Wednesday 25 February 2015

Early Words success

Image result for early words together

We have been delivering the Early Words together pilot project in Lichfield and Burntwood since January 2014.  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.

We took baselines at the start, although we found they were not too accurate as parents often said what they though we wanted to hear and the real answers didn't emerge until they trusted us! We re-assessed the situation at the end. 

We have had some great results. To me, the biggest successes were the confidence they reported (and showed) to read and play with their children and 98% of the parents who attended were reading bedtime stories by the end of the 6 weeks! The membership of the library went up from 2% to 48%. If there have been similar successes in the national pilot, it will be rolled out across the country.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Can Psychological Astrology Help to Understand a Child With Communication Difficulties?

Guest blog by Alison Chester-Lambert

Astrology has come a long way from the magazine horoscope column to high tech software, Jungian analysis and a new department for the study of astrology within the School of Archaeology at the University of Wales. In fact, it was studied extensively by Carl Jung and finally blended into a branch called Psychological Astrology in the 20th century by Dr L Greene.

Okay, it still suffers from the cynicism of the rest of academia, but it is fast making its mark in a number of ways within the healing and medical community. Member of Parliament David Tredinnick has recommended its use for counselling in the NHS, and medical trials to test astrology's use in helping infertile couples to conceive are underway in the USA.

But there is yet another way that the serious research side of astrology can help. It can help us to understand the inner world of those who cannot communicate. This is because the birth chart can describe the basic motivations, likes, dislikes and desires of the person. And it can describe these things better than we can describe ourselves in most cases.

So therefore a consultation with a psychological astrologer will reveal much about your child that you didn't know. It can help identify what will grab their attention or what makes them feel most comfortable. It will describe personality traits and what irritates them. In short, it will describe the inner world of your child down to a tee.

How will this help? Because knowing how to attract their attention or switch them on will open a window into their world. It enables a shared moment, or perhaps a rare exchange.  And as any therapist in this field will tell you, finding out and then developing what gets their attention gives the best results.

But it also makes a mother feel better. It gives you something of your baby. Understanding can be the greatest gift to the troubled mind. How many times have you exclaimed "If only I could understand him/her! If only I knew what was going on in their world."?

I have personal experience of this because I have a 23 year old daughter who was diagnosed with tactile defensiveness, sensory integration deficits, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ASD at the age of 4. She was seriously `out` of this world for the first few years and it seemed nothing could reach in. I had to give up work and care for her as Mary Poppins never appeared and child minders only lasted a day. I was separated from my husband by this time, but the State waded in with financial support and that was it…. me and my daughter against the world. Actually, make that me and my daughter against each other, and both of us against the world!

But every cloud has a silver lining and mine was the ability to seriously study something I'd always been interested in…. psychological astrology. I lived in London at the time and this was taught at Regents College by the legendary Dr. Liz Greene. I was mesmerised by it. It became the most important activity in my life as understanding unravelled before me. Nothing in all my 44 years of living had ever made so much sense. It was like opening up Aladdin's Cave and finding all the answers to every question I had ever asked. I was hooked and I still am. Years later, I am as much in love with the practise of using Jungian analysis and the structure of the Solar System to understand the fundamental drivers in a person's psyche as I have always been. More in fact. It has been the most faithful of my life's fascinations!

How does it work? How can the position of the planets at the moment of a person's birth describe so much of their personality and individuality? The simple answer…..because we live in an invisible, 3-dimensional web which connects everything up. Or perhaps our Solar System is just like a brain cell in some giant entity's head. Whatever `state` the Cosmos was in at the time of a baby's birth is reflected in the new life that has just emerged. The baby inherits that moment as a record in its epigenes. It will grow up to develop that moment as its life path, using those strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges as its tool kit. The baby was born with the `personality traits` of that moment as its blue print. And it can be understood by looking at the patterns which existed at the time - a map of the planets reflects this pattern and is called a birth chart.

Slowly but surely, my daughter made the breakthroughs, and now she lives a reasonably normal life. She can now talk about the past and happily describes how her world had been and what had made her want to make the leap into ours. Why she came `over the bridge`. And the answers had been in her birth chart all along. She did it because of fantasy, theatre, performance and drama. But it could just as easily have been gardening or horse riding; it just depends what is in the birth chart - we are all different.

At the very least, astrology could be considered a placebo…. Something that imitates a therapy but is still very effective. (In research it was found that a placebo cured a headache in 55% of the patients.)  Perhaps it is the focus of the consultation that clears the mind, perhaps it is the psychotherapy. But in my experience, astrology goes further than that. It really does uncover many things that were well and truly hidden, revealing information that is so useful when trying to manage mental disability.

Users report a wonderful sense of enlightenment and meaning. They say it helped them understand their child in a new light. That it reduced frustration and increased patience. It gave new richness to their relationship. As it only requires one session, it is worth a try surely?

If you would like to have a reading please get in touch.

I am actually looking for a Mum who would be happy to write a testimonial of her experience of a psychological astrology session with me. It is for a British weekly magazine and the purpose of writing the covering article is to encourage mothers to think about engaging with astrology as a tool to help manage their child.


Alison has BBC radio and American TV credits and has had 2 books published by Findhorn Press. She is the founder of the Midlands School of Astrology and has a Masters Degree in cultural astrology.

Monday 16 February 2015

Have you got a child who has his or her own agenda?

Tace is 2 and a half. She doesn't look at or seem interested in her parents or anyone else. She loves wheels or anything that spins. She plays alone and likes running around the room. She cannot be persuaded to sit with the others for a story at nursery. She is very independent and shrugs off all attempts to help her. She will reach towards objects she wants. She has no words and will scream when she wants something.

Tace is a child at the 'Own Agenda stage' according to Hanen. Not all children will go through this phase but for parents of children who do, it is extremely frustrating and worrying.

Tace does not realise that she can affect other people so her communication is mostly at a pre-intentional stage.We can tell what she's feeling by looking at her body movements, smiles, gestures and screams. She has been referred to the paediatrician.

So what can we do about it? Most parents just want the child to talk, after all that's what they should be doing at this age, surely? However, the goal of talking is a long way off for Tace. We need to get the background factors in place first so we can move the child from this stage to the next. In Hanen terms, this would be 'the requester stage' which we'll look at next month.

The initial goals for a child at this very early stage of communication development are to increase the child's attention/interaction with you and to increase the understanding of activities. I know that sounds too simple but it is vitally important to pick the right targets or we won't be successful.

With Tace, therefore, we looked at activities which she enjoys and turned them into games with her mother. She loves spinning so we put her in a spinner chair. We started the activity each time with, 'Shall we spin?', then we spun her a few times before stopping. She laughed and moved her whole body to show she enjoyed it. To begin with she didn't realise she could make it happen again. Then when her mother said, 'shall we spin?', and waited a little, she moved her body and her mother began the game again. Her mother had added meaning to the body movement and interpreted that it meant she was to do it again. This happened a few times before Tace realised that by moving her body she could get her mother to repeat the activity. She now regularly 'communicates' to her mother that she wants to do it again. She realises that the chair coming out means its going to happen and shows excitement when she sees it. She is also looking at her mother as another indication that she wants the game to start.

Tace's mother made it fun by using facial expressions and fun noises.

They are now generalising this ability with other games e.g. spinning her around or singing with action e.g. 'Row, row your boat'. She will soon be moving on to being an early communicator i.e. she sees that her actions can have an effect on someone else.

Tace's mother didn't see the point of my suggestions at first. 'What has this got to do with talking?' she might have asked. 'That's pretty crap!' she actually said!! As speech and language therapists we need to be able to look at a child and work out where we are and what the next step is.  It can seem a world away from 'speech therapy' but it's essential we identify the right level so we can suggest the right way forwards.So please bear with us if what we say isn't what you want to hear. The whole process of communication is very complex and it's our job to un-pick it. Tace's Mum now says, 'I thought Libby was mad at first. She was very nice but wasn't saying what I wanted to hear. Fortunately, she convinced me to try and showed me the stages of communication we'd need to work through. I feel like we're getting somewhere now. I still hope that one day she'll talk.'

If you have a child like Tace, try using his/her interests to make simple games. Whether that's spinning like Tace or flapping, flicking, jumping..... make a game out of it so you can start the process of communication today.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Make sure your independent speech and language therapist has the right credentials

It's really important that you can trust the professional with whom you are entrusting your child or other relative. If the independent Speech and language therapist is a member of ASLTIP, they will automatically be members of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and be registered with the Health Care Professional Council. They will be fully insured and it also means that they will have access to professional supervision, which is essential for all professions.

You can use their website to search for a speech and language therapist in your area You can also use the website to answer questions you might have.

You can find out if your therapist is registered with HCPC here

The RCLST site has lots of info about all types of related issues  including career advise

Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy are members of ASLTIP, HCPC and RCSLT

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Selective mutism

Selective Mutism is a ‘consistent failure to speak in specific social situations, despite being able to speak in other, more familiar situations’. It is now  ‘seen as a manifestation of social anxiety or phobia, occurring in temperamentally predisposed children who are unable to take normal life events in their stride, particularly when the reactions of others reinforce silence rather than speech,’ (Maggie Johnson, 2012).

It doesn't sound too big a  problem does it? Might even be a nice change to have a quiet one in the class, be better if more had it to make life easier for the teachers?

But for the thousands of children and their families who suffer from Selective Mutism, it can be a terribly debilitating condition and one that encompasses all aspects of life.

With this in mind we reviewed and improved what Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy can offer and we are delighted to announce our new  services:
  • We have done the diagnosis and management training and extension level training by Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens, who are the UK leading experts in SM.
  • We will soon be able to use animal assisted therapy using Ralph our lovely therapy dog. This can just be having him the room to reduce stress/take the focus away from the child or he can be involved in a  small steps programme as he loves to do obedience work. We have had training in using him from Humanima which included the theory behind and helped us to prepare the necessary paperwork such as policies/procedures and risk assessments when doing any form of animal assisted activity
  • As older chidren benefit from CBT, we are now trained in this so we don't have to refer on to a counsellor. It is a shame to see a child or teenager, build a rapport, diagnose and then pass on. We have a good relationship with an excellent counsellor so we can refer if they need anything else such as EFT.
  • We also have excellent links with a clinical psychology team
The therapy for SM involves the people the child's own environment so more often that not we are 'explainers' and facilitators. This means it's straightforwards to see children and families who may live outside Staffordshire and who are prepared to travel for a diagnosis and/or help. If you are concerned about a child please get in touch to arrange an appointment.

Ralph the trainee therapy dog