is by offering choices.

It sounds a really simple thing to do but it helps  children understand that they can use language to have an effect on the world around them. Once they see they can have an effect or see the power of using language to help them to get what they want, this is powerful motivation. A motivated child will communicate more and in turn learn more skills. Even children with no spoken language can be taught the power of choice making by pointing.

To help your child make more choices try the following ideas:
 Develop the habit of offering choices as often as you can,  wherever possible.    
Choices can include:
§  which piece of fruit eg apple or banana
§  Which drink to eat eg water or juice
§   which cup to use eg green or red
§  Which book to read eg Grufello or Squash and a Squeeze
§  Which DVD to watch
§  Which toy to play with. If toys are freely available they don't need to request one, if they're up high, they have to request so its better for developing communication. Unfortunately for communication development, nurseries have to allow free choice now so they don't always have the scope that you do at home.

This simple change can have a big effect! Try is today!

Monday 10 February 2014

What is 'Early Words Together'?

All the research done by the National Literacy Trust shows that Parents are the biggest influence on educational attainment for children aged up to 14 years. I keep saying that I always believe that parents want to do the best for their children but if they don't know what that is, how can they do it?

The Early Words Together Programme shows parents what they can do at home to help pre-schoolers: sharing books together, nursery rhymes, mark making etc which will make a big difference to their children. The sessions will be fun!

We start our first lot of these this week with sessions at Springhill Children's Centre today at 1.30, Chadsmead Children's Centre on Wednesday at 1.30 and Willows Children's Centre on Friday at 1.30pm. We're also doing Wombourne, Featherstone and Landywood Children's Centres after half-term.

We are working closley with the library service and will have visits from the library staff to explain what the library offers these days. Many still think they are the quiet, boring places portrayed by films. No-one wants to take a pre-schooler anywhere where they have to be quiet or get told off for making a noise! However, the reality is so different. Take Lichfield library for example: they actively welcome small children and even have sessions just for them. Liz Leyshon from Lichfield library has a puppet with a back pack and his own library card which tempts most to want to join. Parents can benefit too with magazine and books available as downloads to members. Liz will be visiting Willows and Chadsmead and her colleagues will come to the other sessions.

We'll also be introducing families to what the Children's Centres can offer. They have fantastic menu of events for pre-school children with advice and support too.

We aim for this to be the start of parental engagement in their child's learning. We're looking forwards to starting and seeing how the families get on.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Specific language impairment: new series of AFASIC videos

AFASIC are working on a series of videos to look at speech, language and communication impairments. I look forwards to a day when everyone understands these issues!

Thank you to Damien and AFASIC for sharing this: