May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month”, an annual awareness campaign organised by ASHA. The theme for 2016 is “communication takes care”, encouraging conversation and exchange in children and adults.
Learning Resources provide an array of communication resources designed to build confidence in early vocabulary and oral language skills. In order to raise awareness of this campaign and its goals, we’ve teamed up with Belinda Robertson, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist at Hitchin Speech Therapy, to ask some key questions about communication and social development in young learners.
Mrs Belinda Robertson
Independent Specialist Speech & Language Therapist (SLT)
Belinda is a qualified Speech and Language Therapist who has had an extensive and enjoyable 32 years working with children of all ages and personalities, in a wide range of different locations and establishments.
She has been an SLT manager in the NHS, tutored nursing students, a community governor of an ‘outstanding’ nursery school, is a mother herself and now works in her own private Speech and Language Therapy practice (www.hitchinspeechtherapy.com).
She has a huge wealth of experience working with children with many different speech and language difficulties and special needs; including autism, Downs Syndrome, stammering, feeding & swallowing difficulties, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, voice problems, brain injury and cerebral palsy.
At ‘Hitchin Speech Therapy’ she feels extremely lucky to work with children of all different ages and therefore with a huge range of toys and resources on a daily basis!
How can parents and childminders support their children’s verbal communication at home?
- Look at books together, sing songs and traditional rhymes, stacking toys to develop turn-taking, hand and action rhymes. No screen time/media for under 2’s is often recommended by many paediatricians
- Play, play, play! Remember you are your child’s favourite plaything/toy!
- Get down to your child’s level – play and talk so they can really see your face.
- More books, more songs, more action songs & rhymes, more traditional nursery rhymes. Their benefit for speech and language development cannot be stressed enough.
- Turn-taking puzzles and games– COMMUNICATION is all about verbal turn taking.
- Play what we call ‘The Child’s Game’ where you follow your child’s lead and not your own agenda.
- Turn off the T. V, media and iPad/iPhone…limit it to national guidelines.
- Develop your child’s understanding of letters and sounds by teaching them both the letter as in ‘g’ (gee) and the phonic sound ‘g’.
- Support your child’s language by remembering the ‘Rule of hand’ = make 4 comments (fingers) to one question (thumb). Your child is more likely to continue and develop a conversation this way than just answering your yes/no QUESTION.
What style of game would you recommend to support children’s social development?
- Peek-a-boo, row-row-row-the-boat – action songs and rhymes
- I-spy type games
- Verbal turn-taking of any sort
- Remember to ‘role-reverse’ when playing games so that your child becomes ‘the teacher’!
- Develop the rules of turn-taking from quite early on. You can do this with siblings, family members and friends. Eg: ball rolling to each other, putting pieces in a puzzle or putting the next brick on a tower.
- Ready, steady…go games! Always a winner!
- A Speech and Language Therapist is never seen without her bubbles – great for getting social skills and interaction going.
What is the value of hands-on games?
- With hands on games your child SEES and HEARS and UNDERSTANDS (at a very basic level) that you want to spend time with them, that you cherish them and that you want to spend your valuable time with them.
- These types of games develop speech, language, communication, turn-taking, interaction, patience, fine-motor, thought, logic, numeracy, concepts and ideas…the young brain is like a sponge and wants to soak all these skills up each and every day.
- They are fun and enjoyable – you can laugh and laugh and laugh.
- They relax you and your child.
- You develop reciprocal (shared) experiences – so essential for attachment, bonding and nurturing.
- You can play hands on games at any age from 6 months – 100. Get the whole family involved!
Have you noticed any consequences of
children living in the digital age?
- Research is showing that in some areas language/talking/listening is less well developed on entry to pre-school, nursery and reception.
- Head Teachers are telling me they are noticing this more and more, and that it is having a detrimental effect on early language, social skills, listening and attention skills, which have a knock on effect on a child’s early literacy (reading, writing and spelling).
Do you have any advice for the prevention of hearing and speech difficulties in young children?
- Offer as many listening and speaking opportunities as you can – throughout the day and every day.
- If you know of any speech, language, autistic spectrum disorder, stammering or hearing loss in your family history – get early advice if you can.
- If you are concerned, follow your mum/dad instinct and request advice or an assessment early. Early intervention is recommended in the literature.
- Reduce and stop dummy use as soon as you can. Persistent and habitual use is linked to Glue Ear and suspected hearing difficulties.
- Turn the TV, radio, tablet down rather that up – even better, off.
- Do not give young children headphones unless advised by a professional to do so.
- Attend professional appointments if you are offered them – others may be concerned about your child’s development, even if you feel they are coming on well.
(Parents are advised to look up the latest research on the internet for further information. Guidelines and advice change frequently with updated
Belinda does not have anything against ipads when used sensibly/limited and also uses them in some therapy sessions.
Belinda has tested out some of our communication resources within a therapy setting including Plot Blocks™ Story Building Activity Set and Wild About Animals Snapshots™ Critical Thinking Photo Cards. “The fierce animals looked fierce (which my boy students loved) and the more gentle animals did look really gentle and appealing. Many of the cards created a sense of animation, movement, humour and anticipation – just like wild animals should!” Read the full reviews above.