Monday, 17 July 2017

Secondary schools don't need speech and language therapists.... or do they?

I have a few common scenarios which show how speech, language and communication issues can be the predominant cause of behaviour problems. These scenarios are very common so could be about anyone of 6 or 7 clients currently known to me. This is the first one:

Teenage girl, second year of secondary school. No issues noted in primary apart from maybe a few 'fallings out' with other girls. No previous behaviour issues at home or at school. Perhaps she's even been a model student. 

Since starting secondary school, however  everything has started to fall apart: at home she's sulky, rude even abusive to parents, shuts herself away, won't go anywhere, friendships may have broken down, parents describe 'melt-downs' when she comes in. At school they didn't notice anything in particular and were quite surprised to hear of the behaviour at home in year 7 but this year, she is falling behind and they are constantly reporting her behaviour which is usually similar to this scenario with E aged 13 years:

Teacher presenting a  power-point which needs to be copied down
E. hasn't finished when teacher moves it on
E 'Excuse me sir can you just leave that a bit longer as I haven't finished?'
Teacher 'No E you'll have to stay at the end as everyone else has finished' E looks round and sees that 3 others haven't either
E 'No sir that's not true x, y and z haven't either'
Teacher 'E you're trying my patience, we've discussed your behaviour!'
E 'But Sir I'm not being naughty, I'm trying to do my work, I just need 2 more minutes please?'
Teacher 'That's it, you have a detention'
E 'For god's sake how stupid? I just want 2 minutes'
Teacher: That's 2 detentions young lady'
E 'I cant believe you're doing this I just want to do my work and you're treating me like this'

Sometimes it escalates further and sometimes EVEN further.

Sometimes the child is excluded.

The child may have 14 detentions in a 2 week period as in one case or 101 since xmas in another. 

Why should a child behave this way?

In the cases I have been dealing with:

1. slower processing skills
2. poor auditory memory
3. both of the above lead to difficulty understanding longer and more complex questions
4. literal understanding of language
5. lack of social skills/pragmatic ability means they don't modify their language for teachers so yell as they would to their parents
6. Rigid thinking means they cant 'let it go' because their sense of justice is so well developed they aren't wrong so the teacher must be
7. Can't see another's point of view 
7. An awareness of their difficulties but a desire to mask them means their anxiety levels are already heightened so it doesn't take much to 'set them off'

It has become a dreadful, seemingly untenable situation. School will have tried all their usual strategies for behaviour problems but nothing works. Yet the answers are simple strategies and an understanding of the problems. It amazing how we can make a HUGE difference by explaining to teachers why the child is doing what they're doing, if we now see them as struggling rather than defiant, abusive etc, we can avoid getting into many of the situations which have previously been a nightmare.

Some of these children may have undetected ASD but some will have language and communication difficulties which are not part of the spectrum. Hormones and personalities play their part too!


  • A one page profile needs to explain what the child finds difficult. Just the process of completing one of these may make the child feel respected and understood which is an important start.
  • Making sure all the child's staff have read and acknowledged the profile
  • Everything as visual as possible including  a print out of the power-point, gestures, notes. These can all be used to make aspects of the day clearer including the timetable, what a pupil will be learning in that lesson, expected behaviour, key vocabulary and information, the sequence of steps within an activity, names of equipment and where it is stored, etc.
  • Make sure the child is happy where they are sitting. I like them at the front so they can see the teacher and the teacher can see them but the child may well be uncomfortable at the front and want to be at the back. Sitting with a friend can be really helpful
  • Encourage an ethos where all pupils are encouraged to ask questions and seek clarification.
  • Have a code so they can let you know when thy haven't understood that no-one else will notice e.g. bag on desk, pencil case moved 
  • Agree how you can check they have understood
  • Expected behaviour is clearly described e.g. School ‘rules’ and ‘charters’, etc are written in simple, symbol or visual photos form so that pupils can understand them.
  • Quiet space is available for time-out or individual study.
  • A reflections log or journal where the child can write about what went well as well as what went wrong. Even better have  a mentor who can meet with the child regularly to discuss this
SLCN is just as big a problem in secondary school as in primary. In the secondary classroom, language is the foundation for participation in, and access to, most aspects of the school curriculum. Many aspects of written language, such as narrative or understanding what you're reading, can be limited by delayed language skills; 'by secondary age there is an increasing amount of figurative language in text books. The same is also true of ‘teacher talk’: 37% of teacher instructions in secondary schools contain multiple meanings, 20% with at least one idiom. As learning becomes more reliant on independent study, language enables pupils to make contact with others; to organise, manage and evaluate experiences; to influence and inform' (ICAN)

Last week I visited 6 secondary schools and was delighted with their positive responses. We all want whats best for the young person but we need to understand what this is to be able to do that. You may think that they don't need a speech and language therapy assessment as they speak fluently but if the usual strategies don't work, we can probably help fill in the missing links. Behaviour IS communication, we just have to work out what it's telling us.



Saturday, 8 July 2017

Selective mutism training in Staffordshire

Time goes so fast so we're planning what we're going to do for October's selective mutism (SM) awareness month already.

We aim to blitz the local radio shows again with the lovely Natasha Dale who has become a brilliant ambassador for children and young people with SM, we'll have a local press campaign and a training day for parents and professionals.

If you know anyone who would benefit from the training, please let them know, places are limited.

The aims of the day are:
  • To recognise and diagnose SM
  • To fully understand the causes and maintaining factors
  • To relate the above to an appropriate prevention or management plan:

     - educating all key people involved with the child
     - creating the right environment at home and at school
     - talking to the children and their peers about SM
     - considering the need for a formal programme

     - formulating treatment targets

Friday 13th October 9.30am -3.00pm
Uttoxeter Fire Station, Cheadle Rd, Uttoxeter ST14 7BX

£85 to include lunch and refreshments



We'd love to see you!


Thursday, 6 July 2017

My friend Daniel doesn't talk: book review

Image result for my friend daniel doesnt talkMy Friend Daniel Doesn’t Talk is a helpful children’s book about selective mutism, written by Sharon L. Longo and illustrated by Jane Bottomley. This book is very easy to read and understand and the illustrations add more of an insight in to what it is like to have SM. Although this book is very short and simple, it really focuses on the key points of stereotypical selective mutism. We’re first faced with a paragraph about some of the behavioural characteristics and signs of SM and anxiety, “He played with his shirt collar while his mother talked to our teacher, and his face was frozen”. Immediately we are let into the world of a child with selective mutism and are encouraged to almost feel the difficulty these children must experience. 

The main aim and purpose of this book is explained to be, to help others who don’t have SM, but know someone who does, understand the condition. 

Having had selective mutism myself, throughout childhood and adolescence, I felt this book was somewhat relateable and insightful. I particularly liked that it focused on Daniel himself, his behaviour, his anxiety and how others perceive him, as well as Daniel’s friend. I was really warmed by reading how SM can affect the other children in the class. I think it’s important and useful to take the time to read this book, especially if you yourself have SM, and especially if you’re a child, because it allows you to see that people want to understand, they want to help and they will accept and befriend you. Talking is not a necessity in gaining and maintaining friendships and the people who matter, the people who care about you (your friends) will remain patient and understanding as long as needed.

Daniel’s friend was full of curiosity and asked his mother many questions about Daniel and his SM. When curiosity about Daniel was the topic of the school playground, Daniel’s friend explained, “My Mom said some kids are so scared to talk that their words can’t come out”. Daniel’s friend was incredibly interested in learning about how he could help and be a good friend to Daniel, as were other children in Daniel’s class.

The only concern I have with this book is that it is very much based and focused on stereotypes. Nonetheless, this book still allows us some degree of insight into the condition from a child’s perspective. However, there is one part of the story that I don’t feel too comfortable with, “I’m going to be extra nice to him so he’ll talk to me one day”, as much as this can be read in a completely positive light, and indeed there is much positivity behind it, it also holds some concerns as it is potentially suggesting that there is a pressure to talk if a person is being nice to you, as well as giving the impression that a child with SM is to be treated as special with added attention. Although, of course, these comments and acts of apparent kindness do happen in schools, so I think it does hold some importance in being included in the book. It is important to remember that most children with SM want to be included, they want to be treated fairly and given the support and understanding they need, however they do not want to be singled out. A little further into the book, this is pointed out and rightly so, “we shouldn’t make a big deal when Daniel speaks. That would just make him feel more upset” which I think is an incredibly important key point.

Most of all, I thought the guide for parents and teachers, at the back of the book, is extremely useful. This guide explains that this book carries the theme of acceptance, diversity and equality, which is reassuring. I would agree, this book definitely not only helps children who have SM themselves, but it could be very helpful to children who do not have SM themselves, but know someone who does. It answers many questions and solves the confusion felt by many children trying to understand someone who doesn’t speak. Just as importantly, this guide also gives very brief but very accurate points and information on how teachers and parents can help and support their pupil, or child, with SM.

Overall, I would say that this book’s main purpose includes, to reassure children with SM that they are not going to be forced to speak, people will be patient and understanding and true friends will be supportive. At the same time it helps children without SM to understand children with selective mutism, or perhaps even it encourages other children to embrace and accept difference more broadly. My Friend Daniel Doesn’t Talk is a beneficial read and I would recommend anyone affected by SM to read it, whether that be first or second hand; children with SM, children without SM, teachers and parents.


Natasha Dale

Monday, 3 July 2017

Research: Autism and the sisterly bond



As the youngest of three siblings, with two older brothers I have been fascinated with how siblings interact. Playing with dolls and making up stories was my rest from running around the garden covered in mud with my brothers. During these hours I often wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Would we argue over toys and clothes, or would we share everything and get along perfectly? If our personalities were fundamentally different, would that make things easier or add another difficulty to the relationship?
This is what I have been investigating in my current research. Previous research has stated that sisters- when one has autism- have a more positive bond than a brother-sister or brother-brother pairs.  In my project ‘Understanding the experiences of sisters when one has Autism Spectrum Disorder’ I aim to hear the stories of sisters who have been effected by autism in one way or another, to gain an understanding of what may influence their relationship. Ultimately, I hope that this will add to the understanding of autism and sibling relationships and perhaps one day be used to improve the bond between siblings when one has autism.

Much of the current research focuses on the parent-child bond or the parent’s experiences. But the sibling relationship is often the longest relationship we will have in our lifetime, and it is so often overlooked in research and life in general. Furthermore, I would like to understand this research question from the perspective of the autistic sister to learn both sides of this fascinating bond.
I have already interviewed a number of neurotypical women who have an autistic sister. And I am now looking for autistic females who have a sister! Participants must be female, over the age of 16, have a diagnosis of ASD and have at least one sister.  If you, or anyone you know, are eligible and interested in being a part of this novel research, please get in touch with me at fhd1g14@soton.ac.uk
Participation will include one interview which will last no more than an hour- this can be done over the phone, skype or in person. Interviews will be recorded, transcribed and anonymised. Although some quotes may be used in the write up of the report, there will be no way of linking them back to you.  

I am hoping to have this research published in an academic journal and I would greatly appreciate any help in achieving this. Whether it is taking part or passing this on to anyone who may be interested.

Thanks for reading!

Ffion Davies

University of Southampton


Friday, 16 June 2017

Would you like your child to be ready for school and attend a quality holiday activity?


We have some summer group sessions running at our clinic base on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border to help children be ready to start school. The sessions will look at:
  • Confidence to communicate
  • Attention
  • Listening
  • Memory
  • Vocabulary
  • Verbal reasoning

via games, activities and stories. We'll have fun while we learn! These sessions will be run by a fully qualified and experienced speech and language therapist.

Monday 14th August  to Thursday 17th August 9.30-11.30am

Cost: £200 per child. Spaces are limited so please apply early.

To book https://v1.bookwhen.com/smalltalk

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Exciting new development: summer school for teenagers with social communication difficuties

We are delighted to announce that we will be running some intensive group sessions for young people with social communication difficulties at our lovely, peaceful clinic at Bartonfields.  We we also have evening classes available from september.

As teenagers move into their secondary school and young adult years, they experience increasingly complex social situations and academic curricula that require more nuanced social understanding, fine-tuned critical thinking, a higher level of executive functioning, etc. 

We use the work of Michelle Garcia Winner, the founder of Social Thinking, to provide valuable teaching tips and delve into the scope and sequence of using Social Thinking’s products with students ages 11-22 to improve self-regulation and social competencies.  The materials are helpful for students with social learning challenges (ranging from ASD levels 1 and 2, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, etc.) or students who are un-diagnosed yet struggle with the rapidly increasing demands of social interpretation and related social skills. Some of the materials that will be using include Socially Curious and Curiously SocialSocial Fortune or Social Fate, and Social Thinking and Me, and more. 

Monday 7th to Friday 11th August 2017 
Ages 11-14 9.15 am-12.15 pm 
Ages 15-22  1.15- 4.15 pm

Cost: £350 per young person. Limited spaces available. To book https://v1.bookwhen.com/smalltalk

Image result for curiously social socially curious  Image result for social fate social fortune

Are you worried about your child's speech sounds, would an intensive course be just what they need?


We have some summer intensive group sessions running at our clinic base on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border to help children with speech sound difficulties. The sessions will look at:

  • phonological awareness
  • auditory discrimination
  • making a difference
  • consolidating progress

via fun games, activities and stories. These sessions will be run by a fully qualified and experienced speech and language therapist.

Monday 14th August x to Thursday 17th August 1.00-3.00pm

Cost: £200 per child. Spaces are limited so please apply early.

Please email: office@smalltalk-ltd.co.uk  To book https://v1.bookwhen.com/smalltalk

Thursday, 18 May 2017

ASPERGER’S SYNDROME IN 13-16 YEAR OLDS – a review


Image result for ASPERGER’S SYNDROME IN 13-16 YEAR OLDS – review 


This easy to read informative book is written by Alis Rowe, the founder of The Girl With The Curly Hair.

There are many different books available on autism spectrum conditions, but not so many which are written by those who have an Autism Spectrum Condition themselves, so that makes this book all the more helpful. Unless you experience first-hand you can never fully understand, so the best resources and research you can find are those that are written and offered by those the condition themselves. Alis gives a real insight into Asperger’s syndrome and some of the hurdles teenagers with the condition may face.

With this book focusing on the early teen years, age 13-6 years, it gives a more direct look into Aspergers and what that can mean for this age group. Not only does this book offer information, reassurance and comfort to those with Asperger’s themselves, I also think this book could be a great help in allowing parents, siblings and family/ friends of the person with Asperger’s to grasp a better understanding.

Asperger’s Syndrome In 13-16 Year Olds, is written in such a straight forward way, it’s a very easy read but it still manages to focus on so much valuable information. It really gives you a clear idea of what living with Asperger’s can be like and it encourages you to learn about the similarities and differences between people who are neurotypical and those who have an ASC. Alis Rowe has given some useful advice and reminders, which will be really helpful to many. Alis has also encouraged the readers to see that difference is not wrong; it is something that a person should be aware of and there can be many positives with being different. She has included a very simple but effective illustration of an example of thinking in an alternative way, which shows that difference is something that can be embraced. This illustration also includes the caption “She sees the world differently”.

It’s almost as if this book has been stripped of unnecessary detail, which allows it to focus on key points and key messages, which is extremely beneficial. Alis talks about many aspects of having AS, including: sensory challenges, friendships, feeling lonely amongst others, the stresses of the school environment, the difficulties of the journey of adolescents, special interests and why those with AS might have some, or all, of these differences and challenges. I think this book is a must have for all teenagers with Asperger’s syndrome who are feeling confused and alone in being different.



Natasha Dale


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Doing what it takes........ a holistic approach

I am a speech and language therapist who sees children with ASD and/or complex communication difficulties including selective mutism. If I was in the NHS I would be called highly specialist. I see children who have many challenges, some of which are speech, language and communication but many also have extreme anxiety. It's a chicken and egg situation because if they didn't have Speech, Language and Communication Needs, they wouldn't be so anxious, if anxious at all, while the anxiety blocks their abilities both to understand and to express themselves. Therefore, to do my job properly, I have to know about anxiety and be able to address some of the issues alongside. Consequently,  have studied and  I use animal assisted therapy (AAT), CBT and NLP as part of my approach with traditional approaches including Social Thinking by Garcia Winner.

I discussed this recently at a RCSLT clinical excellence network. The responses were very interesting: completely polarised. Almost half the audience wanted to know more, took the references and 'where to go from here' information readily, the other half raised their eyebrows and shook their heads. There is a wealth of clinical evidence about all the approaches for counselling but they were disturbed because there isn't in speech and language therapy.

I use the animal assisted therapy by having Ralph (a certified PAT dog) in on sessions where I need the child/teenager to be relaxed so I can get on with the 'other stuff'. It works like a dream as he sits by them while they answer my questions or complete assessments. They can stroke him or ruffle his neck as they think or cry into his neck if they feel like it....he doesn't mind a bit.

The CBT is really just looking at the problem and breaking it down into baby steps, which is actually what most speech therapy is, while the NLP helps to shift negative mind sets.

The Social Thinking is a brilliant way of introducing the idea that social cognition is a vital area for us to get along with our fellow man even if we never wish to have a conversation with him.

I believe that we need to be more creative: there is no one-size fits all approach to these children and young adults. They've usually tried everything else by the time they come to me.

I know this blog-post will receive a polarised response too but I make no apology because my goal is to make a difference and not be just another professional who says they can't help because they don't fit traditional methods. As the saying goes: if we always do what we've always done, we'll always get the same results. We're lucky because we are not bound by commissioners or bureaucracy which imposes limits on what we do.

As a team, we have a wealth of clinical based evidence and that's sufficient for me: we achieve good, if not great, results!


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Why I love baby signing!

Guest post by Hannah Lindahl – Little Signers Club Leader for North Nottingham




As a ‘Baby Signing’ teacher I see, and am truly honoured to be a part of, countless occasions when the little people realise that they can communicate with the big people. The smiles on those tiny faces as the grown ups exclaim praise and joy as the little one shows that he is enjoying the ‘BUBBLES’ or that she would like to sing the song one ‘MORE’ time.

We all know that being a parent is a wonderful job but we also all know that at times it can be really hard work! Unfortunately, after approximately 9 months of baking, these tiny little beings are thrust into our lives with no instruction manual and no ‘standard issue’ crystal ball.

So when the tears start it’s a case of trial and error – a guessing game until a suitable solution (milk, a clean nappy or maybe just a cuddle) can be found.
Having embarked upon the ‘signing journey’ with my own children, I know just how invaluable having a method of communication with your child can be at times like this.  Seemingly endless tears from a frustrated, red faced, angry baby can be simply replaced with a gesture, indicating easily and succinctly that ‘MILK’ is required.

Which in itself is fabulous, amazing, and less stressful for everybody involved - but what if it was more than just signing? …….

One morning, when my smallest bean was approximately 9 months old, we took her older sister to nursery. At this time, the sign of the moment was most definitely ‘DOG’ , frantically signed at every passing husky, every mutt in a book and even in response to the dog barking next door! So safe to say that small bean was delighted  to see that there was a dog outside the nursery building, secured to the fence waiting patiently for it’s owner to return. Cue a happy child and a lot of excited signing for ‘DOG’!

And then our day continued pretty much the same as any other day. With big sister at nursery we were able to enjoy some ‘mummy and baby’ time and we passed the next few hours quite happily.

And then it was time to pick up big sister. We got ready, I explained where we were going and we got into the car. And as we drove towards the nursery I noticed something absolutely extraordinary – she was signing ‘DOG’!  We were not even there yet but she remembered?! She’s ONLY 9 months old – surely babies are not that clever? Oh, but they are! 6 hours after the original event, this tiny little person was showing me that she remembered what we had seen and she was excited about the prospect of a repeat encounter!

And it didn’t stop there – on arrival there was sadly no dog to be seen, which instead of upsetting her just resulted in a confused face and some signing ‘WHERE’?

And this was it – this was my BOOM, light bulb, WOW moment.  I already knew signing was fantastic at allowing my child to tell me if she would rather have a cup of ‘WATER’ or a drink of  ‘MILK’ , but at that moment I realised that it was so much more - She was now able to actually show me what she was thinking!

And that’s the incredible thing – even at this young, delicate age, when people assume they just sit and play and cry and sleep, babies are so capable and clever and able. The synapses in their brain are developing at breakneck speed and giving them the ability to think and question and process what they are seeing and learning. And all of the learning and new experiences just work to encourage more synapse development and new connections.

It’s like a vicious circle – but not vicious at all! – in fact quite the exact opposite! – A wonderful circle of development and encouragement and learning and bonding. And by signing they allow you a sneak peak into this world, like peering through a little skylight into their minds and seeing what wonderful ideas and thoughts are zooming around in there!


Signing with little people – why wouldn’t you do it? 

Hannah

Monday, 27 March 2017

HEALTH VISITORS REPORT INCREASE IN CHILDREN’S COMMUNICATION DIFFICULTIES

Evidence submitted to the Bercow: Ten Years On review into children and young people’s speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) from the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV)[1] has revealed an 8% rise in health visitors reporting that they are seeing higher numbers of children with delayed language, with the number increasing from 64% in 2015 to 72% in 2016.
The iHV evidence 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. This means they may use simpler sentences, fewer words and struggle to understand the same instructions as their peers.

This evidence submission coincides with the launch of the parent and carer consultation for Bercow: Ten Years On – an independent review into the state of provision for children and young people’s SLCN run by I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).
The final report and recommendations will be published in 2018, marking 10 years since the Government published The Bercow Report: a Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. 

Jean Gross, Chair of Bercow: Ten Years On and former government Communication Champion for children, said: “In 2008, the original Bercow Review showed that around two-thirds of parents and carers that responded felt that information about support for children was not easily available, and nearly 40% said that the quality of information was poor. That was damning evidence that things needed to improve. But have they? That is what we need to find out.

“The Institute of Health Visiting’s evidence highlights a worrying trend in health visitors reporting a rise in children with delayed language. Now is the time to find out how parents and carers really feel about the reality of the SLCN support they have received for their child so we can understand what, if anything, has changed over the past decade. We are asking them to speak out so we can ensure that the Bercow: Ten Years On recommendations about information and provision are firmly rooted in their experience.”

Elizabeth Stanley, National Rep for the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF), said: “Ensuring that parents and families have a good understanding of how best to support their child’s development is vitally important in improving outcomes for children and young people. Being able to communicate is an essential part of life; we need parents, carers, professionals and organisations to listen to each other and work together in a collaborative way to improve the lives of our children.
Bercow: Ten Years On needs to learn from those families receiving good support for their child as well as those who feel it is not so good. This will ensure that recommendations can include ways to replicate best practice. It is therefore imperative that parents and carers use the survey as a platform to share their experiences and contribute to the evidence base.”

The iHV statistics follow the recent announcement that health visitor checks will remain mandatory in the early years, which includes checks to identify language difficulties in children at a young age.
Parents and carers can directly take part in Bercow: Ten Years On by completing a short survey online (closing June 2017). In addition, practitioners can access early-years, primary and secondary activity packs that can be carried out with parents and carers in local settings.
Further information is available at www.ican.org.uk/Bercowsurvey.
Find out more about Bercow: Ten Years On visit www.ican.org.uk/Bercow or follow #Bercow10years on social media.

[1] Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) survey of 1251 health visitors in 2016 and 1413 in 2015 
 

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 Bercow10@ican.org.uk.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/SMIRASelectiveMutism/ 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 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-introduction-to-working-with-children-who-can-speak-but-dont-selective-mutism-tickets-32556330862?aff=efbevent


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.