Although the Smart Talker groups were designed for everyone, not just children with identified difficulties, we have several children with very significant problems who come along. I write the programmes so they can be tailored to each child. The others who run the groups are either Speech and Language Therapists or experienced, capable individuals with early years backgrounds. It's more important for prospective franchisees to be the right type of person than the qualifications they have. All the children make progress but some are worthy of a special mention:
Louis began to attend the Small Talker group in September 2009 with some of his nursery peers and others. He had no speech but was known to have a small repertoire of signs that he understood. However, he was so withdrawn that he did not appear to have the confidence to look at a person when they spoke to him, let alone reply. Communication was extremely difficult with foster parents and nursery staff having to guess what he wanted. Even pointing was a problem. He was reported to be a single word level for understanding but this was not evident in his performance. Mainstream schooling appeared to be ‘out of the question’. He was almost 4.
He has been attending the group weekly since and his nursery teacher has worked very hard with him. He is not recognisable as the same child: he appears, happy, confident and relaxed in the group. He takes turns and gives responses both vocally and by sign. He spontaneously points things outs and names items. Comprehension is now 2-3-word level. He initiates interaction with children and adults. He does everything I expect of the others.
It gives me a lump in my throat to see how much he enjoys the group and how he has come on…… and he’s going to mainstream school!!!' YESSSSSS! It will be tough and he'll need a great deal of support but how fantastic!