Tuesday, 28 August 2018

'He is stubborn and unco-operative!'

Guest blogpost by Karen Horner:
Stubborn and un co-operative! Oh how many times have I heard that working in mainstream schools. We have come along way in the last 15 years to understand autism yet some schools still continue to use words like stubborn, unco-operative, own agenda, daydream ........need I go on?

Funding has been cut so much that children who need the help and support in schools are either not getting it or are given 1-1 support with teaching assistants who are not trained or experienced in autism. I could tell so many stories but one that really got to me happened a few years ago. I observed a child in a mainstream school and was pleased to see at carpet time that the teacher was ok with the child looking out of the window as she was talking.
When carpet time ended she asked the child what she had been talking about and he duly answered word for word. She then asked him what she had requested him to do and again he answered positively. Going back to his seat he picked up his pen and continued to sit for a while. The T.A approached him and reminded him he needed to put the date on and the learning objective showing him where to put that. He complied and proceeded to also write the title. Then he sat and sat, the teacher reminded him what he needed to do and continued sitting with the higher group. The child got up and began walking round the classroom where by the teacher calmly asked him to sit down and get on with his literacy.
One again he just sat and looked perplexed. He then got up and went into the reading corner where by he began to tidy the books, once again the teacher now with an edge to her voice asked him to sit down reiterating that he had work to be getting on with and she hadn’t asked him to tidy the books. I observed the expression on the child’s face as he continued to tidy them. The teacher then becoming more agitated approached him with an edge to her voice again telling him to leave the books and go and do his work. The child’s arm shot out striking the teacher whereby he was then excluded from school for being stubborn, unco-operative and aggressive. So what really happened here? I spoke to the child in his home with his Mum present and it did take a long time to work through what happened but for here in a nut shell, he got back to his seat and didn’t know how or where to start his literacy so he wandered around the classroom looking at the work of others to try and work out how to do it. He knew what he had to do but not how. As he was then not allowed to do this it struck him that his teacher liked the book corner tidy and as it wasn’t he decided she might be pleased with him if he tidied it. When she asked him to leave it he felt he couldn’t as he hadn’t finished it so he continued with the aim of finishing then going back to his seat. He put his hand out as the teacher approached because she was coming (in his eyes) at such a speed it made him apprehensive so he wanted to stop her.
In this one scenario any teacher or T.A experienced would understand why all this had occurred moreover how to deal with it. To me, this was classic difficulties with theory of mind, executive function and visual difficulties. You could also add central cohesion into that mix as he was unable to see the bigger picture of what would happen if he didn’t comply. This exclusion could have been avoided if trained and experienced staff were on hand to help him. So many times I hear negative things such as, 'He is lazy so don’t intervene', 'He knows it he just wont do it' etc. It does make my blood boil. These children are tomorrow's adults and the system is failing them right, left and centre.

Karen Horner

Karen runs Gateshead Autsm Support, which supports families and children living with ASD, click here for the Facebook page. She also runs Relax Kids in the North East

Gateshead Autism Support

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A New Way Parents Can Support Their Child’s Development


Guest blog post by Oisin Hurley

As a new parent it is normal to be anxious. There are many stresses involved such as; is my child crying too much? Are they eating too little? Will I bond with them or will they bond with me? What if I forget my child while shopping in Aldi and only realize when I get home! All of these are genuine concerns new parents have voiced.

There are external pressures to manage such as what school should her or she go to? Where is best to live in order to provide for a family? All of this along with keeping yourself and a little one alive and well. There are many things that are beyond our control, keeping germs away, teething, nappy rash, tumbles and injuries are part and parcel of growing up. Many parents say they often wonder what their child will become, what kind of personality will they have, will they have enough friends in school, will they be happy, will they be successful in what they set out to achieve?

Education is a huge area of concern for parents, particularly in relation to their own. Often times when a problem arises for a child around the area of Speech and Language development it takes a long time to see a therapist to diagnose a problem. For example, figures from 2015 report showed 15,000 people were waiting for a speech and language therapy assessment. Thankfully these numbers are moving in the right direction over the past few years. Yet it still remains much too high for a service of such critical importance.

What if I were to tell you that there is a simple action that can be taken that requires very little time and effort that can help your child’s ability to learn and develop? While there is no silver bullet, you can start by spending a small portion of your day (30 minutes) exposing your child to more language by reading, singing, and playing with them.
Research shows that the more words your child hears in the first 3 years, the more likely they will be to succeed in school. Spending this time engaging with your child not only increases there vocabulary but it strengthens the bond between the two of you. What’s more is that 1 in 10 children are now at risk of experiencing early learning difficulties, which has shown to be reduced by exposure to increased language in the home environment.

To combat these striking statistics Talk2MeMore have developed a new app that is effectively a Fitbit for words. The app monitors the amount of words your child is exposed to each day delivering feedback on what a child has just heard. It also offers practical suggestions of how to enrich your child’s environment such as what books could be read in order to expose them to more. It is a tool to allow the parent to know what their child is experiencing with incentives to improve their language environment. This revolves around quality and quantity. This can help relieve anxiety and set your child up for when they are ready for school. Reduced anxiety in this department can lead to a better relationship between you and your child. This researched app is showing early signs of attributing positively into developing a more language rich environment for children.
Talk2MeMore are offering a 7-day free trial of this exciting new app. To find out more visit their website to get started today.


Oisin Hurley

photo sources: Shutterstock

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Independent speech and language therapists do tribunal work too


The Association of Speech and Language therapists in independent practise (ASLTIP) has a website where you can seek out Speech and language therapists who carry out medico-legal work. This is based upon their guidance. They may cover the following situations:
  • SENDIST (special educational needs and disability tribunal) – cases where a child’s education is affected by a communication problem and extra specialist assistance is being sought.
  • Medical negligence (such as birth injury affecting a child’s development), or trauma (such as a road traffic accident resulting in head injury and communication problems) – cases where the aim is to determine costs for therapy when seeking compensation.
  • Occasionally an assessment is necessary to assess whether or not a problem exists.
Recognised characteristics of medico-legal work:
  • We will review medical notes and other important documents.
  • Assess  the client’s speech and language skills to determine whether a problem exists and, if it does, how severe it is.
  • Writing a detailed report of findings, diagnosis, prognosis and recommendations for further therapy. In SENDIST cases there is a need for very specific recommendations quantifying the amount of ongoing therapy considered necessary.
  • Appearance at Tribunal/Court as an expert witness if applicable.
Some points you may wish to discuss with any therapist you contact:
  • The therapist’s specialist credentials and experience in the area of medico-legal work e.g. writing expert witness reports and giving evidence at SENDIST/Court.
  • As a detailed communication assessment must be made, the therapist needs a background of experience with the relevant population (i.e. adults or children), and with any specific conditions in the case (e.g. autism in children).
  • The timescale for when the report is needed and the reports/information the therapist will need prior to the assessment; how liaison with other professionals (e.g. a solicitor if one is involved) can be maintained; who else can provide qualitative information about how the client functions in everyday communication situations.
  • How much experience the therapist has with similar medico-legal work.
  • Where the therapist will see the client for assessment. Sometimes the therapist will wish to see the client in more than one situation.
  • How much the therapist charges. The therapist may have a fixed charge for the assessment and subsequent report. However, it may be that the therapist charges an hourly rate and guidance on average overall charges can be requested. Because each case will be different, it is important to discuss specific details which are relevant, so you are aware what the therapist will provide and what the likely fee will be.
We do medico-legal work at Small Talk and are prepared to travel so please let us know if we can help or look on ASLTIP's website www.helpwithtalking.com



Sunday, 12 August 2018

Therapy is about Engagement, not Compliance!

I’ve been using the Attention Autism programme (Gina Davies) pretty much every day for the past two years and I can honestly say I don’t know how I did speech and language therapy without it. The basic principles of Attention Autism such as; the activities needing to be motivating, visual, appealing etc are our bread and butter skills as therapists but ensuring that everything I deliver is an irresistible invitation to learning is a completely new challenge.

Attention and listening are pre-requisite skills to language development and the time and effort we need to invest in supporting children both with and without Autism with this cannot be underestimated. After all, we need to ensure that our activities are indeed worth communicating about!

The Attention Autism programme consists of four stages:

-          Stage 1: ‘the Bucket’ – Focus

-          Stage 2: ‘the Attention Builder’ – Sustain

-          Stage 3: ‘the Interactive Game’ – Shift

-          Stage 4: ‘the Table activity’ – Transition
 


“I’ve got something in my bucket, in my bucket, in my bucket, I’ve got something in my bucket whatever can it be?”

 
Stage 1 is all about ‘the Bucket’! A bucket filled with simple, motivating and appealing toys that will capture the child’s attention. The main aim at this stage is to teach the child to independently focus on the adult-led agenda and to take the risk of trying something new.
As a ‘speech’ therapist the trickiest thing I found when I started was to try and not talk. Many children with speech and language difficulties find too much verbal information overloading which can result in ‘tuning out’. When delivering Attention Autism, I am now more confident to rely on the activities to bring the child’s engagement, not the language.

Now of course at the beginning, things went terribly wrong. Children kept getting up from their seats, others found it hard to transition to the activity and however prepared you are, you need to trust that it is ok for mistakes to happen. We cannot take the child’s cooperation, for, however short a time, for granted. The supporting adults need to resist trying to herd the children back to their chair as Attention Autism is about working on engagement not compliance. Remember: ‘if it’s Fun, they’ll come!’. Make your targets realistic, at Stage 1 aim for your children to attend for 1 minute initially and then build up slowly each day. If you deliver a fun and appealing session the children will learn to naturally and spontaneously self-regulate to the adult-led learning.

If we are expecting the child to tune in and attend straight away, then we need to ensure we are ‘selling the bucket heart and soul’.

Fun doesn’t mean Unstructured. Follow the rules.

1.       ‘It’s Tish’s bucket, it’s Tish’s toys’.

It may seem mean but only the leading adult is allowed to touch the toys. Many children have single challenged attention (Cooper, Moodley and Reynell 1997), so if they are playing with the toys, they are not focusing on you. Keep your distance so little hands don’t feel tempted to pick up the toys.

2.      Show first, add words later.

If you’re like me this part may be tricky to begin with. We may instinctively want to start adding in language, but it is important to stay quiet and allow for thinking time. Then gradually increase the language.

      3.      Everyone one is joining in – no exceptions!

Supporting adults need to keep modelling expected behaviours. If we begin talking amongst ourselves or getting up to ‘do a job’ we are only modelling to the children that it is acceptable to get up and leave the activity if you feel like it. Our children attend to the most dominate stimulus in the room – make sure it’s ‘the Bucket’.

     4.      Keep Calm it’s only a bucket.

However prepared you are, you’ll never be prepared enough for the unpredictability of working with children, which I tend to love about this job. Don’t get distracted by louder children, you’re the adult you dictate the start and finish of the session. Don’t let children getting up and wondering off fluster you, trust your supporting adults to bring them back silently. Rushing adds anxiety, so keep calm and enjoy the shared experience.

5.      Focusing leads to sustaining.

Aim to carry out the session 4/5 times a week, start at 1 minute and build up slowly. When 80% of your group can attend for 5 minutes, you’re ready for Stage 2 and remember

“if it’s fun, they’ll come!”

 

 



 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

assessing a demand avoidant child...... yes you may look stupid but who cares?

I've just handed over a new case to one of my colleagues and as I was telling her about him, I also discussed that I'd had a new student with me when I met him. Having someone else observing made me reflect on how we interact with  children who are harder to engage but there's not much written about it as a guide for school aged, especially, if they are demand avoidant. I saw myself through her eyes and realised I definitely did look stupid and it probably wasn't how she was expecting a 50-something professional to behave! However, it was exactly what the situation demanded. If I can use the dog, it really helps but on this occasion, he was scared of dogs so Ralph wasn't there.

Many of the pre-school Hanen tips still work well:

1. Observe, wait, listen: ask parents what they're interested in and watch and listen closely. He used sound bites and little scripts acting out situations, as the main part of his expressive language. These included zombies, teleporting and fighting. We hadn't finished what I needed to cover when he'd thrown me out of the play room as he hated me and 'couldnt stand' me any more, I crept out out of a second door and burst in telling him I'd teleported. He forgot he was cross with me and asked me to 'Do it again!'. Of course, I  can only do it once a day, so maybe next time.  A little while later, he ran outside and wouldn't come back when we asked, so I pretended to be a horse, crying 'Jump on I'll save you from the zombies!' He did and we piggy-backed back into the playroom.

2. Get down on their level: you can see their facial expressions so much better if you're on the floor with them but they're level, so you are seen as more equal. This is far less stressful for them and you're more likely to get them talking if they feel equal. Sitting at a desk would have been impossible anyway! We did an expressive language sample while we were both colouring our pictures in.

3. Follow their lead, follow their interests: I didn't direct him very much really, I used books, toys and games he wanted to use. I asked him to choose each time. I had the Dewart and Summers pragmatic checklist his mother had completed and was able to interview her at length so it didn't matter that I couldn't do anything formal. I got a really good measure of his abilities and what he needs help with

4. Use a low-arousal approach. This Approach emphasises a range of 'strategies that focus on the reduction of stress, fear and frustration and seeks to prevent aggression and crisis situations'. The low arousal approach seeks to understand the role of the ‘situation’ by identifying triggers and using low intensity strategies and solutions to avoid punitive consequences. I keep calm whatever the situation throws at me (physically and verbally). His mother uses humour as part of this approach, brilliantly to deflect, move him on and get him on-side.

5. Never take things personally. Demand avoidant children may call you names (I know I'm 'old, fat and ugly' so nothing new there), may try to shock you verbally or physically or threaten you. We need to see it for what it is, an attempt to get out of a stressful situation.

6. Have the confidence not to mind what other people think: just as with pre-school ones you can burst into song, do unexpected silly things, pretend not to know.... As long as you can justify it....do it if the situation demands! Fortunately the student turned out to be brilliant and she didn't see me as some crazy old woman. She understands we have to do what it takes!

I was able to report on his attention, listening, understanding, vocabulary, expressive language and social thinking skills. The real hard SLT work will be done by my colleague as she sees him for therapy. The real hero? His mother.
Hanen www.hanen.org
Low arousal http://www.lowarousal.com/

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


PROMPT is an acronym for Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets. The technique is a tactile-kinesthetic approach that uses touch cues to a patient’s articulators (jaw, tongue, lips) to manually guide them through a targeted word, phrase or sentence. The technique develops motor control and the development of proper oral muscular movements, while eliminating unnecessary muscle movements, such as jaw sliding and inadequate lip rounding. See more at https://www.promptinstitute.com

Therapists begin by helping patients produce certain phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest increment of sound in speech. For example, the “d” sound in the word dog is one phoneme, the “o” is another and the “g” is yet another. Each phoneme requires different muscle contractions/retractions and placement/movement of the jaw, lips, tongue, neck and chest to produce. All of these things have to happen with the proper timing and sequence to produce one phoneme correctly.  The therapist attempts to “teach” the patient’s muscles to produce a phoneme correctly by stimulating all of these through touch. With the timing and movement of more than 100 muscles involved, you can see why the training needs to be very thorough.
PROMPT therapy is appropriate for a wide range of patients with communication disorders. The most common patients have motor speech disorders, articulation problems or are non-verbal children. Many patients with aphasia, apraxia/dyspraxia, dysarthria, pervasive development disorders, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injuries and autism spectrum disorders have benefitted from PROMPT therapy. An evaluation by a PROMPT-trained speech therapist is the only way to find out if a patient is appropriate for the therapy. 
We are delighted that Sophie Harding, speech and language therapist has completed her 3 day training. This means she  has been trained how to make the “touch cues” to the articulators to help patient’s produce a phoneme. She can also properly evaluate a patient (from a motor perspective) to identify if PROMPT therapy will be beneficial.
If you feel that our child needs an assessment please get in touch office@smalltalk-ltd.co.uk
  

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Welcome Alison to the Small Talk team



We are delighted to have a new addition to our team: welcome Alison Phipps, speech and language therapist. She has recently qualified from Birmingham City University with a first class degree. However, we have known Alison for many years as she used to work part-time as a speech and language assistant for us running groups in the Tamworth area. She was actually a graphic designer but wanted a change!

Alison is working across the staffordshire area. She has a particular passion for working with children and families with ASD and has already been on the Attention Autism course and is confident with SCERTS, Intensive Interaction, PECS and using visual support. She helped to run Hanen's More Than Words and Elklan's verbal children with ASD.   

She will be contributing to the blog soon!