Will signing stop my child from talking?

If you’re considering teaching your little one some baby signing or Makaton, you might be wondering if signing will stop your child speaking. Sometimes there’s the worry that signing will be so easy that your child won’t bother learning to speak!
But actually, there are many advantages to teaching your child a few signs that supports their overall communication development. In this video I share my top three reasons why signing can support spoken language development.

Speech and Language Therapy: The Whole Picture

For every therapy session there’s plenty of additional work that goes on behind the scenes. In order to provide quality comprehensive support to families it’s important to stay informed of current evidence and intervention models, to carefully plan therapy sessions and to communicate effectively with everyone supporting the child. All of these elements are an essential part of the process.

Of course, every child is different and so the support, the planning, the liaison is specific to your child. Regardless of the individual variation, therapy support usually breaks down into something a little like this:

Is this your experience of Speech and Language Therapy? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

Using Thinking Maps to support critical thinking

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Would you describe your school as a ‘thinking school’: one that highlights the importance of critical thinking as an essential part of learning?

Too often we hear dismay over a school system that values grades over growth and product over process. So, when I recently attended a ‘Thinking Maps’ training day I listened with interest to the stories of schools who use tools to explicitly highlight the thought processes involved in learning.

You may be familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy – a structure for examining the hierarchy of thinking skills. Anderson’s framework adopts a similar structure, but with some more child-friendly verbs. Teaching this sequence enables children to have ownership of their learning: to be aware of their thinking processes and have the words to talk about this.

The intention with Thinking Maps is to establish a shared visual language for critical thinking. I’ve always been interested in how sketching provides a visual hook for conversation.

As much of my work involves talking, it’s useful to establish a visual structure during conversations, to clarify our focus and capture offhand comments to return to later. Even in their scruffiest form these sketches serve as a valuable visual record of a session, which I often refer back to in conjunction with my formal case notes.

There’s a great deal of value in adding visual elements to learning. I reject the idea that ‘some people are visual learners’. This isn’t about learning ’style’. If you can see, you’re a visual learner. I have yet to come across anyone who says ‘Please don’t show me; I’m an auditory learner.’

Thinking Maps consists of 8 key structures that encapsulate key thought processes: gathering ideas, comparing, sequencing, categorising and many more.

Each map has a corresponding hand gesture; a seemingly small detail with great value. Within our large group discussions the hand gestures were a useful way for the leader to cue us in to the focus of discussion and it was a quick way for the learners to demonstrate their own thinking.

So, how will I apply Thinking Maps to my own practice? Well, the course suggested introducing each of the maps with an autobiographical element. I certainly using autobiography tools (like ‘Your Perfect Day’) to get to know children and understand their priorities and motivations, so I can see this fitting neatly in to my practice.

I’ll certainly use the sequencing map to support work on narrative skills. I’m excited by the potential of using large pieces of paper for some of my smaller children, to use real objects in conjunction with the maps. The course facilitator suggested that this type of visual language could be introduced at any age, so I plan to experiment and explore its potential.

Huge thanks to Gaby Harris, a fellow SaLT, for organising this event with Thinking Schools International.

How to Help Speech Delay

How to Help Speech Delay

All children take time to learn how to speak clearly. They go through typical periods of sounding unclear, or ‘simplifying’ difficult sounds. You might be wondering if your child is making the right sounds for their age. You might be wondering if there is anything more you can do to help them improve their speech.

In this 7.30 minute video I share five questions to help you better understand what to expect of your child’s speech and how to help their development.

I wonder: what sounds does your child find difficult? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Books are a great way to model sounds to your child. I shared a few of my favourites here

Featured image by Andreas Weiland on Upsplash

How Children Learn to Talk

How Children Learn to Talk

A large part of my role involves helping you as a parent to better understand how your child is learning to talk and how you can help them with this.

I can’t tell you how many mums think that they are somehow responsible for their child’s communication difficulties. With so much advice from every corner and pressure to ‘do it right’ all the time, it’s no wonder that helping your child learn to talk can sometimes feel a little daunting.

Inspired by many conversations with parents I put together a short video to dispel the three most common myths about how children learn to talk and how us adults help them with this.

I wonder: can you relate to some of these common assumptions about language development? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Find out what makes therapy successful.

What is Speech and Language Therapy?

What is Speech and Language Therapy?

You know that classic moment, when someone turns to you and says “So, what do you do then?”

Sometimes I’m tempted to answer with something un-work-related, like “I climb trees” or “I read books” or “I sing songs”. (Perhaps working with children helps me appreciate that we are more than the work that we do.) But, of course I know that they really want to know about my vocation, so I reply “I’m a Speech and Language Therapist”.

Often I’m met with a delighted smile: “Oh, that must be fascinating work!” or “That must be so rewarding.” Yes and yes; it absolutely is!

Just occasionally I’m met with a bemused expression: “So, is that like helping people with autism?” (Sidenote: it’s a testament to the success of awareness-raising campaigns that this is now the common response rather than: “Oh, is that like elocution lessons?” which is what I used to be asked ten years ago.) I reply: “Yes and also so much more!”

So, inspired by many conversations and attempts to explain a profession that involves a huge variety of work, I put together this super-quick video rundown of Speech and Language Therapy: what it involves and who it helps.

I wonder: what would you add to this explanation? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Find out what to expect at a Speech and Language Therapy appointment.

ASLTIP Conference 2018

ASLTIP Annual Conference 2018

I invariably make a scruffy entrance to a conference. As I choose to travel by bike rather than Tube I have to deal with helmet hair and a quick outfit change in the loo before collecting my delegate’s name badge.

Saturday’s annual conference for Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice was no exception: I arrived at the central London venue feeling refreshed from my ride and ready to make the most of a day filled with professional development and colleague conversations. With a new venue, new nominees for the Board and a large number of non-members (aka prospective members!) I approached this year’s conference with interest.
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What Makes Speech and Language Therapy Successful?

What Makes Speech and Language Therapy Successful?

When I was about nine years old I had piano lessons. I went to visit a lady in a lovely old house down a long gravel drive. She would greet me at the door and usher my mum to her cosy waiting room before then leading me through to her music room to play for half an hour on her grand piano.

I always had a nice time working through my big red ‘beginners’ book and my mum no doubt enjoyed the rare opportunity to sit in peace with a magazine and a cup of tea. After half an hour my teacher would bundle me and my mum out the door and we’d say cheerio until next week. It was all very lovely and truthfully not very effective. I never practised between my visits and I never really had a sense of learning or improving at anything.

When you seek Speech and Language Therapy for your child you may picture it looking a little bit like my old piano lessons: weekly 1:1 between therapist and child and a bit of peace and quiet for you. I am sorry to say that, whilst this can make some difference, it is absolutely not where the magic happens! Therapy that really makes a difference in a child’s life involves a lot more.

Shared goals

It’s important to talk together about your hopes for your child and the challenges you face. By agreeing together your goals for therapy, you can carry your practice beyond a weekly SaLT visit, spot everyday opportunities to practise together and notice when your child is trying out their new skill.

Shared conversations

No child is an island. Whether it’s mum or dad, the nursery key person or the class teacher, talking together ensures that we all can provide the right support in a cohesive way.

Shared work

An hour a week practising a new skill is simply not enough to make a lasting change. Yes, time is limited and our weeks run away from us. But if you can find regular time to practise between SaLT visits and to bake that into your weekly routine, you will enable your child to make much faster progress. Which leads me to my next point…

The right timing

Sometimes life is simply too busy. Sometimes there are other priorities or events going on that mean you’re not able to make the most of SaLT support. I want therapy to really make a difference for your family. So I often ask parents to think about the best time to begin a block of therapy sessions and make sure it complements the rest of your busy schedule.

Good fun

Far from a last minute extra, ensuring that sessions are fun is actually a crucial part of effective therapy. We learn and remember information best when it’s attached to good feelings. So, having some laughter in therapy sessions and being flexible in how we approach our targets can ensure more lasting change.

What I really want to tell you is that therapy is absolutely a team effort. Yes, you can ask a therapist to work 1:1 with your child and you can have that cup of tea in the waiting room. But, when you invest your time and attention, then you can really make the most of Speech and Language Therapy.