Thursday 22 November 2012

Speech and Chatting With Children by I CAN

Sasha's speech is still developing. Her lack of speech clarity is probably the greatest indicator of her autism, and most likely the reason we got a relatively quick diagnosis.

It has developed immensely over the last 3 years despite the distinct lack of Speech Therapy and she can mostly make herself understood now. We are in a 'funny' situation where she needs help with her speech sounds, but 'they' reckon this can only be improved from age 7. The SALT (Speech and Language Therapist) who visits Sasha at school (but from what I can gather just observes, doesn't actually do any work with her), tried to suggest to me that Sasha gets signed off now so I can re-refer when she is 7. Ho ho ho, very funny indeed. I'm sure you can imagine what my reply to that was.

Apart from the sounds issues Sasha also has what I like to call 'an unusual turn of phrase'. More specifically, she uses set phrases which she has picked up from various DVDs, CBeebies or YouTube clips. Phrases such as 'How could you!' (lifted directly from Donald Duck I believe and said with hands on hips to her older sister when she won't do what Sasha wants her to), or 'there's no moment to lose', or 'busy busy busy, you know me mum, always busy, lots to do', or 'hey, what's the big idea?!'. None of these are what you would 'normally' hear coming out of the mouth of a 5 year old whose speech is delayed.....

Anyhow, I was extremely lucky recently to be sent a communication activity pack for testing. The pack was launched by the children's communication charity, I CAN, and was designed in association with Studio Conran and illustrator Owen Davey.

Chatting with Children is a beautiful pack of 30 fun and interactive activity cards. It also contains a top tips activity guide which offers simple and effective ways of enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills.

There are 4 main areas to work with:
Understanding what is said
Learning and using new words
Speaking in sentences
Talking socially

Each card gives you a game to play and suggests different ways to do it - including ways to make the game more difficult, or easier for a less confident speaker. Shown above is 'Things you like'. Another example of a game is 'How would you feel?', whereby it suggests you look at a favourite book and talk about how the people may be feeling. This can be made simple by giving the child choices 'are they happy, or sad?', or could also be expanded with more complex words such as proud, annoyed, anxious etc. It's great to have this kind of prompt to look at and follow - with such busy lives we all lead nowadays, it's easy to forget how to take time out to cover the basics.

Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor and experienced paediatric speech and language therapist gives the following Top Tips for Chatting with Children aged 3-5 years old:

Be quiet Take time to talk to each other in a quiet room. Turn off the TV and radio, and shut the door to block out any other background noises. Children have to learn to block out background noises, so they need a quiet environment to focus on the sounds they hear.

Be face-to-face Help young children to see your face – make sure you’re at the same level as them. Sit or crouch opposite them as they play, or sit them on your lap. Sit opposite the child so you’re face-to-face with them. Being face-to-face means that the child can see you and your facial expressions. Also, you can see them and their responses and reactions to the games you play together or the conversations you are having.

Don’t rush – take plenty of time Young children take longer than adults to process what they hear – sometimes up to 12 seconds. They need plenty of time to respond to you.

Be patient Young children can easily lose interest in what you’re doing – this is perfectly normal, especially for 3-year-olds. Don’t worry – just stop the game that you’re playing together and try again another time.

Be prepared for anything Follow the child’s lead and adapt the game or conversation to fit in with what they’re doing. This can help maintain attention on particular games.

Ditch the dummy A dummy gets in the way of attempts to talk during conversations and games. Children of 3 and over don’t need to use a dummy.

Use the language you naturally use at home It’s important that you speak naturally to young children; this helps develop their language skills.

Enjoy it This is a special time together, so have fun playing, chatting and learning about each other.

Chatting with Children, a new activity pack for adults to help develop communication skills in children aged 3-5 is available from I CAN

Any parent with a question or concern about their child's communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist - visit
We were sent the above pack for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are my own.

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