Social Skills: It’s not about what you say

When I first qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist, many moons ago, I was introduced to the work of Michelle Garcia Winner and Social Thinking. But, it wasn’t until I attended a Social Thinking conference, many years later, that I really grasped how useful these ideas really were. Hearing her cover so many of the key topics was really helpful in giving me a better understanding of how all of the vocabulary and frameworks tie together.

Since then, lots of the Social Thinking Methodology has become a part of my everyday practice. But if I had to pick just one idea to share, it would be this: the Social Competency Model.

Social Skills : it's not about what you say

To find out more about the Social Competency Model, you can join this free webinar hosted by Social Thinking.

PS. Looking for a useful resource to help you get started with Social Thinking Methodology? Check this out.

From S to Spiderman: The 6 Stages of Speech Therapy

There’s no doubt that learning to speak clearly is a surprisingly complicated process. When I deliver workshops on speech development, we talk through the individual skills involved and discuss how these typically develop. And as we start to think about all of the careful listening, processing, planning and muscle movements involved, we often find renewed respect for how much our children are learning in these early years.

When a child starts Speech Therapy sessions, we work through many of these individual aspects of speech development, so that a child can build their skills and master new sounds and words over time. This video gives you a brief rundown of the typical steps involved, and answers the common question: “If they can make the /s/ sound, why can’t they say Spiderman?”

The 6 Stages of Speech Therapy

Does your child struggle with some particular sounds? Which ones are they trying to figure out at the moment? For a few simple ideas to get you started, check out this post.

Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Child

Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Child

Sharing books with your child is a fantastic way to boost their language and social understanding. Children who are read to when they are young are more likely to grow into confident independent readers. Add to that the simple pleasure of snuggling up together to share a book and you have a perfect excuse to explore together the great wide world of books.

February plays host to World Read Aloud Day, an initiative first set up by LitWorld: ‘empowering young people to author lives of independence, hope and joy.’ I regularly share books as part of my speech therapy sessions, though rarely as a simple ‘read aloud’ exercise. Often, I’m using them as a more flexible prop to inspire conversation and play, or to look together for words with a particular sound that we are practising.

Whilst books can be a great springboard for creative play and conversation, some books really lend themselves to reading every word aloud. I’ve gathered a few suggestions here:

The Book With No Pictures – B. J. Novak

This is such a fun and hilarious read. Without any pictures, the beauty of this book lies in the telling. The reader is told to ‘say every word’, tapping in to a child’s love for making adults say silly things. Watch your child’s eyes light up as this book has you trying funny voices, singing rhymes and reading nonsense words. Check out the author sharing this book with a group of delighted kids.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd

The first of a large range of dog adventure books. With timeless illustrations adding character, Dodd’s genius lies in her ability to build a catchy, building rhyming phrase. I’ve shared before the importance of rhyme for young children and this is a perfect example. You might like to pause before the end of each word to give your child a chance to guess the rhyme.

Momo and Snap Are Not Friends – Airlie Anderson

In sharp contrast to Hairy Maclary, this story consists only of sound effects. It’s a wonderful example of how much can be communicated with barely a word. As you share the pages together you will see how Momo the monkey and Snap the crocodile meet, argue and compete before uniting against a band of hungry lions. This is a fun book to take turns reading as one of you can be Momo and the other Snap.

Dinosaur Roar! – Paul and Henrietta Stickland

A deceptively simple book, with no more than two words per page, Dinosaur Roar actually includes some great ambitious vocabulary. It’s a fun way to explore descriptive language and opposites. The beautiful pictures include every dinosaur imaginable, so if your child is a dinosaur expert they will likely teach you a thing or two.

What about you? Do you have some favourite books you return to again and again? I’d love to hear your recommendations as I’m always on the hunt for fun books to share.

First picture image credit: Freepik

5 Gift Ideas for Under 5s

Baskets of toys

Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday or a simple ‘just because’, it’s fun to keep an eye out for gifts for our young ones. Here’s a few gift ideas to spark their imagination.

Grimm’s Rainbow

I love the flexibility of these rainbow pieces. There’s a beautiful balance and lightness to each one that encourages a huge variety of play. Great for construction and experimentation, the pieces are also fun to use in creating small worlds, be it a doll’s house or zoo. This rainbow was found at Myriad Toys.

A Superhero Cape

If I could have a super power I’d choose to fly. Whilst Edna Mode from the Incredibles may famously warn against capes for real superheros, they are still great fun for imaginative play. The elements, ‘earth, air, fire, water’ often come up in superhero conversations with children, offering a good excuse to discuss nature and science. I found this cape at Not On The High Street, but there’s always the DIY option!

A Mud Kitchen

Designed and built here on the Isle of Wight, these little kitchens are perfect for making mud pies or serving up a mighty mud roast dinner. If we have a white Christmas, they’d be a great place to make snow cones! Available to order from the Glorious Muddy Kitchen Company.

A Favourite Book Character

Anyone who knows me will know I love to gift books at Christmas, even more so with a soft toy character. It’s fun to put together little story sacks with props from each story, whether it’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea or Paddington Bear. There are a variety of companies, such as StorySight that put together ready-made story sacks, though you’ll likely find many of your favourite story props at home already. Cup of tea anyone?

Little Bus Mini Lotto

This simple lotto set has been in my therapy bag quite a lot over the last month. Not only practical and portable, it also has cutest animal passenger pics, offering lots of opportunity for conversation. Orchard Toys have a huge variety of fun board games that children enjoy and are worth checking out if you’re on the hunt for a board game to entertain the younger members of the family.

So, there you have it: a few gift suggestions to add to the list. I’m hoping to make many of my gifts this year, though I’ve no doubt I’ll find myself in the bookshop or toyshop soon enough. However you choose to celebrate, I hope you enjoy all the festivities of the season.

Image credit: Designed by Freepik

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Earlier this year I attended a Social Thinking conference.  I left feeling fired up about the potential of this approach to develop social understanding.  In fact, I wrote all about it here.  Since then, I’ve been applying the principles to my everyday work with children from three to thirteen.   It has been an exciting shift from merely teaching social skills to helping children develop their social understanding.  So I was delighted when Social Thinking contacted me about reviewing their latest resource: “Social Thinking and Me”.

The resource consists of two books: a pack of Thinksheets and a Kids’ Guidebook.  The Thinksheets book includes a useful introduction to the key principles of Social Thinking.  It’s this focus on establishing a common language that I find most powerful about the approach. Understanding ideas across different situations is often a challenge for people with social communication difficulties, so this shared language enables families to reinforce key concepts throughout everyday situations and take understanding beyond the therapy session.  As the authors points out, “Adults provide the often-needed structure and real-life examples that keep learning alive for students.”

The Thinksheets hold a wealth of activities for adults to work through with children.  It was a conscious decision to call these ‘thinksheets’, in order to emphasise that these are intended to be done with an adult, rather than independently by a child.

The independent part of the process comes with the Kids’ Guidebook, intended to give children the opportunity to revisit ideas in their own time, at their own pace.  A number of my children have commented on how they like ‘quiet time’ to think through ideas, so this format is ideal.

The Kids’ Guidebook lays out the Social Thinking Vocabulary through detailed explanations, picture examples and one-page summaries.  This combination of formats makes it accessible for a variety of children.  I’ve noticed that those with low literacy levels are interested in exploring the cartoons, providing a great opportunity to discuss ideas together.

I’m currently using this resource in 1:1 home sessions and in schools.  I’ve found it a flexible tool as I can dip in to the relevant chapters for each individual therapy programme.  The layout makes it possible to use as a more structured programme for intervention, giving potential to be used by a variety of adults who support children in this area.

If you live in the UK, I can happily recommend ‘Thinking Books’ online shop. I like to buy books from smaller retailers, particularly as they so often have a passion for their topic. The team at Thinking Books are no exception!