Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Announcing the launch of the Bercow: Ten Years On parent and carer consultation

In January  the first phase of evidence gathering was launched as part of the Bercow: Ten Years On review. Aimed primarily at those working with children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) the evidence submitted has provided rich information about the experiences of those supporting children and young people with SLCN.

We’re pleased to announce that the second phase of evidence gathering opens today, giving parents and carers an opportunity to share their views of information and provision for their child’s SLCN. Seeking the views of parents and carers of children with SLCN will help us to ensure the Bercow: Ten Years Onreview recommendations are firmly rooted in the reality of their experience.

This comes at a time when evidence submitted to the Bercow: Ten Years On review by the Institute of Health Visiting shows that nearly three quarters (72%) of health visitors that responded to the 2016 survey reported an increase in children with delayed speech and communication development. It’s essential that we find out if and how the picture of support for children’s early language has changed. What information is available for families? How easily available is it?

There are two ways to take part in the inquiry.

If you are a parent:
We would like to hear about your current experiences of support for your child’s difficulty with speech, language and communication. Support could be from a speech and language therapist, or other experts like advisory teachers. It could also be the way that staff in your child’s early years setting, school or college/training provider work with them. Fill in this short survey to share your views.

If you are a practitioner:
We would like to make sure we capture the views of all parents and carers, including those who may not normally complete a questionnaire or who may need extra help. We have designed activity packs for parents and carers to respond in a practical way, with the support of a familiar practitioner or member of school staff. If you would like to complete the questionnaire with a parent please download a pack suitable for the age of the child: early years, primary, secondary and beyond . The parent’s response can be uploaded by you to the survey here

If you have any questions about the Bercow: Ten Years On inquiry, please email

Sunday, 19 March 2017

SMRA 2017: a great day!

The Smira conference yesterday was a great success, as usual. It is a coming together of professionals who have an interest in the field, parents whose children suffer from this very debilitating condition and children and young people with SM. Margaret and I went along again this year.

There is a  balance between current trends, though provoking topics and success stories.

We heard from Anita Mckiernan, SLT about resilience. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. She linked it beautifully with SM.  I could listen to her all day as her presentation style is so easy and her knowledge amazing. 

Then our own Natasha Dale stood up for 30minutes in front of that huge audience and gave a fabulous insight into what has helped her be where she is today. It dove tailed so well with the resilience talk because Natasha is the embodiment of just that. She didn't speak out side the house for years but her desire to help others has enabled her to come so far. There were many quiet tears in the audience both of relief and also respect. She even managed to take questions! We were extremely proud of her.

Then came Lucy Nathanson, Child Therapist, with a summary of what she'd seen at Brave Buddies, which is just one of the many intensive courses for SM available in the USA. It's typically American with activities and styles that wouldn't fit with what we do or believe in at Small Talk but is apparently working for many there. We'll publish Natasha Dales' views on this next time.

We heard updates from SMira from the indefatigable Lynsey Whittingham. She works so hard to organise everything. Many would like to see questions about SM in the baseline assessment which is done when children start primary school, others would like a parliamentary debate on it or feel that LEAs should be offering training via the usual list of CPD events. SMira is working with the Communication Trust to help raise awareness of all SLCN.

The day was completed with a dove release in Victoria Park with a prayer for Katie Rough, who tragically died earlier this year. She had suffered from SM.

If you are worried about your child with SM look at the FB page where you'll find lots of files including where to get help. Their website is off-line at the moment.

You could also sign-post your child's teaching staff, CAHMS or any parents to our core-level training in Barton-under-needwood in May

Monday, 20 February 2017

Tricky Tongue Twisters for Afasic!

Image result for tongue twister clipart

The Afasic Tongue Twister Challenge is a fun and simple way to raise awareness of Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). The idea for this challenge came from the children at Backstage Youth Group in Wales, which is run in partnership with Tape Community Music and Film. To view some of their videos, check out the Afasic Cymru Facebook page
Get involved today by following these easy steps! 
  • Step 1 – Choose a tongue twister (see below for some great examples!)
  • Step 2 – Video yourself saying the tongue twister
  • Step 3 – Upload your video on to Facebook so all of your friends can see!
  • Step 4 – Donate £3 to Afasic by texting ‘TWST 50 £3’ TO 70070
  • Step 5 – Nominate others to do the challenge too!
You can also make a donation directly onto the Just Giving page here!

  • She sells seashells on the seashore.
  • Flash message. Flash message.
  • Mix a box of mixed biscuits with a boxed biscuit mixer.
  • A proper copper coffee pot.
  • I saw Esau sitting on a seesaw. Esau, he saw me.
  • Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat.
  • Lovely lemon liniment.
  • Six thick thistle sticks. Six thick thistles stick.
  • Good blood, bad blood.
  • Three free throws.The instinct of an extinct insect stinks.
  • Comical economists. Comical economists.
  • Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
    If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  • One-One was a racehorse.
    Two-Two was one, too.
    When One-One won one race,
    Two-Two won one, too.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Book review: The shyness & social anxiety workbook for teens by Jennifer Shannon

Guest Book review by Natasha Dale
 There are many different books for sale, as well as online resources, that have the purpose of helping those with social anxiety and/ or shyness, but some are better than others. After reading “The shyness & social anxiety workbook for teens” I felt quite refreshed as this book isn’t worded to over complicate anything. I think the best way to explain and describe this book is: teenage friendly. It doesn’t need to be read all at once nor does it have to be read it in order. It’s written in a very flexible way; you have the option to pick and choose which topics you read about and when. I feel this workbook has a pleasing balance of being both engaging and informative. One of the most useful and important focuses in this workbook, in my opinion, is how it takes common thoughts that have been affected by anxiety and helps you to rationalise them.

 Over all I generally think this book is great for teenagers who are letting their shyness or anxiety make decisions that they themselves wouldn’t necessarily make, such as avoiding people they want to talk to.  I enjoyed reading this book and felt it didn’t take much reading into for me to grasp the understanding that nobody is alone with struggling with social anxiety. Anxiety is common, but it can affect us all in different but similar ways. I was really pleased to see how much this workbook focuses on the reader and gives them the opportunity to engage by placing themselves, or their mind, in the different anxiety provoking situations mentioned. I think it’s a huge advantage to read though this workbook; I like how it encourages the reader to think about ways to overcome their barriers. I think this workbook gives you plenty of opportunity to involve personal situations, but on the other hand it isn’t compulsory nor does it come across too forceful. I really like how it gives you various examples of common problems associated with struggling with shyness and social anxiety, which indirectly allows you to place your own situation into the matter. I was also happy to read examples of both males and females struggling with different common anxious situations, from toilet anxiety to anxiety around speaking. There is a positive focus on the difference in how we as unique individuals react, behave and think slightly differently to one another due to our personalities and values. It’s reassuring to read this workbook and see that the aim is not to change who you are, but to change how you deal with your anxiety. In my own opinion, I think this book is definitely worth your time and effort.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Using the monkey, elephant and the crocodile to help your child relax: Relax Kids

Guest blog by Karen Horner

Research shows that more young children are being diagnosed with depression or some other mental health illness as they are subjected to a stressful life. I decided to develop my skills by studying Relax Kids. This is a 7 step fun tool that children can use daily to help them de-stress in the stressful times in which we live. Teaching relaxation techniques to young children as they also learn simple values such as respect, care, co-operation and tolerance. Relax Kids builds  self-esteem, confidence, concentration and helps children to cope with stress and anxiety as they develop their imagination and creative talents.

Relax kids was launched in 2003 by Marneta Viegas  who at the time ran a children’s entertainment business for 13 years in London.  Over that time she noticed a change in children’s behaviour.  They seemed to be lack concentration and focus and listening skills.  She set about creating a relaxation system using breathing exercises, stretches, games, positive affirmations and visualisations to help children learn these important life skills.   As well as starting Relax Kids classes, she wrote a couple of books of children’s relaxations – for parents to read to their child at bedtime and CDs to play to help children de-stress.

How can relax kids help my child?

The brain is very complex, just like a jungle, and in the jungle, there are 3 important animals the monkey, the elephant and the crocodile/meercat.

The monkey part of the brain which is at the front and is highly intelligent, curious and likes to learn new things. He takes in all the information and passes it on to the elephant who has a very long memory which is the hippocampus part of the brain. He stores all this information ready for when we need it again.

The crocodile keeps us safe from danger and is always on the lookout, this means when we get upset frightened or frustrated we freeze, flight or fight. In states of high anxiety our crocodile is always snapping therefore the monkey and the elephant part of the brain can’t work so the child does not learn.

Relax kids helps children to calm their crocodile and gives them strategies to cope in stressful situations so allowing the crocodile in them to remain in a calm state and allow the monkey and elephant to do their jobs. This results in calmer children and learning taking place.

Relax kids is now in 47 different countries helping children de-stress and giving them strategies to help cope in situations of stress and anxiety.

The seven steps take a child from high energy to a state of complete relaxation. Your child will enjoy games and songs, storytelling, movement, stretching and breathing exercises, peer / self massage, affirmations, relaxations and visualisations All these exercises have been put together to help children feel great and be confident. The action packed 6 week programme will take your child on a different adventure each week. Your child will enjoy our adventures so much they won't notice the new skills they are learning Our classes help develop children's imagination and creativity as well as build their self-esteem Regular relaxation will help your child's concentration, learning and will give them tools to manage anxiety and worries.

For more information, please get in touch.

Karen Horner
Relax Kids North 07517 970120

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

NLP: Neuro what?? More mumbo jumbo or a great asset for a therapist's toolbox of tricks? What do you think?

Guest blog post by Sarah Ellison, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

Do you ever find that some days are better than others?  Or find that there are some situations in which you would like to feel more confident but don’t?  Do you ever find yourself not getting on with certain people?  Or situations that you would like to handle better or differently?  And have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t they be just like ME and do it MY way?!” 

 NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming.  It allows you to have more of the good days by changing things about yourself and improving communication and relationships with others. 

NLP shows us how we take in sensory information in order to make sense of the world, and how this personal representation of reality affects our physiology and behaviour.  With approximately 2.3million bits of sensory information available to us every second, it’s no wonder that we all process things in different ways – in our own unique way.

The use of language patterns (to ourselves as well as other people) also varies from person to person and how we express ourselves greatly affects our behaviour and feelings. 

Habitual, and often subconscious, patterns of thoughts and feelings developed through our life (and especially in childhood) affect our behaviour in the present.  NLP can help to change these patterns – often quite quickly and easily.

My name is Sarah Ellison and I’m a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist.  I have been using NLP in my speech and language therapy clinical work for 15years now – mainly in my specialist area of stammering.  I have found it absolutely invaluable and it has frequently reduced the length of therapy input required.  I find that it enhances confidence, well-being and resilience in children and adults alike.  On a personal level, I use some aspect of NLP every day of the week – it’s now so much a part of me.  I am incredibly grateful that I knew about NLP language patterns before having my daughter – despite having years of experience as an SLT at that point, I still learnt so many invaluable NLP tips for how best to communicate with a child.

My next one day course for SLTs ‘An Introduction to NLP in Speech and Language Therapy’ is on Saturday 4th March 2017 in Accrington, Lancashire.  Please find details  if you want to learn about the wonderful world of NLP and how it can enhance both your life and the lives of the children/adults you work with.  You will leave this fun and interactive day with some quick and effective ways to increase therapy effectiveness and improve communication with others.  Complimentary lunch and refreshments are provided.

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information.
Sarah Ellison – Tel: 07934 677750 –

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Logical Thinking

Guest blog post by Georgina Smith

Sometimes I wonder why the majority of students I see are boys.  There are many arguments about why boys are often seen to be struggling with literacy more than girls.  I think there are way too many complex issues in the mix to singularly give one causal link to this.

However it’s been suggested that girls play more at office and school.  Boys are said to not want to sit in a classroom environment and prefer to be outside.  It’s argued we often buy girls books and stationery as gifts more than we do boys.  There is also the opinion that we have more female role models in primary schools and the lack of male role models in primary school etc also has an impact on boys being interested in literacy.

I can already imagine some of you read this and raise your hands in agreement and others are shouting and reacting strongly against these opinions.  As I suggested, there is no one causal reason why we may see boys struggle more.  In fact is it the fact that more boys struggle or is the fact that we identify less girls?  Girls can be great at covering up mistakes and mimicking.  Maybe we identify more boys as they demonstrate more behavioural issues in the classroom?

However we can also consider the male and female brain.  Girls are more language orientated and more creative where boys are said to be more logical and mathematical thinkers.

It was during some of my 1:1 sessions with primary school age boys that the parents have started to mention that their sons seem to be thriving using a more logical way of learning spelling and reading than just based purely on sounds.  Parents have commented they feels schools may touch upon the rules of why to choose a c,k,ck to make a /k/ sound at the end of a word  such as ‘peck, stick, tank, think, picnic, arctic’ but they rarely stay on the rules long enough and allow them to practice the rules in the context of reading and writing.

When I teach using CodeBreakers I try to emphasise the logical rules such as /k/ at the end of a word.  Surprisingly there are lots of rules in the English language, many of the students really enjoy this method of learning along with all the games and play we utilise when delivering in a multi-sensory way.

Georgina is a member of PATOSS and an Associate Member of the British Dyslexia Association. She is also the author of  Code Breakers