Speech prompts and strategies I use in Speech Sound Therapy
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Speech prompts and strategies I use in Speech Sound Therapy

This particular student has a mild motor planning difficulty and six weeks ago he came to me with a very strong lisp. In addition to the lisp he is struggling to produce a number of sounds, SH and L on its own and all the clusters (FL/BL/KL/PL) but also CH together with some vowel difficulties.

The prompts are a mix partially from the DTTC (Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing) model by Dr Edythe Strand as well as phonological models I have learned over the years, and some of them are my own.

Visual/picture prompts and Images

Here I use the ‘Flat Tyre’ Sound, to offer as an image for a new S sound and the ‘Tick Tock’ Sound for a new image of the T sound. Both cards are from the Bjorem Speech Sound Deck, which I love and use almost daily.

Gestural Cues

I like to use all the ‘cued articulation’ hand cues by Jane Passy for consonants and fricatives. Here we use our fingers and hand to illustrate what our tongue does, and we also show whether a sound is voiced or voiceless. When I use one finger it is voiceless (k/f/s/p) and when I use two fingers for the same cue it means that the voice needs to be turned on: (g/v/z/b/n/m). For vowels I like to use Pam Marshalla’s cue system.

Simultaneous production

We say the word together.

Direct imitation

I say the word and my student copies me directly.

Imitation after a delay

I say the word and then after a little wait my student says the word.

Spontaneous production

My student has now learned to say the word by him/herself.

Offering feedback

It sounds like… I just heard… I didn’t hear the first sound there? Can you try again?

Letting the student reflect

By just shaking my head or by looking quizzical so that my student realises something didn’t quite go right.

Postitive reinforcement

‘Yes that was it, do it again, nice one…’

Cognitive reframing

This is a technique where we identify different semantic cues and metaphors or imagery cues, so instead of teaching or focusing on a sound we try out viewing each syllable from a different point of view.

For example: ‘yellow’. I have had great success with this one: we start with just saying ‘yeah yeah yeah’. I might make a little joke and say something like ‘imagine your mum says tidy your bedroom, what do you say or what do you think?’ Answer: ‘yeah yeah yeah’. Then we practice ‘low’ together, I might blow some bubbles high and low and we talk about ‘low’. And then we put ‘Yeah’ and ‘Low’ together and now we have YELLOW!! It might at first still sound a bit odd, like ‘yea-low’ but we soon shape that up and have the real word.

Each student is different and having a great rapport is crucial to our success.

Then a little game break after some 7–10 or so repetitions and always trying to finish on a positive note.

What game breaks do I use:

Very quick ones! Students can post something, place a counter in a game, take out a Jenga block from the tower, pop in a counter for ‘connect 4’, stick a sword into the Pop the Pirate barrel or add a couple of Lego blocks to something they are building.

I hope this is helpful, please contact me for any questions.

Sonja McGeachie

Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapist

Feeding and Dysphagia (Swallowing) Specialist The London Speech and Feeding Practice

The London Speech and Feeding Practice

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

How can we support babbling and early speech development? SLT tricks and tips
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How can we support babbling and early speech development? SLT tricks and tips

My baby isn’t babbling and developing speech – what can I do to support?

While every baby develops at their own pace, if your child isn’t babbling by nine months, it’s worth seeking help from an Early Intervention Health Professional, such as a doctor and a speech therapist. Don’t panic! There are many reasons for delayed babbling, and early intervention is key.

In the meantime, it is highly recommended that we talk, sing, and read to our baby often. Exaggerate sounds and expressions, and respond to their coos and smiles. This playful interaction helps stimulate their communication skills.

Below are some tips and tricks from my experience of working with babies and toddlers who need a little bit of help and support to develop.

The benefits of imitating your baby

Copying your baby’s sounds and gestures isn’t just silly fun, it’s a powerful learning tool! By mimicking their babbles and actions, you activate “mirror neurons” in their brain that help them connect sounds with meaning. This playful back-and-forth teaches turn-taking, a foundation for conversation. Plus, it encourages them to copy you, building their own language skills and social interaction abilities.

This is a nice clip on youtube showing how copying/imitating your baby looks like:

Here are some fun ways to imitate your baby:

  • Matchmaker: Grab two of the same, or two similar toys your child loves, like rainmakers or shakers. Give one to your baby and keep the other for yourself. When your child plays with his/her toy, mirror his/her actions with yours! This creates a fun, interactive game.
  • Face Time: Get down to your baby’s level, sitting opposite him/her on the floor or kneeling. This makes eye contact easy and encourages him/her to look at you during your playful imitation.
  • Be the Funniest You: Go all out with silly faces, exaggerated sounds, and big gestures. The goal is to capture your baby’s attention and make you irresistible to watch. This playful energy encourages him/her to interact and potentially imitate you back!

By incorporating these tips, you can turn imitation into a fun and engaging way to boost your baby’s communication skills. I have seen this happen numerous times over the past decades. It is very powerful, go ahead and try it! You cannot be silly and goofy enough!

Great toy ideas:

Did you know that speech and language development starts with how we talk to our babies?

Adults naturally use a special way of speaking called motherese. It involves a higher pitch, slower pace, and exaggerated sounds compared to regular conversation. Sentences are simpler, with shorter words and repetition. This grabs babies’ attention, helps them distinguish sounds, and reinforces word meaning.

Imitation is a key part of motherese. We wait for our baby to make a sound or gesture, then playfully imitate it with exaggeration. Babies notice this right away and often respond with more vocalisations, creating a mini conversation. This back-and-forth teaches turn-taking, a foundation for future conversations.

By responding warmly and engaging in these playful interactions, we encourage our babies to keep exploring the world of communication. Talking, singing, reading and, of course, imitating, these simple actions can have a big impact on a baby’s language development.

Once your conversation is underway then try and keep it going for as long as possible. It’s a beautiful dance of turn-taking, even without words!

A last word on oxytocin

There’s evidence suggesting early non-verbal communication with your baby can increase a mother’s oxytocin levels, often called the ‘love hormone’. This hormone plays a key role in bonding and social connection. Positive interactions, touch, and stress reduction all contribute to oxytocin release, strengthening the mother–baby bond.

For parents of babies with extra needs

The stress of caring for a child with medical needs or developmental delays can be difficult. Stress can lower oxytocin levels, creating a cycle of sadness for both parent and child.

Breaking the cycle:

  1. Knowledge is Power: Understanding the importance of communication can empower parents.
  2. Seek Support: Speech therapists and other healthcare professionals can provide valuable guidance on communication strategies.
  3. Start Small, Celebrate Big: Even small interactions can boost oxytocin. Focus on playful imitation and positive reinforcement. Remember, friends, family and healthcare professionals are there to encourage you.

This approach can help reverse the negative cycle and create a more positive and connected relationship between parent and child.

I hope this is helpful! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Kind regards

Sonja McGeachie

Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapist

Feeding and Dysphagia (Swallowing) Specialist The London Speech and Feeding Practice

The London Speech and Feeding Practice

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Answers to very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist

Answers to very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist

What are hunger cues in newborn babies? How do we recognise when our baby is hungry? How often should we feed our baby?

These are very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist. And so I thought I would write a blog on it.

A mother holding her baby on one arm in her lap while holding a cup
Image by Freepik

First-time parents’ journey

First-time parents often imagine that feeding, particularly breastfeeding, will be an easy and natural process without too many problems. It can be a rude awakening to find that feeding our newborn is not at all easy and can be fraught with complications. It is fair to say that in most cases by the time our baby is about eight weeks old most mums have got the hang of feeding, either by breast and/or bottle, and things are falling into place.

But until that time it can be a difficult journey:

  • getting to know one’s baby,
  • getting to know their feeding rhythm,
  • falling in with it,
  • TRUSTING that baby knows what they need and knows when they have had enough,
  • TRUSTING and not going crazy with going down an on-line rabbit hole of information and guidance mostly unnecessary and often quite simply FALSE!

Many mums I have met set out with the best intentions to breastfeed for as long as possible. However, they arrive in my clinic anxious and often have given up with the breast; now we are on bottle feeds and things are still very tricky for several reasons. There are too many reasons for this blog to cover but I thought I would start with the basics and ‘reading hunger cues’ is one of those early basics.

Reading hunger cues

So let’s dive in:

Newborns communicate hunger through a variety of cues. Here are some early signs to look for:

  • Early hunger cues: These are the best times to respond to baby’s hunger for a more peaceful feeding. Look for things like:
    • Becoming more alert and active
    • Turning head from side to side in the cot
    • Rooting (turning their head towards your breast or a bottle, especially when stroked on the cheek)
    • Putting hands/fists to mouth
    • Sucking on fists or lips
    • Opening and closing mouth, smacking sounds
TOP TIP: THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD GET READY TO FEED. Breast or bottle. Either way get ready. We do not want our baby to get into later hunger cues, which are below:
  • Later hunger cues: If we miss the early cues, babies will progress to more insistent hunger cues. These include:
    • Fussiness or whimpering
    • Rapid sucking motions
    • Increased squirming
    • Head bobbing

Generally, remember that we do not want our baby to cry for their food. Because once they are riled and cry they are not relaxed enough to latch, especially when latching is hard!

Feeding on demand vs. scheduled feeds

We now know and have researched how babies are fed best and safest, how weight gain is ensured best, both for breastfed and bottle-fed babies.

It’s generally recommended to feed on demand—unless your baby is tube-fed or has some other pressing health concerns or is failing to thrive.

What are the benefits of on demand feeding?

  • We need to respond to baby’s individual needs and hunger cues because every person is unique!
  • Babies need to learn and regulate their own hunger and satiation cycles
  • Promotes better weight gain and growth
  • Leads to more peaceful feeding experiences

Scheduling can come later

A loose schedule might emerge naturally when your baby is around 2–3 months old, but it’s best to follow your baby’s lead.


  • Some newborns may feed every 2–3 hours, while others go longer stretches. Pay attention to your baby’s cues and feeding habits.
  • Crying is a late hunger cue, and frequent crying can make feeding more difficult. Responding to earlier cues is best.
  • If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding patterns or weight gain, consult with a Speech and Language Therapist/Dysphagia Therapist and/or Lactation Consultant.

Check out these useful resources on  the topic of Demand Feeding:

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Principles of motor learning in childhood apraxia of speech: A guide for parents and therapists

Principles of motor learning in childhood apraxia of speech: A guide for parents and therapists

Image by Freepik

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a complex neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to plan and coordinate the movements necessary for speech production. Children with CAS often have difficulty with articulation, prosody, and fluency, making it challenging for them to communicate effectively. While there is no cure for CAS, speech and language therapy can significantly improve a child’s communication skills and overall quality of life. Understanding the principles of motor learning is crucial for both parents and speech therapists to support children with CAS on their speech journey.


Motor learning refers to the process of acquiring and refining new skills through practice and experience. This applies to all aspects of movement, including speech production. The brain constantly receives sensory information about the movements being made and adjusts them based on the desired outcome. A breakdown or interruption of this process can make it difficult for children to plan, sequence, and coordinate the intricate movements involved in speech.

What key principles do we use in speech and language therapy for motor learning?

  • Task Specificity: Speech Therapy activities that directly target the specific speech sounds or skills your child is working on. For example, if your child is struggling with /p/, practising isolated /p/ sounds, words with /p/, and phrases with /p/ would be most beneficial.
  • Massed vs. Distributed Practice: We consider the optimal amount and distribution of practice sessions throughout the day. Massed practice involves concentrated practice in a single session, while distributed practice spreads practice sessions throughout the day. The best approach depends on the individual child’s learning style and attention span.
  • Feedback: We provide clear and immediate feedback to help your child understand the accuracy and effectiveness of their attempts. This feedback can be auditory, visual, or touch based.
  • Error Correction: We aim to gently correct errors so that we can help your child refine their movements and avoid developing bad habits. The focus is on providing specific cues and guidance rather than simply pointing out mistakes.
  • Variety and Progression: We gradually introduce new challenges and variations in speech therapy activities to prevent plateaus and maintain motivation.
  • Motivation and Engagement: A big part of our work is to make therapy sessions fun and engaging to keep your child motivated and actively participating. We use games, songs, and activities that your child enjoys while incorporating targeted practice opportunities.

What about home work?

Yes we need your help and here are some examples of how this could look:

  • Task Specificity: During story time, focus on practising target sounds present in the story. Have your child repeat words or phrases containing the sound and encourage them to identify the sound in other words.
  • Massed vs. Distributed Practice: Instead of one long practice session, try shorter, more frequent sessions throughout the day. This can help maintain focus and prevent fatigue. It is recommended to go for 100 repetitions of the target sound per day, every day in between the sessions. We can decide together how you can best do that through either massed or distributed practice. We can decide after the session.
  • Feedback: Use a mirror to provide visual feedback on lip and tongue placement during sound production. Record the child’s speech and play it back to help them self-monitor their accuracy.

I quite like this mirror below but any table top mirror will work as long as it is not too small. Your child should see their whole face easily.

tabletop mirror
  • Error Correction: If the child makes an error, gently model the correct sound or movement without shaming or criticising. Provide specific cues such as ‘lips together’ for /p/ or ‘tongue up’ for /t/.
  • Variety and Progression: We will guide you on exactly what words to practise so this is something you need not worry about.
  • Motivation and Engagement: Use games, songs, and activities that your child enjoys. Play a game of ‘I Spy’ focusing on words with the target sound or create silly sentences with the sound to make practice fun.

Let’s work together!

It is crucial for parents, therapists, and other caregivers to work collaboratively to ensure a consistent and comprehensive approach to supporting your child’s speech development. Speech and Language Therapists can provide guidance and resources on implementing these principles at home, while parents can share observations and progress updates to inform therapy sessions.

Remember, every child with CAS learns at their own pace. By understanding and applying the principles of motor learning, parents and speech therapists can create a supportive and stimulating environment that empowers children with CAS to reach their full communication potential.

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Creating your calm: containment strategies for Sensory Processing Difficulties
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Creating your calm: containment strategies for Sensory Processing Difficulties

The world can be a beautiful and stimulating place, but for individuals with Sensory Processing difficulties (SPD), it can also be overwhelming and even painful. Everyday sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes can be amplified to uncomfortable or even unbearable levels. This can lead to anxiety, meltdowns, and a constant feeling of being on edge.

One important coping mechanism for SPD is containment. Containment strategies are techniques that help individuals manage their sensory experiences and create a sense of calm and safety.

Understanding containment needs:

Containment needs vary greatly from person to person. Some individuals might find comfort in deep pressure, while others might crave quiet and solitude.

Common containment strategies:

Here are some examples of containment strategies that can be helpful for individuals with SPD:

  • Deep pressure: This can involve activities like wearing weighted vests, using weighted blankets, getting firm hugs, or applying deep pressure massage.
  • Movement: Engaging in rhythmic movements like rocking, swinging, or jumping can be calming for some individuals.
  • Proprioceptive input: Activities that involve proprioception, the sense of body awareness, can be grounding. Examples include yoga, stretching, and proprioceptive toys like chewy necklaces or fidget spinners.
  • Visual calming: Utilising calming visuals like nature scenes, dimmed lights, or fidget toys with visual patterns can provide a sense of peace.
  • Auditory modifications: Noise-blocking headphones, earplugs, or white noise machines can help block out distracting or overwhelming sounds.
  • Oral motor activities: Chewing gum, crunchy snacks, or chewy toys can provide sensory input and help regulate emotions.
  • Sensory bottles: Watching calming visuals move within a liquid-filled bottle can be visually stimulating and promote focus.
  • Creating a safe space: Having a designated quiet area at home or school where individuals can retreat to self-regulate can be invaluable. This space should be free from clutter and overwhelming stimuli and can include calming sensory items.

Additional tips:

  • Be patient and understanding: It takes time and practice to find what works best for each individual. Be patient with yourself or your child as you explore different strategies.
  • Consistency is key: Once you find effective strategies, use them consistently in different settings to create a sense of predictability and comfort.
  • Communicate openly: Talk to teachers, caregivers, and others about individual needs and how they can support containment strategies.
  • Celebrate progress: No matter how small, acknowledge and celebrate successes in managing sensory experiences.


Containment is not about suppressing sensory experiences altogether. It’s about creating a sense of control and reducing overwhelming sensations to a manageable level. By exploring different strategies and working with a qualified professional, individuals with SPD can develop the tools they need to navigate the world and experience life to the fullest.

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Autism – Benefits of Early Assessment and Intervention
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Autism – Benefits of Early Assessment and Intervention

I think my child might be autistic – how can we help?
Image by macrovector on Freepik

Consulting a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist can help you in several ways: assessment, informal and formal observation, discussion and advice, onward referrals, direct intervention, parent coaching, educational support and much more, all geared towards supporting you the parents, and helping your child to flourish and thrive.

First up, we can help you with assessment and advice: with a wealth of expertise in observing childrens’ play and communication, as well as knowledge of the latest research we can see a child’s strengths and areas of struggle very quickly indeed.

Within a short space of time, we can identify the areas we need to focus on and start guiding you towards helping your child to connect, respond, react and feel better.

Early detection is key

If autism is detected in infancy, then therapy can take full advantage of the brain’s plasticity. It is hard to diagnose Autism before 18 months but there are early signs we know to look out for. Let’s have a brief look at the sorts of things we look at.

The earliest signs of Autism involve more of an absence of typical behaviours and not the presence of atypical ones.

  • Often the earliest signs are that a baby is very quiet and undemanding. Some babies don’t respond to being cuddled or spoken to. Baby is being described as a ‘good baby, so quiet, no trouble at all’.
  • Baby is very object focused: he/she may look for long periods of time at a red spot/twinkly item further away, at the corner of the room for example.
  • Baby does not make eye contact: we can often see that a baby looks at your glasses for example instead of ‘connecting’ with your eyes.
  • At around 4 months we should see a baby copying adults’ facial expressions and some body movements, gestures and then increasingly cooing sounds we make; babies who were later diagnosed with autism were not seen to be doing this.
  • Baby does not respond with smiles by about 6 months.
  • By about 9 months, baby does not share sounds in a back-and-forth fashion.
  • By about 12 months baby does not respond/turn their heads when their name is called.
  • By around 16 months we have no spoken words; perhaps we hear sounds that sound like ‘speech’ but we cannot make out what the sounds are.
  • By about 24 months we see no meaningful two-word combinations that are self-generated by the toddler. We might see some copying of single words.

24 months plus:

  • Our child is not interested in other children or people and seems unaware of others in the same room/play area.
  • Our child prefers to play alone, and dislikes being touched, held or cuddled.
  • He/she does not share an interest or draw attention to their own achievements e.g., ‘daddy look I got a dog’.
  • We can see our child not being aware that others are talking to them.
  • We see very little creative pretend play.
  • In the nursery our child might be rough with other children, pushing, pinching or scratching, biting sometimes; or our child might simply not interact with others and be unable to sit in a circle when asked to.

What sort of speech and language difficulties might we see?

Our child might do any of the following:

  • have no speech at all, but uses body movements to request things, takes adults by the hand
  • repeat the same word or phrase over and over; sometimes straight away after we have said it or sometimes hours later
  • repeat phrases and songs from adverts or videos, nursery rhymes or what dad says every day when he gets back from work etc.
  • copy our way of intonation
  • not understand questions – and respond by repeating the question just asked:
    • adult: Do you want apple? child: do you want apple?
  • not understand directions or only high frequency directions in daily life
  • avoid eye contact or sometimes ‘stares’
  • lack of pointing or other gestures

Common behaviours:

  • Hand flapping
  • Rocking back-and-forth
  • Finger flicking or wriggling/moving
  • Lining up items/toys
  • Wheel spinning, spinning around self
  • Flicking lights on and off, or other switches
  • Running back-and-forth in the room, needing to touch each wall/door
  • Loud screaming when excited
  • Bashing ears when frustrated or excited
  • Atypical postures or walking, tip toeing, can be falling over easily, uncoordinated
  • Can be hyper sensitive to noises, smells, textures, foods, clothing, hair cutting, washing etc.
  • Being rigid and inflexible, needing to stick to routines, unable to transition into new environments
  • Food sensitivity, food avoidance, food phobias

I mentioned this to be a ‘brief’ look at the areas and it is: each topic is looked at very deeply and each area is multi-facetted therefore a diagnosis is rarely arrived at very quickly. We want to make sure we have covered all aspects and have got to know your child very well before coming to conclusions.

Early detection is key, because we want to start helping your child to make progress as quickly as is possible. If you feel /know that your child is delayed in their speech and language development and you would like a professional opinion then please do contact me, I look forward to supporting you. It is important to know at this point, that if your child only has one or two of the above aspects it may mean that your child is simply delayed for reasons other than Autism and if that is the case, we will be able to help you iron out a few areas of need so that your child can go on thriving.

If you need help with your child, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Developing Joint Attention
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Developing Joint Attention

Image by Freepik

Joint attention skills what are they and how can we facilitate those?

Most of us want to make friends, connect with others and bond with a friend or be part of a community. To do so we need to develop an important social skill which is: initiating, responding to, and maintaining ‘shared/joint attention’ with another. When we can do this, we are able to focus on the same thing with another person or a group of people: music, hobbies, sport, art, books, toys, games or memories: remember when we did x y z…

Many children who struggle with speech and language development are not able to share or hold attention with another person very easily. My latest blog is all about what we can do to help our children develop Joint Attention.

So to re-cap, joint or shared attention happens when one person gets the other’s attention by either words, or gestures like pointing to something and saying ‘OMG look over there!’ – both people look at that same thing.

What does it take to have or develop this skill?

We need to first of all find something of interest that captivates our own attention. This part is usually not difficult for most people or children.

Then, crucially, we need to direct our focus away from what we find interesting, for long enough to get another person’s attention onto the same topic. This could be just seconds or it could be longer if we are very determined and good at embracing others into our experience. But if we are not then it must not take longer than seconds!

Let me give an example: if someone is in the room with me whilst I see something strange out the window, I would take that second to draw their attention to it. However, I might not be bothered to run upstairs and find someone only to show them something odd outside in the road. If I am very bored, I might do! But as I am rarely bored it is unlikely. So, unless someone else is right here with me, they are not going to be part of that particular experience, I would not share it.

Back to our child: if we make it difficult for a child who is not naturally inclined to share an interest then it is not going to happen. We must be ready, and right there for our child to have that fleeting second to look at us before returning to their hobby/interest.

This skill ‘to share a moment’ tends to develop around 12 months of age and starts with a child pointing to things. Prior to that, our child might give us something or come to show us a thing. Joint attention underpins language skills and is strong predictors of later language development (Law et al, 2017).

What are the signs that my child is struggling with Joint Attention?

  • Tunes out or does not respond when I call their name
  • Cannot follow my suggestions for games or toys/play activities
  • Does not point to anything of interest, like a truck passing by, or an aeroplane in the sky
  • Ignores or does not respond to what I say, does not follow instructions, only when he/she wants to

What can I do to help with this?

Here are some ideas you can follow in no particular order – see which one sticks:

  1. Get down to your child’s eye/face level, we call it ‘face to face’. It does not require your child to make eye contact with you but they might just do so more easily if you are ‘just there’ and don’t have to crook their neck to look up at you. When reading a book with your child, instead of sitting behind try sitting opposite him/her.
  2. Mirror play – making funny faces together in a mirror can be fun.
  3. COPY your child: top tip!! Imitate your child’s vocalisations and actions. Even if these are repetitive, just enjoy the ride.
  4. Follow your child and let your child take the lead in the play activity. What does that look like? The adult has no agenda, does not want to teach, to ask questions (see point number 9) does not want to direct or show the child how to ‘do it better/differently’ – instead accept that the child is the boss when it comes to their play and take their lead in how a toy should be played with.
  5. Hold up objects to your face or at eye level so that your child can see your face and the item at the same time.
  6. Be the ‘funniest thing’ in the room; be hugely entertaining, watchable and offer the ‘irresistible invitation’ to look at you or play with you.
  7. Offer PEOPLE TOYS (any toy where another person is needed to have fun) so: wind-up toys, bubbles, anything that needs opening or holding or doing which is tricky for the child to do alone. I always try and hide the buttons that make something ‘go’ so that my child needs to come back to me for ‘more/again’.
  8. Do PEOPLE GAMES – as above really but games that do not need a toy, that need another person to have fun: being swung round, row row the boat, being pushed on a swing etc.
  9. REDUCE ASKING QUESTIONS – this is my favourite top tip!!! Instead of asking lots of questions try and make simple statements/comments on what is happening so there is absolutely no pressure on your child to ‘perform’. Equally, silence is actually golden sometimes! An odd bit of advice from a speech therapist? Try sitting with your child, next to them or opposite and just don’t talk but simply BE… yes easier said than done, I do know this. Turn off your phone (OMG did I just say that!?) yes, please turn it off and just be with your child for a little while, just like a comfy buddy who is just enjoying their company with no agenda. You might be very surprised how your child suddenly seeks you out!

I will write about more ideas on this in my next blog so look out for more play ideas to encourage Joint Attention.

Most important, try and have fun with your child. Think about what is fun for her or him. And make it EASY for your child, remember unless you are ‘right there’ it might not happen so easily.

Happy New Year!

If you need help with your child, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Strategies to support children with eating difficulties
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Strategies to support children with eating difficulties

where the cause is NOT a swallowing problem, but we are having a “fussy eater” in the family, seeming for no obvious reason

When parents have a child who find mealtimes or eating difficult, it can put pressure on the whole family dynamics. Once we have observed a child’s eating and drinking skills and found that they are not swallowing impaired, but are for want of a better word “fussy” or “picky”, we can then start to look at what might be underpinning the food aversions/picky eating/food avoidance. Two of the main questions parents have (of course) are:

  • ‘is my child getting the right nutrition?’
  • ‘how can I have less anxiety-provoking and stressful mealtimes?’

We all tend to have an image in our minds about the ‘perfect mealtime’, and how mealtimes ‘should’ be. Speech and Language Therapists with a Feeding Specialism are the perfect professionals to help you unpick feeding issues. We are trained to look at swallowing and oral skills and we also know a lot about feeding behaviours and sensory difficulties which could be causing your child’s eating avoidance.

Here are some strategies that can support children with their eating:

  1. Create and maintain a mealtime culture that suits your home and lifestyle. Then stick to that. We all need some routine in our lives to thrive. Mealtimes are no different. It might be that you eat in the same place for every meal, with the same knives and forks, concentrating on maintaining good posture. Children learn by repetition so the more familiar it is, the easier they will find it. In the physical sense, our bodies also need preparing for food, regardless of whether we are eating with our mouths or we are tube-fed. We want every child to connect all the dots of the process. It starts with their eyes, noses, expectations, memories of past experiences, feelings and then finally their mouths….
  2. Be an excellent role model. Children learn through watching others, so your child will be observing you without you knowing. Ensure that you are positive about the food you are all eating, and talk about how delicious, tasty, juicy, and yummy the foods are. Make the atmosphere around the dinner table light hearted. Even though you are secretly stressed about your child not eating, try and not show this. Instead pick a topic or put on some nice music, or talk about something your child might be interested in, and try and avoid coercing your child to eat. Leave small finger foods on their plates and have a range of foods available on the table so that your child can see that everyone is eating a range of foods and enjoying them.
  3. Use positive reinforcement. Try and think of mealtimes as fun and motivating. Children who are happy will likely be more inclined to try foods and take part in family mealtimes. Reward all interactions around food, so if your child merely touches a new food then praise this behaviour. Or if your child licks a food just once, again make a nice comment and praise your child for touching and licking the food. The takeaway here is to try and keep all messages positive around food.
  4. Keep offering all types of food. What often happens is that parents stop serving foods they know will not be eaten. This makes sense in a way; we don’t want wastage! However, try and keep the doors open and re-offer all types of foods, even the ones that your child has not wanted in the past. Try and give your child one food they will like and one food they have tasted before and liked before, even a little, and then one new food to try. So, your child always has something to fall back on and they can join in with eating. But they can also try (or at least look at and think about trying) other foods that you and perhaps the siblings are eating.

Take a look at this website, I find it very helpful in showing parents what types of foods and how big a portion to offer

Have a go and try and implement some of the ideas above, and should you get stuck please get in touch!

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Ten games to support communication in primary school aged children
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Ten games to support communication in primary school aged children

When parents visit me with their child, their stress is palpable. Often parents don’t relish or even expect to be asked to practise strategies at home with their child between sessions. Let alone to practise whilst on holiday. I understand that you don’t necessarily want anything extra added to your daily ‘to do’ lists. This is why we try our best to incorporate all speech and language therapy practice into children’s daily activities.

For example:

  1. during bath time;
  2. mealtimes;
  3. getting ready for bedtime;
  4. story time
  5. yes, playtime!

These are activities that all parents will engage with anyway, so it seems to make sense to incorporate both. This is to avoid adding extra pressure on parents’ already stressful and time-poor daily lives. I am hoping my blog will come in handy, especially for the summer holidays.

On holiday you are unlikely to have your usual games and toys with you – so here is a nice little list of things you can use instead of traditional games and toys:

If you can think of any other alternatives on holiday and would like to tell me about them, I would love to see your comments below. We can never have too many holiday games!!

If you are at home over the summer and you do have some games in the cupboard you might want to dust these ones down or buy one or two new ones (if you want to).

Most games have multiple uses, and it’s always best to adapt a game to match your child’s interests and what motivates them.

So let’s start…

  1. Pop up pirate: pop a sword into the barrel and watch the pirate pop up randomly. Practise social skills, speech sounds, expressive language (e.g., put a sword on a picture, say the word/sentence then pick up the sword and push it into the barrel).
  2. Word games such as ‘ISpy’, ‘I went to the shop and I bought…’, ‘describe a person and guess who they are’: perfect for when you’re on the move, whether travelling or walking. You can play this anywhere and still support speech, language and communication. You could play ISpy using your child’s special sound, or ‘I went to the shop and bought all things beginning with [insert special sound here]’.
  3. Shopping list: Orchard game is a game to practise categorising. We explain the analogy of the brain being like a filing cabinet. If information is all in the correct place, it’s easier to find, retrieve and use. You can also practise specific speech sounds in this activity. You could also put the words in a sentence to add more of an expressive language element.
  4. Wiggly worms: this Orchard game is all about phonological (awareness of sounds) awareness. Matching a letter with the word. You can also practise the sounds in the words (e.g, g-o-l-d = gold; m-a-ke = make). Talk about the elements, e.g., ‘g-o-l-d’ has 4 sounds, 1 syllable; ‘m-a-ke has 3 sounds, one syllable. You can talk about what words rhyme with the different words and what makes a rhyming word (i.e., the middle and end sounds remain the same).
  5. Sound detectives: this Orchard game allows children to identify sounds. It also has an app (if your child prefers a tech-way of learning). Children identify the sound then they can add the picture card to their path and become closer to being a successful detective. This game can also support memory skills.
  6. Conversation cubes: throw the dice and start building a story. You can also create and use ‘colourful semantics’ sentence strips to support expressive (spoken) language as support to build the narrative.
  7. Think words: ‘name it, press it, pass it’. A great game to expand word knowledge. You can talk about the words at the end of each round exploring semantic (meanings) and phonemic (sounds) links. Your child can also develop social skills (such as attention, listening and turn-taking).
  8. Poo bingo: this is perfectly disgusting but equally fun for kids of about 3.5 years plus – if your child’s target is to practise /p/ sound this is the one for you. You can also learn all about the different animal’s poo, which I am sure you have always wanted to do!! The more we know about a word, the easier it is to store, retrieve and use. Yes, even talking about poo can help!! Also, it’s great for our visual learners.
  9. Simon says: a game that can be played indoors or outdoors. Parents can take turns being “Simon” and give various commands that your child must follow. This means that your child can practise their receptive (understanding of) language as well as their expressive language, speech sounds and social skills (such as turn-taking and initiating).
  10. Ker-plunk: this is perfect for practising your child’s special sound. Repetition is very important, but also can be monotonous, so finding a game that they enjoy is vital. Take turns to pull out a stick. Next, your child can either say their special sound or word (depending on what stage they are at) or hear a good model from other players.

Do you still have questions? Contact Sonja for support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Supporting children and families living with verbal dyspraxia

Supporting children and families living with verbal dyspraxia

“It’s brill-i-ant, it’s brill-ant, it’s brillnt”

Have you ever wondered why children may pronounce a word correctly one minute and in the next breath they struggle to say the same word? It’s equally as frustrating for you as it is for your child. The biggest question of all is WHY? Why does this happen and what causes it? Whilst there are many explanations. When it persists, it might be a condition called verbal dyspraxia.

What is verbal dyspraxia

Verbal dyspraxia is a neurological motor speech disorder that affects the coordination and planning of muscle movements that are needed for speech production. A child may have difficulty making the precise movements needed for speech, which may result in inconsistent and unintelligible speech. Children may also have trouble sequencing sounds and syllables, producing speech sounds accurately, and coordinating the movements of their articulators (e.g., lips, tongue, teeth, jaw). This can lead to a range of speech errors (including sound distortions, substitutions, omissions, and difficulty with rhythm and prosody).

We know that these speech errors, and not being able to get a message across, can be frustrating for children with speech difficulties. Can you imagine talking and limited people understanding you? It’s so tough on children and the people trying to communicate with them.

Creating a person-centred therapy plan is vital. This allows your child to stay motivated, as intervention is likely to be long term. This planning may include favourite words to use during their hobby or favourite activity, or person-centred goals such as ‘giving Alexa an instruction’.

Children with verbal dyspraxia can have several different ways of producing words, which often makes it trickier for them as there’s no consistent pattern to work with. So, we’ve put together some top tips to support their communication and make their (and your) lives a little easier in the process.

Ten ways to make communication easier for your child with verbal dyspraxia

  • Have a list of frequently used words and practise this set. Little and often is best!
  • Use cued articulation to support speech production (ask your Speech and Language Therapist for the gestures)
  • Give time and use active listening. This means showing interest and trying not to think about what is on your never ending ‘to do’ list
  • Reduce frustration in any way that you can. This might mean allowing your child to demonstrate using gestures rather than speech. You might also give top tips for other adults or children who communicate with your child when out and about
  • Talk about the structure of words with your child (i.e., there are two beats/syllables in this word)
  • Show the written form of the word to go alongside their production
  • Split down tasks, so that your child only has to respond to one question at a time, reducing their motor capacity
  • Recognise when your child is working well and when they may need support of an Alternative and Augmentative Communication device
  • Allow all environments to have the same training and equipment (i.e., at school, home, out and about)
  • Have regular periods in the day where your child can practise their specific words in different environments. This can be effective for children with verbal dyspraxia

Do you still have questions? Contact Sonja for support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Some ideas to encourage communication

Some ideas to encourage communication

Coming up with ideas for supporting your child’s speech, language and communication can be difficult especially during the holidays. All these activities are easy to implement and can be adapted to your child’s age and stage of development.

Some activities to support your family through the summer:

1. Create a story book / photo book of what you’ve been up to over the holidays

Collect photos of everyday activities and stick them into a file. You can print them out or you could just look at them on your phone or tablet. Create good little sentences or words / phrases for each picture: yummy ice cream / eating pizza / digging the sand / a sandcastle with mum.

This enables your child to develop

  • their attention and listening
  • sequencing of events
  • expressive language (talking)
  • and conversational skills.

2. Explore the outside world (e.g., water the flowers, dig in the soil)

Depending on your child’s language level keep it very simple: single words or short phrases. Or you could practise concepts such as ‘pronouns’: he is eating an ice cream / we are splashing in the pool / she is riding a bike.

3. Splashing in a paddling pool

This is a great activity to build attention. You can call “splash, splash, splash”, “ready steady go splish splash splosh”, ”pour pour pour”, “stir stir you’re stirring”.

Offer different sized containers. This is often so powerful and keeps your child occupied for a nice long time. No need to buy anything special: just bring out your kitchen utensils and some Tupperware containers.

4. Blow bubbles

Bubbles are a fantastic way to engage children. You can play ‘stop and go’ games, take turns and practise key concepts such as ‘under – blow bubbles under my hand’. Your child can practise their expressive language, creating sentences such as ‘blowing bubbles in the pool’.

5. Draw with chalk on pavement slabs to encourage speech sound production or just general nice communication

Use chalk outside to draw a ladder. Your child can practise their speech sound production without even realising it! You can go first to model the sound if needed. Drawing anything onto the pathway with coloured chalk can be really fun.

Afterwards you can wash the pathway and again there is lots of vocabulary you could use there to help your little one practise speech sounds. For example, if your child is practising the word “YELLOW” (as many of my children do) you can draw lots of little yellow things and then name them together:

  • yellow banana
  • yellow flower
  • yellow submarine
  • yellow balloon

You get the idea!

6. Walk in nature. Comment on what you see, smell, hear and feel

Make the most of where you live. Go for a walk. You can sing songs along your walk or comment about what you see, smell, hear and feel. For example: I hear the birds, they are singing; I smell the sea and can hear the waves crashing against the rocks. Make sure your comments are appropriate for the age and stage of your child.

7. Sing songs

This is a lovely way to get your child hearing language, rhyme and rhythm. You can take turns, and fill in the missing words such as “heads, shoulders, knees and ______”.

8. Word games (such as ISpy)

The beauty of this game is that it can be played anywhere and everywhere! The importance is that these word games develop phonological awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words).

Contact me for speech, language and communication support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Four reasons to continue Speech and Language Therapy during the summer

Four reasons to continue Speech and Language Therapy during the summer

The summer holidays can be tricky for parents as there is so much to do: organising childcare, the actual holiday, and trying to have some all-important ‘me time’. Speech therapy for your little one might be the last thing on your mind. But …. If we can prioritise only a small amount of time every day then we are maximising time and finances spent thus far and can continue your child’s Speech and Language Therapy sessions throughout the summer, no problem. Have a look at this blog. We’ll take you through good reasons why you shouldn’t ignore Speech and Language Therapy sessions this summer.

1. Building communication skills takes time

You’ve worked so hard throughout the year to support your child’s speech, language and communication. Now is the time to continue, not to stop! You will watch your child’s communication and confidence grow and flourish over the next couple of months. All the different experiences your child will have on holiday or just even pootling about in your local park with you, or granny/nanny will help expand their capacity for learning and using language and words to communicate with you. If you have time during the summer, you can embed the skills your child has learnt into everyday life which is vital . If in doubt ask how you can use the strategies you have learned in any new environment. Together we can workshop all eventualities and make them fun and doable. There is no end of fun and opportunities with a bucket, spade and a bit of sand!

2. Getting to know your child’s Speech and Language Therapist is vital

Here’s a plug for regular therapy sessions: building a rapport with your child’s Speech and Language Therapist is key. If our sessions together are consistent and regular, then it will be so easy for us to develop a good rapport with your little one. Trust is key. So if sessions are infrequent and irregular it is hard for your child to build up trust with their therapist and it is hard for the therapist also to get you know your child and tailor the sessions so that they really work very well. We need to know what your child loves and what activities or toys work well; so, if sessions are missed and irregular then the process just takes longer.

3. Goals are set and measured

Sometimes a break is needed and that’s fine. We measure goals within a certain time frame and whilst a few weeks holiday are great for everyone, we don’t want to lose any progress your child has made. If a child does not attend sessions, progress will often diminish as consistency in therapy is key!

4. You’ll be able to embed skills over the summer at home

Did you know you can access Speech and Language Therapy wherever you are with our remote service? Teletherapy allows flexibility which means your child’s sessions can be wherever you are. Whilst this isn’t for everyone, it does allow regular sessions to continue. If that does not work for you then let’s talk about how we can help you transfer all the therapy goals into your holiday. You will be surprised how easy it is: lots of goals can be worked into snack times for example or bath times. You will have those wherever you are so this won’t take away your holiday fun, promise!

Find out more about teletherapy.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.