Friday, 28 December 2012

The challenges of a speech and language therapy student

by Gemma Biles

Recently Libby contacted me and asked me if I would like a chance to write a guest blog for the Smart Talkers blog and without a second thought I jumped at the opportunity. Then I realised I had no idea what to blog about. When discussing this with friends they said “Gemma, isn’t your blog about the challenges you have as a SLT student? Why don’t you write about your experiences in a way that reassures other SLT Students that they aren’t alone in this”. So my experiences as a SLT student didn’t start the day I begin this degree, it all started with the day I wanted to become a SLT. 

Back in 2004 when I was 15, I went to a careers day intending to listen to a woman talk about her experiences as a teacher. The thought of working with 30 children everyday made me nervous and doubt this was the career for me. It was at this point of doubt that a lovely lady took to the stage and stated "I am a speech and language pathologist, I work 1:1 with children" - anything more she had to say was interesting yet irrelevant, she already had me at her opening line. So over the years doing my GCSEs and A Levels I worked with many children within the disability sector and shadowed many SLTs attempting to gain experience in order to apply for my place on a SLT degree programme. 2 years ago I had the opportunity to sit for an interview for a place on a degree programme, and I can safely say that was the last time I felt confident that I knew what it was to be a SLT. I was asked questions that I had no answer to and posed scenarios that I was unaware were SLT related. When I found out I had a place on the course I was gobsmacked. Now 15 months in to my course I realise that not having an answer to something does not mean you are any less of an SLT. The same feeling of lack of confidence and uncertainty in my answers has occurred over and over, both in lessons and on placement. These moments have however been more of a learning curve than the moments when I did feel confident and did know the answer, and these are what have defined me as a SLT student. 

I recently read a quote by Bruce et al. (2005) who stated that students should be "thrown in the deep end" in order to develop SLT skills and I can safely say that a degree in SLT does just this. On a recent placement I admitted that I had a lot of observation experience and little hands on experience, I was then given a “caseload” and asked to go away and informally assess, formally assess, write therapy programmes and discuss all this with other professionals. Well at the time I can safely say I was drowning - but now in hindsight, that was the best opportunity I have had throughout my 15 months as a SLT student. I was pushed and challenged beyond belief. But more importantly I realised I COULD be a SLT and that I was more likely to be able to survive when I wasn’t being “hand-held”. At the end of this placement I discussed how I had felt with a wonderful SLT that had supported me over the 5 weeks and asked her how it was she managed to be so competent in so many areas, having recently graduated herself. 

She gave me some knowledge that has been beyond reassuring and continuously useful – “always know your evidence base, always be critical in your decision making and more than anything, always be the swan – graceful on top, paddling like mad underneath, never let anyone see how fast your feet are paddling”. It is at this point that I am about to begin my first placement of my 2nd year – where I have no doubt that I will begin my first day saying “I would like a chance to get hands on” and I would encourage any SLT/SLP2B to tell their placement educators this, no matter how scary it may seem! I’m sure I shall be endlessly tweeting and blogging my swan like paddling throughout this placement in January 2013 – so follow me @GemSLT or view my blog at 

Reference Bruce, C. Parker, A. and Herbert, R. (2005) ‘The Development of a Self-Directed and Peer-based Clinical Training Programme’ International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 36(Suppl) 401-405.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas - No Surprises Please: I have ASD!

by Geoff Evans, Head of Quality Improvement, Options Group

If asked what we like about Christmas many of us would reply with "the surprise presents", "the many different foods", "not having to engage in normal daily living routines", "socialising" and "meeting different people".
These are the things that make Christmas so special. For the individual with autism these are the very factors that make Christmas so difficult and a time to get through as quickly as possible. I recently asked a friend with Asperger’s Syndrome what we could do to make Christmas a better experience for him. Without smiling, he replied "cancel the b****y thing".

1. The Countdown To Christmas

It seems that Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. This year I saw decorations on sale in August. This can make it very difficult for the individual with autism who often struggles with the concept of time and deferment of gratification, to wait for presents and the actual day to arrive. Using a variation of the traditional advent calendar can be a good way of helping the individual understand that Christmas is coming.
Some parents have used their child’s special interest for example, Thomas’s journey towards Christmas. This consists of a cut out Thomas the Tank Engine that moves towards Christmas a station at a time (each station represents a day or a week). The calendar or method chosen needs to reflect an individual’s level of understanding.
Other parents try to play down the coming of Christmas and keep it a secret for as long as possible. Obviously this is easier said than done. They could try to set Christmas within a time frame, for example we start preparing for Christmas when we put the tree up or after some other significant event. It is equally important to have a set time when Christmas is over.

2. No Surprises Please

Whilst some individuals with autism love surprises, others find them difficult to cope with and prefer to know exactly what they are getting for Christmas. One young man I talked to recently said he found it difficult to understand why anyone would want to buy him presents that he didn’t want or need. Also he said he found it impossible to pretend to like something that he did not. It is important to involve this young man in the selection of the present and the wrapping of it. Doing this reassures him that he will not be getting any unwanted items on Christmas Day.
When choosing presents, parents often feel under pressure to buy items that they would buy for an individual without autism of a similar age, they also feel that they should spend significant amounts of money. For me, it is about buying presents that will bring the maximum amount of pleasure to the individual and will have meaning for them. If this means buying unusual objects or wrapping up different types of household bricks - it’s OK.

3. Maintaining Structures and Routines

A parent told me that one Christmas her son with autism came into the kitchen whilst she was putting the turkey into the oven. In an anxious and confused voice he asked her "mummy, why are we having turkey for breakfast? I want bacon".
It is easy to forget that even the little changes can cause misunderstanding and in some cases this will lead to difficult behaviour.
A parent from Lincoln told me that she has experienced many difficulties with her child due to the change in Christmas day routines. For her the solution was to cook the dinner a few weeks prior, freeze it and then on the big day all she had to do was defrost and cook it, enabling her to keep more closely to the normal routines. This strategy was successful in reducing the difficulties.
If the individual normally needs a supportive schedule, don’t forget that they will require it over the Christmas period and you will also need to ensure that you have the appropriate symbols or pictures available.

4. Giving The Opportunity To Opt Out At Social Gatherings

Christmas is often a time for family gatherings, meals out and other social events. All of these can be a source of stress and anxiety for the individual with autism. Levels of stress can often be managed by providing a safe place for them to retreat to when it all becomes too much. A favourite object can also be a life saver at such events.
Encouraging the individual to flick though an Argos catalogue can mean that they remain calm and you get to stay longer.

Final Comment
When I used to run a sibling support group, I asked them to talk about what was the best thing about having a brother or sister with autism. One seven year old boy said "Christmas is great! I get two lots of presents. First I have my own presents, and then I have my brother with autism’s because he only wants the wrapping". I hope that this inspires us to always look for the positives over the Christmas period. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

To read Geoff's regular words of wisdom, it's definitely worth subscribing to the Options Group Newsletter.   Visit the website, to find out more about this and their ASC services.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all our friends, clients and followers!

We don't send out Christmas cards, as for several years, we have done a monthly donation to Cancer Research UK instead. We hope you understand.

We are looking forwards to an exciting year with lots of new plans. Watch this space!

Love from Libby, Franky, Helen, Georgina, Nicky, Nikki, Dee, Deb, Alison, Kirsty and Tasha!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Looking for a quality activity for a Monday morning in Stafford? Come to Stories and Songs

We are delighted to announce  a new group suitable for all pre-school children: 'Stories and Songs' on Monday mornings 9.30-10.15 at Stafford Children's Centre from Monday 14th January 2013.. 

The programme is written by language experts and delivered by Nicky Johns, a Mum of 4 and experienced Smart Talkers professional.

The sessions are exactly what they say i.e Stories and Songs but with lots of language and communication aims: attention, listening, turn-talking, choice making and more.

You are never too young for stories and songs so bring your little one along. £2.50 per child (discounts for more than 1 child per adult).

No need to book just turn up, we'd love to see you!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

When a child has a statement that is not being followed

We've got a case at the moment where we know that a  school is not keeping to the recommendations of the child's statement.Our difficulty is that the teacher and TA have confided in the parent but the head and the authority are adamant that the little girl is getting what she needs.  They are so adamant that they are refusing to let the NHS SLT in the classroom (although she is welcome after school) and I am not allowed in at all, at the moment. The Head Teacher cant see what we can add as 'we know what we're doing'.

The statement is for 1:1 support but the TA is required elsewhere for some of that time. The girl is reception and has ASD and is non-verbal. She also needs help with the toilet but school say that the the class teacher can  ask the secretary for help or ask the headteacher (imagine the practicalities of leaving your class of 30 4/5 year olds to go to find HT or secretary??)

I would appreciate any advice anyone can give us please to ensure that the programmes are being carried out but keep the school on board at the same time?  We feel we can't tell the authorities at this stage what we know, without losing the support of the classteacher and TA.

I read with interest this week about Bromley council which made serious failings with a teenager’s special education needs. In her report Dr Jane Martin, the ombudsmen, recommends the council pays a total of £7,000 to the boy, who is named as N, and his mother Miss Peters because of its failures. N has selective mutism and severe anxiety so has a statement documenting his special education needs (SEN). Dr Martin, however, found the council failed to put all the required elements of the statement in place. It failed to provide speech and language therapy for N for 12 months and failed to provide a key worker for him for 10 months. 

However, this £7,000 is nothing compared to the effect on the child. No amount of money can replace the lost opportunities or feeling of extreme anxiety and failure the child might have experienced.

Read more:

Saturday, 8 December 2012

New Children Centre Groups

We have started some new groups in children's centres in an area which is considered to be in the lowest 20% according to socio-economic studies. The children are delightful but have language levels which are way below the average expected. I spoke to a reception classteacher who reported that the OFSTED Inspector last week had been shocked at how low the over-all profiles were. If speech, language and communication skills are delayed, it has a knock-on effect to all learning.

We are working with children who have been identified as  lagging behind even this level. Their attention, listening, short-term memory, understanding and expressive language skills are delayed and the incidence of speech sound difficulties is really high (especially those associated with dummies). The other thing they all shared was low confidence and self esteem issues.

Talking to their parents revealed a similar profile of low confidence, little self esteem and an inbuilt distrust, boardering on hostility, to any form of establishment or professional. They are mostly third generation of unemployed and have worries about finances, housing, relationships and more, which are forming a barrier to successful interaction with their children. They all want the best for their children but just don't realise what they need to do. It is interesting that they are spending far more than me on Christmas presents this year and the pressure to have the latest fashion for themselves and their children is much greater than mine will ever be i.e. they want the best with no compromises.

It used to be instinctive to talk to children to develop their communication skills and without interaction they won't these skills develop properly. However, this has been lost some time ago with many families so that they just don't know any different.

Studies show that how a parent feels about themselves has a huge bearing on their interaction with their children (Roulestone et al 2011). How can we change the behaviour without appearing to criticise and thereby further destroy any remaining confidence?

It's a difficult task to change what they are doing (or not doing). Our Smart Talkers groups use demonstration to show what works for us. It's hard to feel intimidated by a woman sitting on the floor with her hand up a puppet, singing so they tend to feel almost superior, to begin with, at least. The hope is that parents will see what works and copy this themselves as their trust in us develops. We do have really good feedback to show that this works.

We show that by positive encouragement the children will achieve more e.g. when we are working on listening, we describe the behaviour we want i.e. good sitting and good looking, then we praise those who are doing it so that the ones who aren't, want to please, so they do it too. We also show how confidence can be encouraged, for instance, yesterday was the first time I had had one group and they all had very low self esteem. This manifested itself in 5 not looking at me or making eye contact and looking very worried and one who talked all the time in the hope I wouldn't ask him anything he couldn't answer. By the end of the session, with stickers proudly emblazoned on their chests, all were looking at me, smiling and waiting for my next instruction!

We use simple games and stories which can easily be copied by parents. Afterwards, we discuss what we did in the session, why it worked and what they could try at home. All done in a  non-threatening, non-critical way.  

There are other agencies involved, who are all doing their bit too such as family support workers, parent support workers, Book Start, Home Start, Health Visitors and the NHS SLTs. I'm looking forwards to seeing the progress of the children over time. 

We are commissioned to running the groups until April. After that will depend on how well I've filled the tender documents in. Lets hope I didn't miss of a tick box!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Physical development: Tips for parents by parents


It is with a touch of sadness that we have come to the end of Chuckle Talkers 2. This has been a project with our Smart Talkers pre-School Communication groups in conjunction with Chuckle productions with the fantastic Sara Christie and some lovely families from Silkmore Children's Centre in Stafford. We started in June to look at communication and how to incorporate communication opportunities into everyday activities. The course since September  has looked at how to develop children's physical development and address other issues which the parents had requested. The parents report that have leaned so much which in turn has a knock on effect on their children. They feel that they have improved knowledge about how to help their  children’s communication and physical development which has given them more ideas to help at home. They also say it has made them feel more confident to talk to other professionals.

They have put together their own tips for other parents, which I can share with you:

1. Through play encourage all types of child development

2. Give your child opportunity

3. Encourage independence skills e.g. walking, dressing

4. Give children time to practice their skills

5. Encourage gross motor skills in conjunction with fine motor e.g. catching a ball before they write

6. Encourage co-ordination skills by dancing, swimming and other physical activities

7. Core stability must be strong (tums, bums, back and shoulders). Improve with games such as bridges, big arm movements with ribbons, mark making on easels, row row the boat and other action games

8. Encourage fine motor control by threading activities, drawing, sticking, cutting, ripping, different textures e.g. rice, pasta,play dough

9. Spatial and motor planning are important for development to encourage by jigsaws, inset puzzles, sticker work, throwing, catching balls, shape sorter

10. Be aware of the amount of fat, salt and sugar in foods especially ready meals and drinks!

It's been a privilege to work with them and a delight to see how far they've come. We'd love to do a third course but with all the cut-backs this is probably un-likely. They would love the outcome of the project to be  a book for other parents to share what they have learned.  

So keep your fingers crossed or find us a wealthy sponsor!

You can read more about Chuckle at and Smart Talkers at

Libby and Nicky

Saturday, 1 December 2012

More than a third of five-year-olds are struggling to communicate

More than a third of five-year-olds are struggling to communicate – or understand the basics of reading and writing – because of key failures in early years care, it was revealed in OSTED's annual report earlier this week. Record numbers of young children – some 96 per cent – were currently in some form of pre-school education but it warned that “significant weaknesses” remain in terms of how well providers use the Government’s early years curriculum to “prepare children for school”.
In a damning conclusion, it was claimed that children from the poorest fifth of homes were on average 19 months behind wealthier classmates in their use of vocabulary by the age of five.
The gulf between rich and poor was wider than in most other major English-speaking nations, it was revealed.
From this it appears that the situation hasn't moved on despite the best efforts put in place since the Bercow report.
Our Smart Talkers pre-School Communication Groups  run in Children's Centres and also nurseries to help develop  language and communication skills to reduce the gap between these children. We have excellent results. We will be reporting on a project in the Lichfield area that we are currently doing, soon.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

What are the causes of poverty and social break down?

A new study has been launched, which will explore the fundamental causes of poverty and social  breakdown. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has identified these as:

  • welfare dependency
  • family breakdown
  • educational failure
  • drug and alcohol addiction
  • serious personal debt. 

Communication Trust Professional Director Wendy Lee will be part of the working group on educational failure, which will feed into the overall report.  Wendy Lee said: “The research evidencing the poor language of children living in socially  disadvantaged areas is becoming stronger and stronger and we know the massive impact poor language has on educational success, attainment and on long term prospects for children and young people in socially disadvantaged areas. We also know how strong language skills can help children in these areas “buck the trend” and do well in school and beyond. “We are pleased to be able to feed in the issues for these children and some of the evidenced solutions and our optimistic about the impact the report could have on children’s life chances.”  

The CSJ also commissioned a YouGov poll to coincide with the launch of the study aimed at 
identifying the causes of the serious social problems facing Britain. About 55 per cent of people surveyed said at least one of their local communities features broken families, crime and poor schooling.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A busy few weeks........

I can't believe we are almost at the end of November, where did the time go? I have been too busy to regularly blog. What have we been doing in recent weeks?

Speech & ; Language Therapy

We have:

  •  had lots of new therapy clients most of whom have complex communication needs 
  • lots of lovely 'old' clients for therapy and review
  • Two new members of the team: Natasha Hallam and Georgina Deakin
  • Started to carry out a project in 8 schools in Lichfield to help narrow the gap between children with delayed speech, language and communication and their peers
  • Almost finished Chuckle Talkers with Chuckle Productions at Silkmore Children's Centre Stafford
  • Finished the tendering process for the county council (the worst job of all!)
  • written an article on tendering for ITP magazine
  • Written an article on verbal reasoning and behaviour for Nursery World

The Book 

The book, 'How to get your child ready for school' is finished and is being formatted. This is a book to help parents know what to do to help before school. I have long moaned about them teaching the alphabet and counting by rote, so this is my answer.

Smart Talkers Pre-School Groups

These are a series of groups for pre-schoolers which focus on communication.
  • A new team member Kirsty to help cope with 6 new  groups in Children's Centres in the Tamworth area
  • Interviewing again on Friday
  • Met with franchisees 
  • Smart Talkers Surrey and Smart Talkers Essex have exciting plans
  • Smart Talkers India are expanding to school aged children
  • Smart talkers Cambridge is on hold due to illness but she will be back with avengance!
  • We are planning an AGM training day for June next year

S &  L World; the global bulletin for SLT/P

This is an international quarterly publication for professionals in the speech therapy/pathology world. New issue out now

Speech Therapy Activities website

This is a website we are developing with lots of information for parents. We will have free downloads with advice and help. We will also sell resources: so far we have  an auditory memory pack, an s -pack, a t-pack, a k-pack, an l-pack and a d-pack. These have all been tried and tested by clients. Meeting Andy at Devmac next week so will have more news then.

Training & Consultancy

We have a huge range of courses for parents and professionals. Ones this month include voice tips for teachers, which we ran throughout Staffordshire and An introduction to Signing. We are running the accredited under 5s Elklan training in January and have plans to run business development days across the UK from Spring see or for the range of courses

Bits n bobs

We also help another training provider with their marketing and are producing the special edition of Independent talking Points for  ASLTIP. We have also made videos of signs and interviews about Baby Sign with Shelley from Little Signers Club.

Think that's about it.......  but the to-do list is still growing!! 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Voice Tips for teachers

Last year a teacher received thousands in compensation for losing her voice, and thereby her source of income, but I don't know any schools who have invested money into training so it doesn't happen in their school. There will be at least one teacher in every school who has trouble with their 'throat' or voice and all would benefit from being shown good practice.

Looking after your voice should be part of all teacher training but it isn't. We cover the essential points in an hour workshop. Participants will:

  • understand how voice is produced
  • realise the important factors involved
  • identify the environmental factors
  • be able to reduce the risk factors
The workshop has a practical element so participants may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing.

Cost: £100 per staff meeting

A few places left at Barton Children's Centre Thursday 29th November 4-5 pm £20 per person

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Shine a light updates

Paul RossExcitement is building around the Shine a Light Awards 2012!

Shortlisting took place earlier this month and the judges have made their choices. Over the next week, we will be sending out invitations to the awards ceremony, which will take place at Pearson's headquarters in Strand, London on November 21st. 

We wish all the best of luck to Wyndham Primary Academy in Derbyshire which  has been selected to receive one of the following awards, either winner of Primary school of the year, a runner up or the winner of an outstanding achievement award. They have been through the Elklan school accreditation process which has helped them develop their working practises to this excellent level.
They're also delighted to announce that the celebrity host at this year's award ceremony will be television presenter Paul Ross.

Mr Ross has formerly been a journalist and radio presenter, and is perhaps best known as showbiz reporter on This Morning. He played the part of 'Mr Sit-up Britain' in the film Bridget Jones' Diary and was a contestant on Channel 4's Celebrity Come Dine With Me in 2009.

Thank you to everyone who helped us spread the word about the Shine a Light Awards 2012 and bringing in some interesting applications.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Are you thinking of developing your therapy business?

Are  you already working independently, thinking about developing the business but not sure where to start?  It's a big decision to go  from working part-time or by yourself to take the next step.

We have put together a course to go through the essential factors that will enable you to do this.
Participants will: understand essential business drivers, learn about effective advertising and marketing, identify social media potential and learn how to harness this and look at websites and SEO.
We will also look at how a business plan can be a practical tool.
Presented by me, Libby Hill and Ray Wellington. I am the Consultant SLT from Small Talk Ltd with extensive NHS and private experience as well in other industries. I am also the editor of S & L World:the global bulletin for SLT/SLPs. Ray is Director of Strategy at Milton Bayer Communications which is a strategic,creative marketing agency. Between us we have the knowledge and experience to help you decide if you want to take things further and how you could do this in simple, practical ways.
We are running them in London 15/3/13, Manchester 30/3/13, Bristol 13/4/13 and Birmingham 11/5/13. £150.00 per person for more info and to book a place.

Monday, 22 October 2012

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!!! ITV, babies need parents not TV

How irresponsible of ITV Signed Stories to show a photograph of a 2 year month old baby with an ipad in his cot! (picture removed as they have now taken it down)

I was delighted when they began to do signed stories. Using sign with little ones can be useful for many reasons as we know but we also know (as Shelley Ensor of Little Signers Club points out):
1. Screen time for under 3's is not a great idea.
2. The wifi near this baby's head is dangerous.
3. Babies can't learn to communicate from TV, they need the stimulation of their parents speech and to be held too for bonding and attachment.
4. This is over-stimulation for a baby who will kick back with crying fits and not be able to settle. It provides a low-level stress which also can affect the baby's learning 
It shows a complete lack of understanding to promote their 'business' with such  a picture. Parents will see and think it's OK. Let me spell it out IT'S NOT!!!!

For the benefit if the misguided twit who put on the photograph, (that's the politest term I can think of):
  • Babies need the stimulation of human beings to develop language and communication.
  • These skills develop right from birth – attachment is vitally important for this area and early interaction skills are the foundation for future development (Routledge et al) 
  • These skills only develop through interacting with other people – one person responding to another.
  • The attachment to the significant carer that occurs around birth is the basis for communication development.
  • The amount and type of language used at home have an effect on children’s overall language development (Hart and Risley).
  • Good early communication sets the pattern for later childhood and adolescence.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cracking Communication conference: Manchester

King’s House Conference Centre in Manchester will hold this exciting event on Tuesday 13th November.

There will be information and advice to help schools support outcomes for all children and young people through enhancing and promoting good language and communication skills. This conference follows on from our successful inaugural Cracking Communication conference held in London and will bring together the leading experts in speech, language and communication from the voluntary, education and private sectors.

The aim of the conference is to link together policy, evidence and practice in order to support schools to identify children with speech, language and communication needs and to enable all children to achieve their full potential through better communication skills. We are very excited about this event, with a fantastic range of speakers including:

  • Anne Duffy, HMI, Ofsted
  • Geoff Lindsay, the Better Communication Research Programme
  • Wendy Lee, Professional Director, The Communication Trust
Keynote speeches
Will link together policy, evidence and practice and you can view the timetable for the day .

Will focus on practical advice and tools that will enable school leaders to consider a range of practical solutions, based on good practice and clear evidence for their own individual communities.

Will also be on offer throughout the day to give participants the opportunity to network and see resources firsthand.

The conference will be suitable for the following audience:

  • Primary and Secondary head teachers and deputy head teachers
  • Curriculum leads, leads for teaching and learning and anyone implementing National Curriculum changes in their schools
  • SENCO's
  • Commissioners in the education and health sectors
Register now!
Book your place now to take advantage of the early bird rate of £150 per delegate

If you would like to register for the event, please visit or contact Jo Bolton


Friday, 12 October 2012

Is it good parenting or good schooling that helps our children at school?

Good parenting is more important than good schooling in determining your child's academic results, says new research Trust, good communication and active involvement in a child's academic life 'can help them succeed more than sending them to a good school'

Youngsters do best when their parents help them with homework, emphasise the importance of education and attend school events, researchers found.

Children with supportive parents – even if they attend poor quality schools – tend to outperform pupils at good schools whose parents take little interest in their education.

 The findings prompted the researchers to warn that improving social mobility cannot be achieved only by ‘fixing’ the school system. 

Initiatives were also needed which aimed to enhance parents’ involvement.
What do  you think?

Read more:

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Ban under-threes from watching television, says study

We're often hearing about the dangers of too much TV but now Dr Arik Sigman reveals the results of new research today. He says that parents should curb the amount of time children spend watching television to prevent long-term harm.

 Doctors and government health officials should set limits, as they do for alcohol, on the amount of time children spend watching screens – and under-threes should be kept away from the television altogether.

A review of the evidence in the Archives Of Disease in Childhood says children's obsession with TV, computers and screen games is causing developmental damage as well as long-term physical harm. Doctors at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which co-owns the journal with the British Medical Journal group, say they are concerned. Guidelines in the US, Canada and Australia already urge limits on children's screen time, but there are none yet in Britain.
The review was written by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, author of a book on the subject, following a speech he gave to the RCPCH's annual conference. On average, he says, a British teenager spends six hours a day looking at screens at home – not including any time at school. In North America, it is nearer eight hours. But, says Sigman, negative effects on health kick in after about two hours of sitting still, with increased long-term risks of obesity and heart problems. Read more
What do you think? We'd love to hear your views.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

What can I do to encourage conversation?

  • At mealtime, include your child in family conversation by encouraging your child to talk about what happened in school and listen as family members talk about their experiences. Cue your child to look at the speaker’s face. Eliminate as much background noise as possible. If your child has difficulty following or adding to a conversation appropriately, recap by speaking in short sentences with expression.
  • Play games that require the players to use logic, strategies, and problem-solving. Spelling and vocabulary games are good. Games in which no one “loses” are best.
  • Encourage the habit of making lists for a variety of purposes such as groceries, chores, and homework assignments. This helps to develop planning and organizational skills.
  • Encourage your child to plan what to wear for the next day. Help the child to select clothes that are appropriate. Explain why some combinations may not match, and show your child other combinations that go well together. Let your child help select new clothes.
  • Play the telephone game. One child whispers a secret to the next child, who whispers the secret to the next child, and so on.
  • Watch good ½ hour television programmes that involve characters and plot development with your child. At the end of the program, discuss with your child opinions, solutions to problems, sequence of events, character flaws, poor choices made by characters, and alternative endings.
  • Play games in the car that involve identification, for example finding license plates with particular letters or numbers. Ask riddles and sing silly songs.
  • Talk to the child about listening for words that give order clues, words such as “now,” “later,” “after,” and “before.”
  • When reading stories, ask the child to recap what was heard, after a page or two. At the end of the story, ask the child to summarize the entire story (Kelly, D.A., 1995).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Do you work in a pre-school or education setting?


Whatever your role within a pre-school or education setting you can benefit hugely from the excellent accredited training provided by the Elklan tutors.
Most of those who have completed one of their courses would say that they have found it extremely beneficial because they:
·         Feel more confident in working with children with speech, language and communication need (SLCN).

·         Can be a specialist resource to the other members of staff in the school.

·         Understand the importance of their role in developing children's communication.

·         Can support the communication development of all children in the school environment across the curriculum and in the playground too!

·         Have a range of strategies at their disposal which can be used to support children's communication whatever and wherever they are being taught.

·         Feel more confident in interpreting SLT reports and programmes which means they can be implemented more easily and effectively.

·         Know how to modify their interactions which is of benefit to ALL children.

·         Can change the way they speak to children so they understand more of what is said.

·         Can encourage talking by using specific strategies such as modelling language which can be used anytime, anywhere!

·         Know how to support a child with interaction difficulties

·         Know the types of children they can work with and those which need to be seen by the speech and language therapist.

·         Are more confident in talking to parents about the child's speaking and listening skills.

·         Share a common language with the SLT service and so understand what they are being asked to do quickly and can complete activities more efficiently.

Small Talk are licensed to run all the Elklan courses We can travel across the UK if necessary