Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Are you a parent in Staffordshire Moorlands?

We are delighted to announce that our Smart talkers Pre-School communication groups will be coming to Staffordshire Moorlands. We will be running 2 different groups, Small Talkers and Chatter Tots:

Small Talkers to help prepare children for school. We work on everything a child needs to become a confident successful communicator. This is really important as language skills are the best predictor of success at school. These are for children aged 3 and 4 years.

Cheddleton Children’s centre
Mondays 1.00 -1.45pm
Beresford Children’s centre
Wednesday 9.30 -10.15am
Cheadle Children’s centre
Wednesdays 1.00 -1.45pm

Chatter Tots which is a fun sessions using play, stories, songs and games to promote early communication skills. Ages 0-3 years

 Cheddleton Children’s centre
Mondays 2.00 -2.45pm
Beresford Children’s centre
Wednesday 10.30 -11.15am
Cheadle Children’s centre
Wednesdays 2.00 -2.45 pm

The groups will be run by Tasha Hallam, who is a qualified speech and language therapist. They will cost just £2.50 per child. Places are allocated on a first come-first served basis and can be booked here or ringing Tasha on 0780 7068951.


Monday, 28 October 2013

The power of snack time.

During some of our Smart Talker pre-school groups we like to include a snack time. During which, children are encouraged to sit around a table together to enjoy a drink and healthy snack. This isn’t just so we can have a rest and parents can have a good chat with their friends. It is actually a fantastic and powerful opportunity to encourage communication.
This situation provides children with the following opportunities:
·        having a good reason to communicate i.e. the motivation of food or drink
·        making a choice of snack and drink which is really important
·         Increasing their confidence

So what should we be doing?

·        Working on language and communication skills is most effective when done in real, everyday situations. We need to make sure we are giving a child a reason to communicate, an opportunity and a means. (The means can be pointing first, then answering a forced alternative e.g. ‘do you want water or juice?’, ‘... banana or raisins’ etc. Put the one you think he/she wants last to begin with so he can copy easily at first.  
·        When you are offering them a choice of snack or drink, get down on their level; make sure you have their attention by saying their name first, or tapping them on the arm.
·        Try and only give them a little bit at a time so they have to ask for more. The word ‘more’ is a good word to build from 1 to 2 words; e.g. ‘more juice’, ‘more banana’ etc. Be careful to look out for non-verbal cues as some children may not feel confident to ask for more, or have the language skills or vocabulary to do it. For example, a child may look in your direction holding out their cup, I would respond positively to this communicative attempt and model the language to the child i.e.       ‘ you would like more juice, X would like more juice’; repeating key words i.e. juice will really help your child  learn new vocabulary.
·        A further point, although it is lovely for us to hear children expressing their P’s and Q’s, this can be very confusing and hard for some children. If a child is saying single words it means that they are at an early stage of language acquisition. If, therefore, you ask them to say 'Please' or 'Ta' before you hand over the required toy, piece of food, drink or whatever, they will be very confused. If you want to encourage a child to put 2 words together, ‘more + biscuit' is more functional, they won't be able to say 'more+biscuit+please' until much later because this is actually 3 words together. (please read Libby Hill’s blog for more information on please and thank you,
·        Snack time provides an opportunity for children to request something in the best way they can, and push them to do a little more in a safe and motivating way. Therefore, working on their expressive language skills.
·        Children will also benefit from the social aspects of eating together, such as turn taking. If you take time to watch and listen, you will often see children sharing their snacks, or talking together.

One of the biggest causes of language delay today is that we don't expect enough of our children and we give them what they want without making them work for it. We take away the opportunities and reasons to communicate so their means of communicating doesn't need to progress.

 Take a step back and see every day activities as opportunities for communication...
So don't just provide food and drink, use snack or mealtime to help your child's language skills!
We can show you how if you come to one of our sessions

Georgina White

Friday, 25 October 2013

Come and join us on the Early Words programme in Lichfield and South Staffs

The National Literacy trust is  working with 12 Local Authorities to trial a package of support that will help children’s centres to identify families in need of support around early home learning. Small Talk is delighted to be co-ordinating this is the Lichfield and South Staffordshire areas. The families we aim to work with do not currently attend or access children’s centre services beyond universal services such as health checks.

The identified families will be supported to improve their home learning by working with trained community volunteers. The families will also take part in a book choice session and will be able to choose up to 3 books. In focussing on improving and increasing early home learning we are supporting families to increase their child’s school readiness and future attainment.

By March 2015 we will have contributed to the development of a package that can be adopted by other Authorities and that will include:

• Training for staff from a variety of referral agencies (health visitors, housing officers etc) to embed a set of home learning indicators into data they already collect (but not creating new bureaucratic systems!)
• Stakeholder mapping support and new partners for children’s centres
• Training for children’s centre staff to use early home learning indicators (EHLIs) and referral information to successfully attract identified families to their services
• Training for children’s centre staff to coordinate our community volunteering
programme and run book choice / book gifting sessions
• Promotion of referrals from the beneficiary parents
The success of the identification framework is very much reliant on positive and
open local partnerships – between Local Authority frameworks and with the
families. What is effectively a process of identifying and supporting certain families
to provide quality home learning environments for their children obviously requires
a high level of sensitivity and should be a positive rather than negative experience
for the families.

The aim is that home visiting professionals and others understand more about the
home learning environment, why it is important to their own work and to wider local
outcomes and how they can talk and work with families in a positive way that leads 44
families to access appropriate and meaningful support. At the same time, we will
be providing children’s centres with skills and knowledge that will help them to attract new, relevant families to their services.

What Small Talk will be doing:
Recruiting and training volunteers, then matching them with the families and overseeing the 6 week support programme. We will also run the book choice /book gifting session (funded by Benoy Foundation). At the end of the 6 week programme the families will be supported to refer others into the programme and encourage them to attend the children’s centre.

What we need you to do:
Attend the training sessions
Support the families over the 6 week period

We'd love you to be  apart of this exciting project. Please email us for an application form on if you are interested

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bad parenting: the root of all evil?

A controversial statement by Sir Michael Wilshaw, OFSTED's Chief Inspector, cites bad parenting as the root of society's problems as reported on in:

What do you think? Is he right, are we to blame or is this another attack on parents designed to make us feel more guilty than we already do? I'd love to know your thoughts...........

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Using music with your child with ASD

When Franky and I worked at Longdon Hall, which was a residential special school for children ASD and complex communication difficulties, we worked very closely with music therapists. We saw how music could be used to calm, soothe and motivate but also as a powerful means of working on communication skills.

Georgina brought this article, by Ryan Judd, to my attention this week. It makes interesting reading for parents wanting to use music with their children

Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist with a master's degree in Music Therapy. He has been in private practice and specializing in children with special needs for more than 13 years. Ryan is known for his ability to connect with and motivate the most challenging of clients through music, humor and drama. Ryan is also the founder of The Rhythm Tree, which is dedicated to educating parents, therapists and teachers on how to use music to help children with special needs learn, grow and thrive. Ryan has an educational video blog and has developed an award winning DVD and Music Kit for Children with Special Needs. You can learn more at

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy comes to Derbyshire

Georgina White, speech and language therapist is very excited to be leading Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy in Derbyshire; as she lives in the area. ‘I am particularly excited as I know what great results Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy can achieve as I have been working for Small Talk in the South Staffs area for nearly 12 months; and they have been achieving great results there since 2007.’

Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy are a team of speech and language therapists and assistants who work independently with children, from babies to teenagers. They can deal with a wide variety of speech, language and communication problems including, speech sounds, autism, problems with understanding and expressive language difficulties. They specialise in complex communication and ASD but can see any child about whom a parent is worried. The waiting list is usually less than 2 weeks from initial enquiry.

Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy visit children where they are most comfortable, either in nursery or at home. Georgina believes that this is far better for little ones who may be intimidated by a clinic setting, ‘Sitting with a child on the floor playing with their own toys makes them feel more relaxed so we can establish a rapport much more quickly. This means I can assess the situation more easily.’

Georgina White says, ‘We give parents a choice but, can also support the work of NHS Speech and language therapists.’ This is very important as 40,000 children start school each year without the necessary levels of spoken language (Wright, J., 2008); and a Government report in 2008 showed that this can be as high as 50% of children in some areas (Bercow, J.). But, there is so much that can be done to prevent this and to help when things go wrong.

It is these sorts of concerns and evidence that led Libby Hill to set up the Smart Talkers pre-school communication groups which are for all children to encourage confidence and the best communication possible. Libby Hill says, ‘We can give advice and support to parents of little ones who are not developing their speech and language as expected’. Georgina will be starting Smart Talkers pre-school communication groups soon in Derbyshire; she will also be offering training opportunities for parents and early years practitioners.

To find out more please visit , and for current pre-school communication groups; or please ring 0844 704 5888.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

We all know that interacting with children is important, but are we RESPONDING to our child’s interactions?

How do children learn new words and use them correctly? Yes, you got it, from us, the adults; and their peers. But, children can watch and listen to adults on the television and on DVD’s etc. is that just as good? The answer is NO! Children need the response of others to help guide their learning of language and communication.
I was really interested to read the following link the other day:
Detailing a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, Temple University, and the University of Delaware, appears in the journal Child Development; and they have questioned why learning from video has proven to be more difficult for children to learn words. They have found that it's the responsiveness of the interactions that's key: ‘When we respond to children in timely and meaningful ways, they learn -- even when that response comes from a screen.’ i.e. skype.

This also supports my previous blog regarding the fact that mobile phones can be a barrier to successful and effective communication.

It is so important to let children know that their attempts at communication are valued and important! To do that, all you need to do is listen attentively, and respond to what they said. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go into elaborate detail of what paint and brush they used to paint their picture in nursery, nor should you just give an uninterested response of ‘that’s nice dear’ etc. Get down on their level, give them plenty of eye contact, use facial expressions and gestures, intonate your voice etc. None of which is rocket science but, it will have wonderful effects on your child’s self-esteem.

As Libby Hill has mentioned previously, Hanen have a great term called 'owling' and we all need to do more of this:

  • Observe
  • Wait
  • Listen
So, take a step back and see every day activities as an opportunity to listen to your child and respond to their communication attempts. You are your child’s ‘model’ of communication!

Georgina White