Explore the world of speech sound therapy for young children

Explore the world of speech sound therapy for young children

Many parents who come to the clinic voice with the concerns about their child’s “speech”. On assessment we discover that actually besides the words not being clear what we most often don’t see is “language” (putting words together to request something for example). And we don’t see “social communication” (waving bye with a smile for example). So what is perceived as “speech” is much more than just not saying the speech sounds correctly. It might be that we need to increase the child’s vocabulary and language so that we can target specific speech sound patterns.

We’ll guide you through some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the difference between speech and language?

Language is how we put words together (e.g., the cat ran up a tree). For non-verbal children this might be how gestures and symbols are put together. Both will put these into a meaningful context. Language needs to use either speech and/or gestures or signs or pointing to symbols in order to come into being. It needs words, either spoken or written, put into grammatical order so that thoughts can be expressed adequately: about the here and now, about what he had for breakfast this morning or what we are going to do this coming weekend. We put words together to express our feelings and thoughts. Speech is one aspect of this very complex process.

Speech is the specific sounds that make up a word (e.g., the sounds in fish are /f-i-sh/).

Some children are delayed in their speech but will catch up with their peers’ development with time. Others may be using disordered speech sound patterns. If you’re unsure, contact your Speech and Language Therapist as early intervention is vital. It might be that you’re given activities to carry out at home. Or a direct therapeutic intervention may be required, along with regular practice at home. The approach depends on your child and how they learn best.

When might your Speech and Language Therapist recommend direct Speech and Language Therapy?

There are several reasons why your child may need intervention to support their communication. Some of these include:

  • When they produce vowels incorrectly
  • When a child has significantly fewer consonants than they should have by their age
  • Error patterns that are not following a typical process
  • Fewer word approximations
  • When a child is ready for speech therapy. That is to say, when we can target speech production through interactive play but most often speech is targeted through repeated activities which focus on a few sounds or words at a time. For this to work ideally a child does need to be able to sit at a table and take part in the activities and games.

How can I work on speech and language targets at the same time?

You’ll want your child to be engaged in activities. It’ll need to be in short bursts to keep their attention. Let’s say you’re focusing on the /p/ sound. You may get a bag with objects and items with /p/ in them. Speak to your child’s Speech and Language Therapist about what position in the word they are targeting now.

Sing the ‘what’s in the bag’ song. Pull out each item in turn and emphasise the sound that you are working on such as “it’s a fox, ffffox”. You can then comment on what the fox is doing, or what they look like (e.g., look at this fffurry fffox. It’s very fffriendly. Oh, the fffox is running).

This activity gives you the opportunity not only to build vocabulary but also to expose your little one to a good model of speech sounds.

“I’m concerned my child won’t sit through the assessment”

This is a common concern. Don’t worry. If your child is not able to sit through an assessment then we usually offer play-based assessment. This means it is activity focused and can be wherever your child feels most comfortable; this is usually on the floor. It is often best to see children in their own homes or even nursery places where they can roam more freely and where they feel most comfortable. On reading the filled-out parent questionnaire we can decide whether a home visit/nursery visit or a clinic visit might work best for your child.

You will be guided all the way through from assessment to intervention and beyond. So, you’ll leave feeling empowered and confident to get started!

Contact Sonja for support with your child’s speech.

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.

Explore four truths or myths about speech, language, and communication

Explore four truths or myths about speech, language, and communication

There are many truths and myths out there that I’d like to explain to prevent misunderstanding. This will enable you to support your child by seeking the correct information.

Why not have a look at the following statements and decide if you think they are true or false?

  1. Flashcards will fix my child’s speech, language, and communication needs.
  2. Singing to my child will not help their language development.
  3. My child communicates in a variety of ways not just through speech.
  4. Learning another language is good for my child.
Speech Therpaist in London

Now let’s explore these statements in more detail.

1. Flashcards will fix my child’s speech, language and communication needs – False

To develop your child’s communication skills, you’ll want your child to generalise their skills across multiple areas. I would highly recommend staying away from flashcards if they are only teaching ‘rote learning’. Children need to explore the world through play. However if you’re looking at cards, talking about them and having meaningful conversations, and your child is enjoying it, then there potentially is a use for flashcards. But at London Speech and Feeding, we love innovative activities that your child is fully immersed in.

2. Singing to my child will not help their language development – False

Singing introduces your child to rhyme, and repetition amongst many other benefits. It allows them to attend and listen to you as their caregiver and develop the vital stages of early communication. Singing slows down language so your child becomes more aware of the relationship between letters and sounds. You’re also supporting your child’s oral fluency as well as their memory. Furthermore, you’ll often be face to face with your child singing which allows them to see your facial expressions, lip patterns and eye contact (to name a few).

3. My child communicates in a variety of ways not just through speech – True

Communication is much more than just talking. So, it’s true that communication happens in a variety of ways. Think about it. If you didn’t talk and you wanted to convey a message of frustration, you may show different facial expressions, body language; you may point at something which has caused your frustration. We can communicate through a variety of means (some of which include symbols, gestures, hand signals, and pictures). Can you think of any other ways in which you communicate to others?

4. Learning another language is good for my child – True

Current evidence suggests that speaking another language to your child is a positive. It allows your child to interact with different members of the family or with their friends. ASHA suggests that children who speak two languages fluently often learn new vocabulary easier and find categorisation simpler. Bilingual children have been shown to understand the needs of their communication partner. In addition, increased vocabulary may support better understanding. There are no negative factors about learning more than one language. We would recommend that, whatever language(s) your child is learning, they have a good model of that language, so they learn best practice.

Always seek the advice from a qualified Speech and Language Therapist if you’re unsure of how your child’s speech, language and communication is developing, as there are lots of information online that aren’t always accurate.

I’m always happy to support your family to increase your knowledge and understanding.

You can find support by contacting Specialist Speech and Language Therapist Sonja here.

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.

Why teletherapy is great

Why teletherapy is great

Did you know that you don’t have to see a therapist with your child present to have improved communication? For younger children, evidence suggests that regular tailored interaction with parents/carers is as good as seeing a Speech and Language Therapist, with their advice followed. Often your child will respond better because they are in familiar surroundings with their favourite toys present. By learning the techniques I teach you in our weekly virtual zoom sessions, you can support your child’s language and communication every single day. This can be as good and sometimes even better than coming into clinic once a week. You’re embedding and generalising what your child is learning into everyday situations. This is important for your child’s communication development.

Speech Therpaist in London

It takes two to talk – the Hanen approach

The Hanen approach is about improving your child’s communication by tweaking your own communication style as parents and carers. It looks at your strengths and weaknesses in your communication with your child. You film a session playing with your child, and with a trained Hanen Speech and Language Therapist you review the video identifying strengths and weaknesses in your communication on a regular basis for a set period. For example, you may give your child plenty of time to answer questions, but you might identify from the video that you ask too many questions.

The Hanen approach works well online because:

  • Parents and carers can concentrate on the information they are given without interruption from their child
  • It is a process; you’re not told what’s right and wrong. It’s a process of discussion, reflection, and understanding by analysing the video footage
  • This method can be applied to daily activities, so together we can think about how it can be individualised specifically for your family situation
  • You can carry out the techniques in your own time when your child is well, calm, and willing to engage.

Online therapy is also ideal for older children (aged 7+) who have difficulties with speech, word-finding, sequencing, or executive functioning (planning and processing information) skills. You can see and hear the therapist and gain knowledge from their valuable expertise whilst saving you time, money, and energy resources. In addition, children tend to love technology, so the online resources are motivating and capture their attention.

Remove the barriers and start your online therapy journey today.

Contact me to learn more.

Sonja is a highly knowledgeable and experienced speech and language therapist. Don’t hesitate to contact her, especially if you are concerned that remote/zoom sessions aren’t as effective as ‘real life’. We have found quite the opposite! She has worked with us on Hanen and now troubleshoots when problems come up. This is such a wonderful way of working. She acts as your indispensable guide (a speech and language fairy godmother, if you like) but make no mistake, it’s your application of what she teaches you, on a day-to-day basis that results in the most change.

P. Goeldner

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 Top Tips for Parents and Carers to Encourage their Children’s Communication Development

Ten Top Tips for Parents and Carers to Encourage their Children’s Communication Development

A woman is looking down at a child in her arms

Read some of my top tips so you can make your communication as effective as possible. You’ll be able to make the most out of everyday opportunities to support your child’s speech, language and communication development.

  1. We need to go beyond the child’s needs. Think about their interests and what they may want to communicate. If they can express their wants, they are more likely to be motivated. Motivation is a big factor to ensure successful outcomes in therapy.
  2. Practice really does make perfect. So, 10 minutes twice daily is more effective than an hour every two weeks. To begin with, practise these strategies in a structured activity and then, when you’re comfortable, you can begin to generalise them to other contexts in your child’s life.
  3. Add an element of play into your communication. Make it exciting!! You could add suspense or anticipation. You could use exaggeration to add to the drama, or you could simply change the pace to add a different dimension to your interaction.
  4. Use the ‘wait’ from the OWL strategy to see if your child initiates or makes a request.
  5. Create a list of these requests that your child responds well to. You will be able to notice any patterns and create more of these opportunities to give your child more success.
  6. Talk about the rhythm in everyday experiences such as tapping your foot or describe the rhythm of the washing machine or dishwasher. Try to find everyday sounds in your child’s environment that you can talk about.
  7. Add a gesture to the sound or rhythm. We know that a lot of children are visual learners so adding a gesture will support their understanding and use of language.
  8. Ensure you look animated and this will encourage your child to participate.
  9. Learn to create opportunities for your child every day.
  10. Remember that we are not forcing our children to participate. We are simply making the activity irresistible. Above all, remember communication should be fun, so be creative!!

You may feel like you need some reassurance, someone to check in with to make sure you’re maximising these opportunities. Feel free 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.

Attention Autism Therapy

Attention Autism Therapy

Sonja is kneeling on a multicoloured carpet holding a bucket in one hand and a toy in the other

Attention Autism” is an Early Years Intervention designed by Gina Davies, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. Gina created this amazing therapy approach based on her many years of working with children on the autism spectrum. It aims to develop natural and spontaneous communication through the use of highly motivating activities. These activities offer your child an IRRESISTABLE INVITATION to engage and attend to.

I love using this approach and have trained in all of the stages including the Curiosity Stage which is for another blog. I use it frequently with all children who have trouble attending, listening, sitting or waiting regardless of whether they are neuro-diverse or neuro-typical, this activity and method is so great for all children!!

Why is it important for our children to attend and listen?

It is commonly assumed that, as our child has passed their hearing tests he/she will be able to listen and respond to being called, being questioned or asked to do something. However, all children I see in my practice have reduced joint attention skills, which means that whilst their hearing is often good, even brilliant to the point that they can often hear a faint noise somewhere outside the house like a distant train rushing by – but strangely they can’t seem to hear their name being called. Parents often ask me why this is the case, why can my child not turn round when I call him?

The reason lies in the difference between hearing and listening. Listening is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. As a child develops, their hearing tunes into (listening) the sounds and noises they hear on a daily basis. This is how a child develops understanding of the speech sounds they hear every day (which then form the basis of their native language); they also get to know “their door bell, dog barking next door, daddy coming up the stairs” and so on. They tune into those common every day sounds and noises and gradually start to copy speech sounds to form words. So listening is tuning our ears to the sounds that surround us. In contrast, many of us have to work in large office spaces or noisy environment, perhaps even a café, etc, where we are able to tune out those environmental noises and sounds that surround us, for otherwise we will not get that report/piece of work done in time! Our focus means that we become single-minded and single-channelled concentrating on our work and so we do not hear people chat and clutter all around us.

Tuning in and out is a skill that we learn and some of us are better than it that others, it comes largely with practice but also with motivation – I go back to the report that needs doing by end of the day – my motivation is strong and I can now focus and blend out all around me so that I get the work done. Other times when I am not so motivated I might doodle and tune into what is being said at the table next to me, because my focus is not that strongly dedicated to my work.

Many children who are delayed in their development and especially children on the neuro-diverse continuum have difficulty with tuning in. By contrast, they are very good at being single-minded, single focused on what it is they are wanting/needing to do at any one point. And so they cannot listen to sounds, speech, noises around them very easily at all. They are fully absorbed in their activity and are not able to look and listen to mum/dad calling their name. Once we understand this we can start helping our children to practise tuning in a bit more bit by bit and day by day.

Enter the Attention Autism approach!

There are 4 stages to this method:

Stage 1: The Bucket to Focus Attention

The first stage involves filling a bucket with visually engaging toys that aim to help children learn how to focus their attention. Three toys will be presented to the child/group one at a time and the therapist will make simple comments about each toy to help introduce them to the children and expand their vocabulary.

Important to know: the Attention Autism approach does not require the child to look at the adult, or to sustain eye-gaze on the objects. Instead engagement may be indicated by non-verbal signals such as seeming alert and interested, and looking frequently at the object.

Stage 2: The Attention Builder

At this stage the child/group is introduced to visually stimulating activities. This stage aims to build and sustain attention for a longer period of time. Activities may include ideas such as:

  • Flour castles which can be built like sandcastles, using flour, a bowl and moulds
  • Erupting volcano activity
  • Wriggly worms foam – pile shaving foam onto an upside down plastic flower pot with the holes taped over; then slowly press down another plastic flower pot over the shaving foam and the foam will come through the top holes looking like wriggly worms, especially if you have dropped a bit of food colouring on top of the foam

Important: children are not required to make eye contact or sit still during these activities. The focus is on engagement, in whatever way the child demonstrates this.

Stage 3: The Interactive Game – Turn-Taking and Shifting Attention

The therapist demonstrates a simple engaging activity and invites children up to have a turn. This may be the same activity from stage 2 or something new. The aim is for children to learn to shift their attention from the group/sitting experience to doing something and then going back to sitting again.

Stage 4: Individual Activity

In the final stage of Attention Autism, the adult models an activity, and then each child is given the same equipment to use themselves. They do not have to copy exactly what the adult modelled. The aim is for the child watching to have a go independently with confidence, and then to take their materials back to the leading adult at the end. The activity should be engaging and enjoyable for the children. The Attention Autism approach aims to foster an interest in learning new things and to inspire communication in whatever form works for the child.

Ideally this should be practised 4-5 times a week aside from the therapy session. But I have seen it work with just 2-3 practice repeats per week. It can be tough in the beginning until your child gets used to the “no touch just look” rule but with a little bit of practice usually children do sit well for the first part of the Bucket activity within about 10 sessions and after that you are on a roll!

Do get in touch with me if you would like to find out more about this approach! Here is a great link to Gina Davis’s Autism Centre facebook site for more inspiration: https://facebook.com/ginadaviesautism/.

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.