Saturday, 26 November 2011

Looking for a gift with real meaning?

I CAN - helps children commnicateFor just £15, I CAN, the children's communication charity is giving you the chance to give a little bit of the English language to someone special. They'll also send you an adoption pack for you to wrap up and put under the Christmas tree.

Find a word to give as gift or create your own
And the best part: all proceeds are used to help children who struggle to find the words they need make friends and progress at school. For children with speech and language problems, the right help can make a huge difference to their well-being and their future prospects. This Christmas please give a gift of words and help change the story of a child's life.
1 word will provide a family with a DVD giving them advice and support,  2 will help them respond to a worried parent by phone, while 5 will help a child receive one-to-one support from a speech and language therapist.
Go to to adopt a word now

I've chosen the word 'PERSEVERENCE' as my word as that's we need so much of to make a difference both in life and in therapy situations. What will you choose??


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hello Tool Kit

This month sees the launch of a new downloadable toolkit Celebrate Good Times with information and activities that will help you celebrate communication milestones big and small.

The toolkit includes information on:
  • Celebrating Special Moments – ideas on how to celebrate special moments in your child’s life, plus questions to help celebratory conversations flow
  • Celebrate Festivities – help your children learn signs linked to Christmas and see if you can learn them too
  • Celebrating Success – ideas on how to hold a mini-awards ceremony at home, in nursery or school settings, plus certificate templates to amend
  • Celebrating Diversity – a ‘Show and Tell’ activity to celebrate different cultures and languages
Celebrate Good Times also includes background information and advice on supporting children with English as an Additional Language along with a signposting section with helpful links.

A number of partners have kindly inputted their ideas and local activities into this toolkit including Leicestershire County Council, The Makaton Charity, London SIG Bilingualism, Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust and Speech and Language Therapy Service and Plymouth City Council.

To download a copy of Celebrate Good Times

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Will mainstreaming my child improve their social skills?

Studies at the University of Washington compare  the peer relations of preschool children with communication disorders to those of normally developing preschoolers and throw light on this complicated aspect. Surely if there are better role models to follow, this will help our language impaired children?

Children with communication disorders do not generally participate in group play as much as their peers and their social bids do not receive positive responses. They are the “less preferred” playmates and have fewer reciprocal friendships. These children also tend to interact more with adults than peers.

The study divided children into 12 play groups, each with 6 members. 6 of the groups were specialized groups, where 3 of them had only children with diagnosed communication disorders and 3 had only normally developing children. The other 6 groups were mainstreamed environments where 4 normally developing children were grouped with 2 children with communication disorders. The groups met for 2.5 hours per day, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks. They were involved in preschool-like programs which included circle time, music, art, snack, story and 30 minutes of free play. During free play the children were monitored based on the type of play they engaged in- solitary, parallel or group. They were also analyzed based on the different measures of cognitive play- 
  • functional
  • constructive
  • dramatic play
  • games with rules. 

Children not engaging in play were identified as being:
  • unoccupied
  • an onlooker
  • reading or listening
  • exploring
  • participating in active conversation
  • transitioning
  • interacting with adults. 

The study looked at the different types of social behaviors that these children engaged in:
  • gaining attention of their peers
  •  using peers as resources
  • expressing affection 
  • directing peers. 

Lastly, the children had to rate their peers based on who they would most rather play with.

There were some commonalities between the findings in the groups, but it was noted that children with communication disorders are involved less in active conversations, spend more time transitioning, have fewer positive social behaviors and are less successful in gaining the attention and support of their peers. However, it was also noted that most of the children could be defined as “socially competent” which implies that those with communication disorders could adapt to different interactions, at least in the short term. It was hypothesized that the children with communication disorders placed in mainstream groups would have different reactions than those in the specialized groups. However, that was not the case. Both groups had similar rates of social interactions and this was explained by the variability among those with communication disorders. In the specialized groups, the children with the strongest social skills took the role of facilitating group involvement. The setting did not matter.

This study is important to our understanding of Communication Disorders because it disproves the idea that mainstreaming these students will help to increase the quality of their social interactions. Rather, it was important to note that the children with the weakest social skills will more often than not were at the periphery of group activity, regardless of their environment. Therefore, educators must understand that there needs to be a better solution than merely mainstreaming the students.

Guralnick, Michael J., Robert T. O’Connor, Mary A. Hammond, John M. Gottman, and Kelly Kinnish. (1996). The Peer Relations of Preschool Children with Communication Disorders.  

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Learning to listen

We take the development of communication for granted but it is actually the best achievement of our lifetime. There, is however,  a very alarming national decline in speech, language and communication skills which means that at least 40,000 children started school in 2009 without adequate spoken language ability (Wright, J., 2009) and a Government report in 2008 showed that this can be as high as 50% of children in some areas (Bercow, J.). The Government’s Communication Tsar Jean Gross, reported that ‘at least’ 1 in every 6 three year olds has a recognised difficulty while many, many more were undetected. Today’s demands of the reception class teacher are tremendous yet the children are starting school without the necessary pre-requisite skills. Spoken language skills are the building blocks for written language and almost every educational task pre-supposes a certain level of ability.
I carried out a study recently involving 100 schools across the country, which showed 100 % Primary Head Teachers were extremely concerned about declining speech, language and communication skills. The main problem they believed was a lack of listening skills.
We live in a very visual, fast- paced age and often the first time a child is required to do any formal listening is when they start school. Many, many children have to be taught to attend and listen before they can begin the demands of the national curriculum. I started my Small Talker groups to try to address this issue.  We work on ‘active listening’.
A lot of parents and staff will repeatedly say “Listen!” But what does that mean to a 3 year old? Listening is not a passive skill, it’s an active one and therefore one that needs to be learned. We tend to get quite poor results if we say “Behave!” to our little ones. It means very little, whereas if we describe the behaviour we want, they are more likely to understand what we require of them and then we might have some chance of them doing what we’ve asked. For example, if we want them to be quiet, sit still and not run around in the GP waiting room it better to tell them that than ask them to ‘Behave!’ Many parents and lots of teachers know this and act accordingly. We need to treat listening the same way.
Active listening can be broken down in to:
•good sitting
•good looking
•good waiting
•good thinking
You wouldn’t expect good thinking until school age and it’s very hard to do good waiting as a 3 or 4 year old (it’s hard enough for me to wait if I've got something to say!) Which is why they find it hard to wait for their turn or to let others answer a question to which they know the answer.
Our Small Talker groups (for 3 and 4 year olds) work on the first 3 components of active listening. We use a puppet to demonstrate ‘not good’ sitting so that he actually mirrors some of their behaviours e.g. picking the carpet to picking their noses. They are asked to help the puppet ‘because he’s not naughty, he’s just got to learn’. They have to look for the ‘un-desired’ behaviour and say ‘stop, do good sitting’. They are usually excellent at identifying the behaviour in the puppet although they may still be doing the same themselves for a while. Afterwards, I put the puppet where he can ‘watch’ them do good sitting so he can learn by example. I then monitor the behaviour in a very positive way so that I praise good sitting (and the wriggly ones usually sit up in an aim to please) or if that doesn’t work I ask the wriggly ones to help the puppet by showing him ‘good sitting’. If they are constantly nagged to sit still or to listen, they will switch off. It’s amazing how well they respond to this approach. I have had a few run-ins with TA’s and parents who have been completely peed off with my approach because they are itching to dictate ‘Will you sit still, now!’ However, I’ve asked them to trust me and watch what happens even if I am irritating them….  we’ve had some great results! or

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What is ELDP (Early Language Development Programme)?

The Communication Trust, a 40‐strong coalition of voluntary organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication, last week welcomed the announcement that I CAN will be leading the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP) contract along with several other Trust members. However, it suggested the programme needed to go further to ensure all children’s needs were being met.

ELDP is a three‐year Department for Education funded programme to support the foundation of good communication development in young children. It is focusing on developing the speech, language and communication skills of pre‐school children through partnerships with children centres. It was one of several contracts awarded following the SEN Green Paper. The Communication Trust, which is this year leading the Hello campaign (national year of
communication), has campaigned for continued investment in early language support following the Every Child A Talker programme (ECAT). ECAT successes included ensuring children reached the best possible language levels before they started school and identifying children with potential difficulties at a much earlier age. The ELDP investment is building on this work on very early language with a particular focus on under‐3s.

Anita Kerwin‐Nye, Director of The Communication Trust, said: “This important piece of work, led by the voluntary sector, shows real commitment to meeting the speech, language and communication needs of children early on.    It also builds directly on the successes of ECAT providing support for local staff and adds to the momentum of the Hello campaign. “With more than 50% of children in some areas arriving at school with significant language delay,
further investment in early language will help to address a significant growing public health issue. Early language is one of the biggest predicators of future earnings and this programme is starting to address the challenges outlined in Graham Allen MP and Frank Field MP’s recent reviews. “The ELDP model, developed by I CAN, works through children’s centres and we hope it will
provide a launch pad for professionals to build on their learning and work towards the City and Guilds Award in Supporting Children and Young People’s Speech Language and Communication developed by The Communication Trust, in partnership with City & Guilds.  We also want to see the ELDP working with local authority early years teams and those working directly with parents.  Kerwin‐Nye continues; “It is vital that the ELDP is not seen as a replacement for an area‐wide strategic approach to commissioning services for all pre‐school children. We know there is currently a shortage of speech and language therapists and other expert staff yet these professionals are crucial if we are to respond to the needs of children and families identified through the ELDP.
“The Communication Trust is also calling on Government to develop standards and guidance for Health and Wellbeing Boards on the characteristics of an effective speech, language and communication strategy. Some excellent models of provision supporting speech and language exist already and we look forward to highlighting these at our Shine a Light Good Communication awards on November 23rd.”

Friday, 4 November 2011

Longitudinal Documentation of Sign Language Acquisition in a Deaf Village in Bali

The iSLanDS (International centre for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies) institute started an ELDP-funded project called “Longitudinal Documentation of Sign Language Acquisition in a Deaf Village in Bali” in August 2011. Carte Bali map
As part of this project Connie de Vos (PI) will conduct fieldwork in Bali in September 2011 and May 2012.  
As part of this project Connie will carry out bi-weekly video recordings of two deaf children from the age of 6;4 and 6;6 (till 7;3 and 7;5) in various culturally appropriate contexts: with adults during, for instance, meal times, farming activities, and religious activities, in interaction with other (deaf) children, and at school.
This project dovetails with the EuroBabel project funded by EUROCORES, which investigates sign languages in ten different rural communities across the world, among them Kata Kolok(KK).