Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Using the monkey, elephant and the crocodile to help your child relax: Relax Kids

Guest blog by Karen Horner

Research shows that more young children are being diagnosed with depression or some other mental health illness as they are subjected to a stressful life. I decided to develop my skills by studying Relax Kids. This is a 7 step fun tool that children can use daily to help them de-stress in the stressful times in which we live. Teaching relaxation techniques to young children as they also learn simple values such as respect, care, co-operation and tolerance. Relax Kids builds  self-esteem, confidence, concentration and helps children to cope with stress and anxiety as they develop their imagination and creative talents.

Relax kids was launched in 2003 by Marneta Viegas  who at the time ran a children’s entertainment business for 13 years in London.  Over that time she noticed a change in children’s behaviour.  They seemed to be lack concentration and focus and listening skills.  She set about creating a relaxation system using breathing exercises, stretches, games, positive affirmations and visualisations to help children learn these important life skills.   As well as starting Relax Kids classes, she wrote a couple of books of children’s relaxations – for parents to read to their child at bedtime and CDs to play to help children de-stress.

How can relax kids help my child?

The brain is very complex, just like a jungle, and in the jungle, there are 3 important animals the monkey, the elephant and the crocodile/meercat.

The monkey part of the brain which is at the front and is highly intelligent, curious and likes to learn new things. He takes in all the information and passes it on to the elephant who has a very long memory which is the hippocampus part of the brain. He stores all this information ready for when we need it again.

The crocodile keeps us safe from danger and is always on the lookout, this means when we get upset frightened or frustrated we freeze, flight or fight. In states of high anxiety our crocodile is always snapping therefore the monkey and the elephant part of the brain can’t work so the child does not learn.

Relax kids helps children to calm their crocodile and gives them strategies to cope in stressful situations so allowing the crocodile in them to remain in a calm state and allow the monkey and elephant to do their jobs. This results in calmer children and learning taking place.

Relax kids is now in 47 different countries helping children de-stress and giving them strategies to help cope in situations of stress and anxiety.

The seven steps take a child from high energy to a state of complete relaxation. Your child will enjoy games and songs, storytelling, movement, stretching and breathing exercises, peer / self massage, affirmations, relaxations and visualisations All these exercises have been put together to help children feel great and be confident. The action packed 6 week programme will take your child on a different adventure each week. Your child will enjoy our adventures so much they won't notice the new skills they are learning Our classes help develop children's imagination and creativity as well as build their self-esteem Regular relaxation will help your child's concentration, learning and will give them tools to manage anxiety and worries.

For more information, please get in touch.

Karen Horner
Relax Kids North 07517 970120

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

NLP: Neuro what?? More mumbo jumbo or a great asset for a therapist's toolbox of tricks? What do you think?

Guest blog post by Sarah Ellison, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

Do you ever find that some days are better than others?  Or find that there are some situations in which you would like to feel more confident but don’t?  Do you ever find yourself not getting on with certain people?  Or situations that you would like to handle better or differently?  And have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t they be just like ME and do it MY way?!” 

 NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming.  It allows you to have more of the good days by changing things about yourself and improving communication and relationships with others. 

NLP shows us how we take in sensory information in order to make sense of the world, and how this personal representation of reality affects our physiology and behaviour.  With approximately 2.3million bits of sensory information available to us every second, it’s no wonder that we all process things in different ways – in our own unique way.

The use of language patterns (to ourselves as well as other people) also varies from person to person and how we express ourselves greatly affects our behaviour and feelings. 

Habitual, and often subconscious, patterns of thoughts and feelings developed through our life (and especially in childhood) affect our behaviour in the present.  NLP can help to change these patterns – often quite quickly and easily.

My name is Sarah Ellison and I’m a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist.  I have been using NLP in my speech and language therapy clinical work for 15years now – mainly in my specialist area of stammering.  I have found it absolutely invaluable and it has frequently reduced the length of therapy input required.  I find that it enhances confidence, well-being and resilience in children and adults alike.  On a personal level, I use some aspect of NLP every day of the week – it’s now so much a part of me.  I am incredibly grateful that I knew about NLP language patterns before having my daughter – despite having years of experience as an SLT at that point, I still learnt so many invaluable NLP tips for how best to communicate with a child.

My next one day course for SLTs ‘An Introduction to NLP in Speech and Language Therapy’ is on Saturday 4th March 2017 in Accrington, Lancashire.  Please find details  if you want to learn about the wonderful world of NLP and how it can enhance both your life and the lives of the children/adults you work with.  You will leave this fun and interactive day with some quick and effective ways to increase therapy effectiveness and improve communication with others.  Complimentary lunch and refreshments are provided.

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information.
Sarah Ellison – Tel: 07934 677750 – sarah@profluence.co.ukwww.profluence.co.uk

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Logical Thinking

Guest blog post by Georgina Smith

Sometimes I wonder why the majority of students I see are boys.  There are many arguments about why boys are often seen to be struggling with literacy more than girls.  I think there are way too many complex issues in the mix to singularly give one causal link to this.

However it’s been suggested that girls play more at office and school.  Boys are said to not want to sit in a classroom environment and prefer to be outside.  It’s argued we often buy girls books and stationery as gifts more than we do boys.  There is also the opinion that we have more female role models in primary schools and the lack of male role models in primary school etc also has an impact on boys being interested in literacy.

I can already imagine some of you read this and raise your hands in agreement and others are shouting and reacting strongly against these opinions.  As I suggested, there is no one causal reason why we may see boys struggle more.  In fact is it the fact that more boys struggle or is the fact that we identify less girls?  Girls can be great at covering up mistakes and mimicking.  Maybe we identify more boys as they demonstrate more behavioural issues in the classroom?

However we can also consider the male and female brain.  Girls are more language orientated and more creative where boys are said to be more logical and mathematical thinkers.

It was during some of my 1:1 sessions with primary school age boys that the parents have started to mention that their sons seem to be thriving using a more logical way of learning spelling and reading than just based purely on sounds.  Parents have commented they feels schools may touch upon the rules of why to choose a c,k,ck to make a /k/ sound at the end of a word  such as ‘peck, stick, tank, think, picnic, arctic’ but they rarely stay on the rules long enough and allow them to practice the rules in the context of reading and writing.

When I teach using CodeBreakers I try to emphasise the logical rules such as /k/ at the end of a word.  Surprisingly there are lots of rules in the English language, many of the students really enjoy this method of learning along with all the games and play we utilise when delivering in a multi-sensory way.

Georgina is a member of PATOSS and an Associate Member of the British Dyslexia Association. She is also the author of  Code Breakers

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The pressure to 'do eye contact': do you do it?

I met a lovely, bright young man of 12 this week who has a diagnosis of ASD. I asked him if he found it difficult to listen to what the teacher is saying in class. His reply: 'It depends if they insist on eye contact, if they do then yes if they don't then no,' We then got into a discussion about eye contact. I told him I never make eye contact primarily due to a mild hearing loss but also as I neither want to stare into someone's eyes or they stare into mine (not at work anyway!). He thought I did 'good eye contact' but I explained I actually concentrate on mouths but you can't tell if I'm looking at the mouth or the eyes. He insisted we did a test to see as he didn't believe me. Convinced, we carried on the session and he commented at the end how easy it had been to both listen and talk to me.

When we are having a conversation there are so many things to consider, see the speech chain below, we need to make it as easy as possible for those who already find it hard. This speech chain is from Elklan's excellent working with under 3 course:
We insist on children giving us eye contact in western cultures but how many of you do it constantly and if you've just said yes, why? Does it feel natural, does it feel OK?

We like Michelle Garcia Winner's approach in social thinking, she doesn't mention eye contact. In Social Thinking, she wants you to show the speaker you are interested so 'eyes in the group, body in the group'. The listener wants you to face them to show interest  so the body especially the shoulders should be towards them. They also want and expect you to be looking towards them or it might appear as if you are not interested but I don't know anyone who wants to be stared at. I'm hoping to meet some of his teachers who have insisted he looks into their eyes while he's talking..... that will be one occasion I do stare intently!

Monday, 3 October 2016

The national campaign to increase awareness of SELECTIVE MUTISM: ‘not being able to talk is not the same as having nothing to say’

Imagine a world where you can talk perfectly freely, normally and maybe even eloquently in some places, such as your home, but you cannot talk at school or work or social situations. The words just won’t come out, the harder you try, the worse it may become. It’s the stuff of nightmares, a bit like falling from a height but you wake before you crash-land, only this is not a dream, it’s the living hell for around 1 in 150 children in our nurseries and schools.
Libby Hill, Speech and Language Therapist, says, ‘Our knowledge of the condition has changed massively: we used to think they were choosing not to talk and were wanting to manipulate the adults around them’.

‘SM is now seen as a manifestation of social anxiety or phobia, occurring in temperamentally predisposed children who are unable to take normal life events in their stride, particularly when the reactions of others reinforce silence rather than speech,’ (Maggie Johnson, 2012).

This means they may WANT to speak but are unable to and they may become increasingly wary of any form of communication which could lead to an expectation to speak.
The national charity for information and research into Selective Mutism (SM)SMIRA are having their national awareness campaign during October, when people from all over the UK will be holding awareness events to try to increase the understanding of this very much mis-understood condition.

To raise awareness here in Staffordshire, Libby Hill and the team from Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy are providing a FREE training day at Fountains Primary in Burton on 28th October. 'We really want to help raise the seriousness of the problem but also show that there’s lots we can do to help children and young adults,’  says Libby. There are parents and professionals coming from as far away as Bristol and London.

Libby is very excited to be able to include Natasha Dale, from Uttoxeter, in the training day.  Natasha suffered terribly as a child and teenager with the condition which really blighted her early life. Fortunately with her family’s and friends’ support, she has worked hard to over-come this and one of her challenges is to speak about it in public.

‘Natasha is a great example of how awful life can be with SM but also how it can be over-come,’ reports Libby. ‘I work with many teenagers who feel that they can’t access the usual rites of passage of teenagers e.g. taking driving lessons, interviews for jobs/college etc They can’t see a way around the chains of SM. However, when we work on small steps, we can achieve what they really want. Natasha is a perfect example of what can be achieved’

Small Talk have the first speech therapy dog in the UK, chocolate Labrador, Ralph, who helps in their work with SM. He is a shoulder (or neck) to cry on or he takes part in therapy programmes. There is a wealth of evidence to show the power of animals in reducing stress and he loves to help.

If you have a child who does not talk at nursery or school, she may not be shy and may not ‘grow out of it’. It may well be Selective Mutism.

For more information: www.private-speech-therapy.co.uk

 Natasha’s Facebook page Selective Mutism Recovery - Natasha's Journey

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Selective mutism: a personal story

Guest post by Natasha Dale

After struggling with Selective Mutism for many years, I finally found the courage to film and post a video of my story (see below)

 What is Selective Mutism? – Selective Mutism is a severe anxiety disorder where the sufferer displays persistent failure to speak in certain situations. I do feel that the label ‘Selective Mutism’ isn’t very accurate, as for me and many others it isn’t purely about the inability to speak in certain situations, it’s the inability to use many aspects of communication.

 Selective Mutism took control of my life for many years and resulted in me feeling extremely trapped, unhappy and guilty. During this period of my life I could only wish to be able to sing happy birthday to my parents, to give eye contact to those I cared about, to eat in public and enjoy social family gatherings, to walk to a nearby shop independently, to clap and congratulate people who deserved it, to be able to cough when I desperately needed to, to cry when in pain, to laugh when happy, to be able to ask to go to the toilet, to answer the register, to say thank you when I was given help, to tell someone if I felt unwell, to make friendships and to live my life as myself; instead of a tiny bit of myself with a huge amount of the disorder that is Selective Mutism.
 I began my journey into recovery at the age of 18 when I joined an agricultural college and worked alongside animals. Here I was given 1:1 support every second I was on the college grounds. This intense support along with being around animals, seeing a counsellor once a fortnight and of course the constant support from my family, allowed me to begin to recover.

It is now my passion to help those with additional needs and my ultimate goal is to be able to work with people struggling with Selective Mutism. I am not fully recovered yet, but I am so very close. I am happy to be able to use my experience with the disorder to raise awareness and to help others going through what I did for all of those years.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Support the Stafford NAS and have a great night too!

As most of you know, we are a specialist team of speech and language therapists working with children with ASD and we take this role very seriously. We do what we can to support families with children with ASD. As a consequence we are sponsoring the Stafford branch of the National Autistic Society for their latest fundraiser. Mandy Binns and her colleagues work really hard  so please help them make this night a success. It will be fun too!!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Team work makes it so much easier...... the A Team!

On Tuesday I went to see a little girl aged 4 years at home, who I'll call 'A'. This time last year, she was at the 'own agenda' stage of development where she didn't really see the point of communication. Her attention span was extremely short and she was more interested in my bangle than me. I couldn't see any verbal understanding. Her only expression was echolalia.

This week, we have a bright, little girl who will be starting school in September: she has a developing attention span, can understand  short instructions, uses language to get what she needs and to express herself. She can even tell you what she doesn't want very vocally! Her social interaction is developing well with children and adults. She now has a diagnosis of ASD. The only thing I'm worried about now is that she will be overlooked as she is so well behaved. 

Is this a miracle? Yes in a way it is, but it's actually the result of fantastic team work. At the centre is a parent who has done absolutely everything suggested, even when that meant making life harder for herself e.g. as part of getting A from 'own-agenda' to the next stage there was no helping herself to chocolate, she had to request a piece at a time, which was in a clear plastic box which she couldn't open on her own. As you can imagine, A wasn't happy!
  • The key worker/SENCO who had worked tirelessly to achieve all the targets set, 
  • The nursery who allowed it to happen
  • The extremely knowledgeable, Early Years Advisor who co-ordinated everyone
  • The lovely and very patient, NHS SLT who reviewed, set targets and saw as often as she could
  • An excellent paediatrician who recognises ASD in girls
  • me: I've worked through individual coaching for More Than Words and then worked on components of language and communication.
We've all worked together for the good of A. Well done to the A team! :-)


0844 704 5888


Thursday, 16 June 2016

The delayed effect of anxiety on children: 'complete fabrication on the part of the parent'

My role is to see children with ASD, Selective Mutism and complex communication difficulties. I don't mean complex needs, I mean complicated profiles and even more complicated situations. Many of these children are very anxious. I know that the more complex the case, the more simple my explanation needs to be. Time and time again, I see parents who describe their child one way and schools who see something different and completely refute what the parent is saying, even if they have the scratches and bruises to confirm it.

It is described as a 'delayed effect' or the 'pressure cooker' situation. I like to see it as 'the bottle of pop phenomenon'. the child keeps it together, maybe doesn't like to draw attention to themselves or can 'just about manage' until 3.30pm. There might be small signs, that someone who who knows the child well or someone experienced in childhood anxiety can spot, such as slight eye or vocal tic or the picking at the skin on their thumb.Then when they get home all hell erupts. The bottle has been shaken all day and the top comes off at the door. The door where they feel safe and secure with a parent who understands them, won't judge them or hate them whatever they do.

I've had this reported 12 times in the last few months alone,  but there is little written about it which might help professionals understand that what they see isn't always the true picture:
  • the child with anxiety who smiles, so can't be worried at school
  • the child who is sweet and polite so can't have sworn uncontrollably at their mum last night
  • the timid, quiet child who can't possibly have inflicted those bruises because the lessons changed today
  • the 'normal' child who does as he's told can't be demand avoidant at home
  • The child who seemed happy for a new member of staff to take the class as he didn't say anything, can't have trashed the house when he got in
  • the girl who said nothing  in class can't possibly have had a melt down at home because they'd moved the cupboard to the other side of the classroom
  • the kind, helpful girl can't have scratched her mum so badly she drew blood when all she was trying to do was to give the ipad to a man to take to repair
  • the 'ideal pupil' who loves school can't really hang onto the door handle and fight both parents every single morning because he doesn't want a bath
These are all real cases and some of you reading this will know who I'm talking about.

It must be parenting, it must be the parent, the parent must be fabricating........ I think NOT!!! We need training for staff in spotting the (often well hidden) signs of anxiety. It can be directly related to language and communication difficulties as they struggle to cope to understand or fit in......bit like a swan paddling away furiously underneath. It's exhausting for the swan and he needs a break after  a short time. It may also be related to sensory issues or both.  One thing is for sure, the parents need support not disbelief.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Small Talk in Sutton Coldfield: Sophie Harding, Small Talk's latest recruit

We're delighted to introduce Sophie Harding who will work with the Small Talk team in Sutton Coldfield and other areas of Staffordshire

About Me:
My Name is Sophie Harding and I am the Small Talk Speech and Language Therapist covering Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas. I have a BSc (Hons) degree in SLT and I am Makaton and Camperdown trained. I am married with two young children.

My Work:
My work focuses on children who have difficulties with communicating. This includes understanding language, using language, producing speech sounds clearly and interacting with the world around them.
I provide all children, families and teaching staff with the support they need to reach their potential.

How I can help:
I can provide detailed assessments, tailored treatment programmes, training and support for families, teaching staff and other professionals. We can be successful when we all work together. My time can be flexible to meet your needs and I work both in and out of term time.

Sophie Harding

0844 704 5888

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Can I tell you about SM: an excellent addition to the ‘Can I tell you about..’ series

Title:   Can I tell you about selective mutism 
Author:  Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens
Publisher:  Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Selective Mutism (SM) is still a largely unknown and mis-understood condition, and to date the majority of books are written primarily from an academic point of view. ‘Can I tell you about Selective Mutism’ is an excellent addition to the ‘Can I tell you about..’ series of books and has been effectively written in two parts. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of a young girl named Hannah, who describes what it is like to live with SM and how it affects her relationships with other people; creating a sensitive and personalised undertone throughout the book. The second part of the book provides functional and practical strategies that can be used by parents, carers and teachers. Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens are pioneers in the world of Selective Mutism and have worked with this unique client group for over 20 years; they currently work with the leading UK charity SMIRA to support families of people with Selective mutism. 

The informal style of this book makes it an accessible and invaluable aid to all readers and I highly recommend it as a fantastic introduction when first learning to understand the condition. I have used it many times with families that I have worked with; as an engaging resource to read with the child when helping them to understand and explain the internal world they experience every day. ‘Can I tell you about Selective Mutism’ helps to dispel common myths that Selective Mutism is a refusal to talk by providing a powerful first-hand insight. There is still much debate about whose professional remit SM falls into and I recommend this book to be read by any professional supporting a child with the condition including speech and language therapists and psychologists.

It is available from www.speechtherapyactivties.co.uk

Natasha Hallam

Natasha Hallam, Specialist SLT, Small Talk SLT
Rating:  5
ISBN-10: 978 1 84905 289 4

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Are you wondering if the More Than Words course is for you?

If so, listen to this to help you make up your mind.


Don't forget they start on monday 18th April:

1. Rising Brook Fire Station, Hsketh Rd, Stafford Stafford 7-9pm

2. Tamworth Fire Station, Marlborough Way, Tamworth 7-9pm

Look forwards to seeing you there!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Children’s Choice Therapy Centre open events

Children’s Choice Therapy Service Ltd are a group of specialist Occupational Therapists (including sensory integration accredited therapists), who provide independent services to special and main stream schools, health and social care as well as charities and individuals.  

Children’s Choice Therapy Centre is a new unit providing assessment, treatment and training.  The centre includes training facilities, opportunity for group work, specialist Occupational Therapy, and a full Sensory Integration based Occupational Therapy treatment room (built in association with ‘Spacekraft’ – sensory equipment providers).  This gives us the opportunity for more complex assessments and interventions, and to train and work alongside carers and parents to help embed treatment principles in to daily life to impact the child’s / young person’s every day tasks.

All are very welcome to attend / drop in on our open events, to see this new facility, and to learn more about our services.

Friday April 8th: 3pm – 6pm
Saturday April 9th: 2pm – 4pm

11D Lancaster Park

DE13 9PD


Alison Hart,
Sarah Sheffield, Samantha Armitage, Jessica Quinn, Sandra Town,
Mel Homan, Kikidyn Matemba-Belli

Friday, 18 March 2016

Makes me so sad........

One of the things we do at Small Talk, is to see children who are having behaviour issues at school or at home and people are seeking the answer as to why they behave as they do.

It's so sad how so many children are being misunderstood. Time and time again, we see this scenario: 

The child who doesn't understand social clues and cues, may not be good at reading facial expressions, doesn't understand abstract language such as sarcasm, or people's intentions. They probably don't always remember that they need to modify their language according to the listener i.e. you don't talk to the teacher like you would your mum. They develop a strong sense of right and wrong to help them cope. They may be aware of their difficulties and be anxious.

Then, at lunchtime, someone knocks into them, they refuse to say sorry as it was 'an accident', they may try to explain that or just run off laughing. The child knows that you must tell if someone does something wrong but is sent away by the dinner lady or teacher on duty as 'he didn't mean it'. This upsets the child who gets more frustrated and wants to get his point across. He ends up shouting at the member of staff and is then sent to the headteacher. He is really fed up, frustrated and down right angry, so shouts at the headteacher too....... result: excluded for the next 2 days!

These children may be on the autistic spectrum but they might not. Social understanding is hard for many children.

The solution is simple:

1. A Social thinking programme with behaviour mapping for the child (Garcia Winner)
2. Training for staff

Why is that so hard to understand?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Just ‘Scene and Heard’ of a fantastic new AAC app!

The more complex cases we receive each week at Small Talk speech and language therapy, the more there is an increasing need for efficient and universal communication aids. ‘Scene and Heard’ is a fantastic app by Therapy Box, that has been created as a seamless transition between both low and high tech AAC. The diversity in speech and language difficulties we target on a daily basis including; ASD, non-verbal clients, those with reduced communication breakdowns or limited language abilities means it is vital we are able to use resources that not only universal target the range of interventions we provide, but that also bridge the prominent gap between therapy and generalisation of learnt skills to everyday life.

‘Scene and Heard’ comprises of a library of over 12000 useful Widgit Symbols, which can be effectively added with photos into personalised, printable communication books for each client. The ability to tailor these resources into visual timetables gives everyone the opportunity to independently plan their own lives. An important factor during the speech and language therapy process is supporting the child or adult to take responsibility of their own learning and daily routines, the easy-to-use features means that this AAC devise can be readily adapted by child, parent, teacher and therapist.

‘Scene and Heard’ can be used to creatively develop step by step instructions for everyday activities, using both the in-app accessible scenes or the new added feature of being able to draw a scene ensures that the designing of these tools is a flexible, fun stage of the therapy process. Each in-app scene consists of a range of interactive media ‘hotspots’ that allow personalised audio recordings, video recordings, spoken text and symbols to be inserted into the activity to provide information through multiple modes of communication; further highlighting ‘Scene and Heard’ as a universal and accessible tool for anyone.

As well as those who struggle with receptive and expressive language, we regularly work with people who also have limited narrative skills. In addition to the augmentative and alternative communication functionality of this app, I have personally found the customised scenes a very useful resource to use when creating a sequence of events. The ability to upload new photos means I can create scenarios and social stories that can be accessed by the diverse population that I work with. Many people we work with at Small Talk have some addition behaviour needs, typically as a consequence of the speech and language difficulties; Scene and heard incorporates a countdown timer into the activity to support behaviour management, easier transitions between tasks and increasing individual independence.

The all-in-one functionality of ‘Scene and Heard’ creates an AAC device that can be both low and high tech, ensuring that intervention can be continuous and seamless as progress is made. The attention to detail in the apps settings to prevent double taps, allows even those with limited fine motor skills to take full control of their learning. Further highlighting how this app is truly a universal and functional communication aid and has recently become an everyday staple in my speech and language therapy toolbox.

Natasha Hallam
Speech and Language Therapist


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What are you giving up for LENT? Feel pious AND make a difference to children's lives!

Better than chocolate or alcohol!

Zip It for Afasic this Lent! 

Thinking of giving something up for Lent? Then why don’t you ‘Zip It’ for Afasic and give up talking, whilst raising some much needed funds for Afasic?
Don’t panic, we aren’t asking you to give up talking for 40 days! But why not give up talking for a few hours, a day, two days or even a whole week to raise awareness of speech and language disabilities?

Alternatively, you can donate £5 today by texting 'LENT60 £5' to 70070. 

Find out more about how you can Zip It for Afasic or make a donation below! Your support really does make an enormous difference to their work with children, young people and their families affected by speech, language and communication disabilities. 

Staffordshire Early Years SLCN Conference

Come and join us for our first annual Staffordshire SLCN Conference

Sat 16th April
The Conference CentreJohn Taylor High school Dunstall Rd, Barton-under-Needwood, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire DE13 8AZ

Registration - 9.30am

Selective mutism:  the way forwards Libby Hill is a consultant speech and language therapist and one of the very few in the UK who is trained to work with children with selective Mutism. With 1 in 150 being diagnosed with the condition, we all need to know how to deal with it. Libby will discuss how to identify SM from reluctant talkers and practical ways to manage in your setting.

Behaviour is communication: Kathryn Stinton is a specialist early years teacher who has worked in mainstream and specialist settings for twenty years. Kathryn will look at the typical development of social skills and factors which can impact on this, as well as the role of the environment in promoting positive behaviour for both adults and children.  A range of practical strategies will be discussed.

The development of language for learning: a Blank solution Natasha Hallam is a speech and language therapist who works in mainstream and special schools settings. Natasha will look at the development of children’s language for  learning and give you practical ways to both assess the children’s levels and tailor your activities accordingly.

2 year olds not talking; how to measure what they can do Margaret Gomm and Georgina White are both speech and language therapists with a great deal of experience of working with younger children in children’s Centres and Nurseries. They will look at the common issue of 2 year olds who cannot talk. They will give you practical ways to record communication before words and tips for working with non-verbal children.

Closes - 3.30pm

Buffet lunch provided

FEES & PAYMENT £85 per delegate £65 early bird until 28th February 2016. 

Places are limited to 50 so please book early to avoid disappoinment.

Payment and booking is all managed online: BOOK HERE

For more information: Libby Hill Small Talk SLT Ltd 

office@smalltalk-ltd.co.uk www.private-speech-therapy.co.uk

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Are you are a parent whose child has diagnosed or suspected PDA or Autism

Hi, my name is Mandi Baker and I am studying for an MSc in Applied Research at Staffordshire University. I have worked previously with a number of children on the autistic spectrum, speech and language difficulties and with global complex needs. Last summer, I received my undergraduate provisional results, and the very same day was accepted on to the masters course, so  like any other mum, that evening I celebrated by pottering around tidying up after the kids were finally asleep in bed. In the background the TV was on, and I remember hearing the words “Born Naughty”, so I sat down in anticipation to watch – when Honey was good, she was very good, but her rage-filled meltdowns were alarming to watch, and instantly my heart went out to the parents.

Over the following weeks, I found myself asking the same question over and over where is the support for parents and of course the children?? Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome, a new sub type of autism, one that clinicians and educators seem to know little about.  I am not only fascinated by this condition but also very passionate about the support or lack of support for parents, particularly, whether their well-being improves after diagnosis? 

For my dissertation, I will be conducting research into, parent well-being in families of children with suspected or diagnosed Autism or Pathological Demand Avoidance.

The aim of the project is to investigate the associations between children with suspected and diagnosed Autism and PDA and the parent’s well-being along with the impact it has on their families. The emphasis on the diagnosis is important as the interventions in place for children with suspected PDA, are unsuccessful, due to the characteristics of the child. The strategies used for children with diagnosed PDA, conduct disorders or autism have been tested and have been found to be unhelpful because of the inflexibility of the demands used (O’Nions 2013).

So, if you are a parent whose child has diagnosed or suspected PDA or Autism and can spare 10 minutes to complete the online study please click the following link

I want to make this as informative a piece of research as possible so please, if this description fits you (or anyone else you know), get in touch!

Many thanks,


Email: b004105b@student.staffs.ac.uk

Monday, 4 January 2016

Selective mutism: another success story

Ralph, the speech therapy dog
Lucy (not her real name) aged 17 years had suffered with Selective Mutism all her life. It had blighted her school days and she was longing to leave school and escape her 'dreadful life'. She had been dreaming of the days she could finally do this, for years. Then over the summer, she thought about it and the reality hit her hard: nothing was really going to change unless she got some help to change herself.

Lucy's mother contacted Small Talk in August 2015 to see what we could offer. We discussed that we have done Maggie Johnsons's extension level SM training, animal assisted therapy, so we can use our team member Ralph the labrador, and CBT which is really useful for teenagers or older clients. A meeting was arranged at our clinic for the following week.

It's accepted that having  communication difficulty must get in the way somewhat but almost all the aspirations of a teenager such as getting a job, applying for college, passing your driving test, getting  a boyfriend/girlfriend etc all require confident communication. To be petrified of talking makes these things appear unattainable.

Lucy decided she wanted Ralph and her mother in on the first session and very bravely talked about her difficulties. Her mother added  detail so I was able to diagnose the SM which hadn't been done previously. Lucy cried into Ralph's neck and got lots of encouraging licks!

Lucy's story was one with which I am all too familiar and which makes me sad and angry in pretty equal measures. There had been a huge pattern of ignorance since she had started nursery aged 3. She'd had a variety of staff who had either ignored her SM or tried to force her to speak. At age 7 she'd seen a psychologist who had questioned her home life and accused her mother of 'some sort of abuse which would account for the mutism'. Bloody Hell!! Excuse my language! Her peers, apart from a  few, had called her names, ignored her or talked about her as if she wasn't there e.g. 'don't talk to her she doesn't speak'.

I explained that my role is to educate others, facilitate, encourage and support. We made a plan and I showed her how to set small steps to what she wanted. We started with applying for a Saturday job (part of the bigger goal of affording driving lessons). We looked all the aspects such as sending the application, thinking about the interview, imagining all scenarios, what questions etc. We broke it down into really small, achievable goals. She worked through these at a rapid pace.

In December, she got a part-time job at a well known supermarket. They were great and very keen not to discriminate against her because of her SM. They chose a role away from the public to begin with and would then be happy for Lucy to have a 'get out of jail free card' as she called it, which read, 'I'm sorry, I have a communication difficulty but I can take  you where you want to go'. She practised smiling while showing the card.

Lucy was surprised how easy the process was with someone to show her how to make it all seem more manageable. She decided she would do her own small steps to asking a special boy out!

Lucy now has a part-time job and a boyfriend but more importantly she knows how to achieve what she needs. On Friday, we discussed the driving lessons as the next target but she is confident she will only need me if she can't do it herself. Perfect! The positive Lucy who walked into my clinic last week is far removed from despondent one whom I met just a few months ago. She will encounter set-backs I'm sure but she told me that, 'It's easier not to try but if you don't try  you don't get anywhere either'.

I love my job!!