Speech Sounds Practice at home
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Speech Sounds Practice at home

Speech therapists use a variety of tools to help children master specific sounds, and then the students are sent home with some practice sheets to use daily. Parents are able to observe what we do in the session, but I know that back at home three days later they can’t quite remember what it was all about and how to do the practice.

Here I explain the importance of visual cues, finger shapes, pictures, and semantic prompts (fancy speech therapy term for word clues!). By understanding these tools, you can turn practice time into a fun and engaging experience for both of you.

Why Visual Cues matter?

Imagine learning a new language just by listening. It’s tough, right? Young children learning new speech sounds face a similar challenge. Visual cues act like flashcards for their minds, giving them a clear picture of how to position their mouth and tongue.

  • Mirrors: Encourage your child to watch your face (and theirs) in the mirror as you make the sound together. This helps them see the tongue placement and lip movements required.
  • Mouth pictures: Speech therapy sheets often have pictures of mouths making specific sounds. Point to the picture and explain how the tongue and lips look, then have your child try to imitate it.
  • Your face is the best cue! Don’t underestimate the power of your own face. Over-enunciate the sound and let your child observe your mouth movements. Watch this little video clip where I am teaching the /SH/ sound to my little student. You cannot see him but we are both sitting on the floor opposite one another so that he can see me easily.

Finger fun: making sounds with our hands

Finger shapes are another powerful tool in my speech therapy arsenal. Think of them as fun reminders of how to position the tongue.

  • ‘Open Wide’ fingers: For sounds like /AH/ and /OH/, hold your fingers wide apart, mimicking an open mouth.
  • ‘Tongue Up’ fingers: For sounds like /T/ and /D/, touch the tip of your thumb to your other fingers, creating a little ‘wall’ like the tongue tip touches the teeth ridge.
  • ‘Snake Tongue’ fingers: For the /S/ sound, wiggle your pinky finger to represent the snake-like tongue tip.
  • In this little video clip I am demonstrating the C-shape moving forward which I had taught my child, showing how the windy sound (/SH/) travels forward with lips open and slightly pursed.

Bringing sounds to life with pictures

Pictures serve as visual prompts to connect the sound with a familiar word.

  • Video clip: I am using the WINDY SOUND picture and the FLAT TYRE sound picture to represent /SH/ and /S/ respectively
  • Point and Say: Point to each picture and say the word clearly, emphasising the target sound. Encourage your child to repeat.

Unlocking sounds with semantic prompts

Semantic prompts are fancy words for clues that help your child guess the target sound. They can be simple questions or descriptive words.

  • ‘Can you feel the wind whooshing?’ (/SH/)
  • Think of tyre going flat, or a balloon losing air, or a train coming to a slow halt (/S/)

Practice makes progress, but fun makes it funnier!

Remember, the key is to keep practice sessions light and engaging. Here are some extra tips:

  • Short and sweet: Stick to short practice times (5-10 minutes) to avoid frustration.
  • Make it a routine: Integrate practice time into your daily routine, like after breakfast or before bedtime.
  • Positive reinforcement: Celebrate your child’s efforts with praise and high fives!
  • Make it multisensory: Incorporate sensory activities like blowing bubbles for /F/ or feeling the wind for /SH/.

Parents you’re a vital part of your child’s speech development, and together we can make huge progress quickly.

Please contact me if your child has speech sound difficulties.

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.

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Principles of Motor Learning in Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
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Principles of Motor Learning in Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

We use powerful motor learning principles to help children with CAS (Childhood Apraxia of Speech) learn how to produce better, clearer speech sounds in words, phrases and sentences.

What are these principles?

Principle 1: MASSED PRACTICE

This is where you see a child for lots of sessions in a shorter period of time, so for instance six weeks of three times weekly for 30 minutes.

This leads to motor performance or automaticity.

Principle 2. DISTRIBUTED PRACTICE

This is what I use, as most of my clients are not able to come and see me that often on a weekly basis. It is hard to travel in London and life is hectic. So I favour one session a week over say a term or two terms and a session is usually 45 minutes long.

This leads to improved Motor Learning and good generalisation.

During either Massed or Distributed Practice, we choose between 4 variables:

Principle 3: Constant vs Variable

Principle 4: Blocked vs Random

To explain:

Constant Practice is where we repeat the practice of a small handful of target words.

We practise the same target sound in the same word position, e.g. at the beginning of a word: ‘bee’, ‘bye’, ‘bow’, ‘baa’ or ‘key’, ‘car’, ‘cow’, ‘Kaye’ etc.

We keep the rate, pitch and intonation constant.

Variable Practice is where we vary the rate, volume, pitch and intonation of the targets

We use a larger number of sounds, and words that are motivating to say for the child.

For example, if a child loves Peppa Pig then I might choose the words: ‘Peppa’, ‘Daddy Pig’, ‘George’, ‘Mummy Pig’ and a couple of other favourite characters. My child might struggle with a number of sound sequences there but we will target them one by one.

We can also select simpler words like ‘cape’ and ‘cake’ or ‘tick’ and ‘tip’.

Blocked Practice is where we practise one target word for say five minutes then we move to another target word for the next five minutes and then we revert back to the first target word again and so on, so blocks of practice.

Random Practice means we practise several target words at the same time.

How do I decide on what to use?

Good question!

I always opt for distributed practice (weekly for up to 45 minutes).

Within that, I tend to find it most successful to start out with constant practice when a child is finding a certain sound sequence really hard and we need to just ‘nail it’. Bearing in mind I only pick sounds that my student can actually make in isolation, so we are not working on articulation! (where we focus on trying to elicit single sounds correctly – or even at all sometimes) Here in CAS work, we are working with sounds the student can make but is having trouble to add together, into a sequence that is needed to make a word sound right.

As soon as I feel we have some traction I will go to variable practice, i.e. I pick words that are either funny or interesting for the child and it can be a slightly larger number.

I tend to use blocked practice in the beginning or when working on vowels. That’s because it is more important we get our vowels right. They carry a word and are very important for overall speech intelligibility. Once we are on a roll, I tend to go more for random practice.

Example

Here in the video clip, we try and work the /e/ vowel in short words likes ‘bell’, ’fell’, ‘dell’, ‘sell’, ‘smell’ and I am using an AAC device to give a child’s voice as auditory feedback as well as using the PROMPT approach to help my student shape his vowels.

So this is:

  1. Distributed (1 x week for 45 minutes)
  2. Constant – we are practising the /e/ vowel in the same position in six different words
  3. Blocked – we did this: several repetitions of each word and after the sixth we moved to another sound, and then later we came back to this.

Please feel free to contact me if your child has speech sound difficulties. It is my passion. I love supporting children with apraxia.

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.

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Empty Set and Phonology approaches

Empty Set and Phonology approaches

I have been avoiding the use of the Empty Set approach for the longest time as I was not sure if it would work seeing that I am challenging two sounds my student struggles with at the same time. But I decided to give it a go and it works a treat!

With this approach, we use two sounds that our student is struggling with. For example, in my video this student cannot produce /sh/ and /r/. Both sounds have different rules, so I decided to contrast them with each other.

  • The rules of /sh/ are: no voice, air is pushed out through teeth, produced at the front.
  • The rules for /r/ are: use your voice, produce the sound in the middle of the mouth by shaping your tongue in a particular way.

So I chose the words ‘shoes’ and ‘ruse’ as their rules are quite different. Contrasting two sounds the student does not know has been shown to lead to greater change in the child’s articulation. And I can certainly vouch for this as my student is making the best progress with this approach.

Phonology Therapy – what is it, why and how?

Phonology is the study of the sound system of a language. It’s distinct from articulation therapy which focuses on the physical production of sounds.

Phonology therapy focuses on rules. For example, sounds that are produced at the front of the mouth, in contrast to sounds that are produced at the back of the mouth, or sounds that are produced with a long air stream: /s/ or /f/ versus short sounds like /p/ or /t/; sounds are produced with voice or without voice.

Many children, and sometimes adults, are unaware of some of the speech rules and confuse and replace individual sounds. They might say TAT instead of CAT or SIP instead of SHIP.

A quick overview of phonology approaches I use:

Minimal Pairs:

This approach is good for single sound substitutions. We offer word pairs that differ by only one sound, like ‘ship’ and ‘sip.’ One of our first goal in therapy is to highlight the difference between the target sound (e.g., /sh/) and the sound the child uses (e.g., /s/). This helps discriminate and eventually produce the correct sound.

Multiple Oppositions:

A child might replace lots of sounds with a single sound like a /d/. So instead of ‘four’, ‘chore’ and ‘store’ our child says ‘door’, making speech very unintelligible.

The approach is typically geared towards shaking up the phonological system. Our goal is to choose two to four targets that are different from each other, and different from the substituted sound. If our child’s favourite sound is /d/ they can use their voice and make a short sound by stopping their airflow. So I will choose a different target sound to change up the speech system. For example I might choose an /f/, a /m/ and a /k/ sound. So I would contrast: ‘door’ with ‘four’, ‘more’ and ‘core’.

Maximal Oppositions:

In the Maximal Oppositions approach the treatment sets consists of words that are minimally contrasted and that have maximal or near maximal feature differences between each word pair. One word in a pair represents a sound the child ‘knows’ (can say at word level) and the other represents a sound the child does not know (cannot say).

For example, a child may ‘know’ /m/ and be able to say words like ‘man’, ‘mat’ and ‘mine’. However, the same child may be unable to say /f/ as in ‘fan’, ‘fat’ and ‘fine’. The consonants /f/ and /m/ are maximally opposed as follows.

I am always delighted to work on speech sound disorders, I love the challenge and the successes we can celebrate together. Get in touch with me!

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.

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Why ‘Prosody’ Matters in Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
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Why ‘Prosody’ Matters in Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

Prosody refers to the ‘music’ of speech — the rhythm, pitch, stress, and volume that convey meaning and emotion beyond the literal words themselves. Think about a monotone statement like ‘Really?’ compared to one with a rising inflection, expressing genuine curiosity.

When I work with children on producing speech sound sequences, we focus on mastering individual sounds and then putting them together into target words. A crucial element that can significantly impact a child’s speech production is ‘prosody’.

In CAS, where the difficulty lies in planning and executing the motor movements for speech, prosody can be a powerful tool for producing clearer words and phrases.

Here’s why working on prosody is an essential tool in CAS speech therapy:

1.  It aids Motor Learning:

Apraxia of Speech means that the planning and execution of speech movements are impaired. When we use exaggerated intonation or stress patterns while modelling words, we are providing additional prosodic variation and, therefore, additional auditory cues. These cues often help my student to carry out the correct motor movements for a word or syllable sequence.

For instance, I might say ‘ball’ with a high-pitched emphasis on the ‘b’ sound. This auditory cue might be more effective in guiding the child’s tongue placement than simply repeating the word without variation.

In this little video clip I get my student to say the word ‘snuggle’ (since we were working on that particular sound sequence: snuggle, snout, snore and sneeze) with a high voice and then a lower voice ‘like a bear’ — again it provides that extra auditory cue, but, in addition, the fun aspect also helps to take away the intense focus on a tricky movement pattern.

By now the new pathways have been laid through repeated practice and now automaticity takes over and without too much effort my student can suddenly produce a motor pattern. It’s magical when it happens and gives me such a thrill.

2. It makes speech more engaging and natural sounding:

Children with CAS often sound robotic or flat due to challenges with prosodic elements. By incorporating variations in pitch, volume, and rhythm during therapy, we can help achieve a more natural flow of speech

3. It makes it easier to express our emotions:

Children with CAS often struggle to express themselves emotionally; partly through the difficulty of producing clear words — period, but also in addition due to the difficulties or absence of musicality and rhythm in their speech.

Therefore, it is so important to incorporate activities focused on practising different emotions with varied intonation patterns. This can really empower our students to put emotions into their words.

Good words to practise are fun words like ‘Wow!’ or ‘Yeiih’ or power words and phrases like ‘No!’ or ‘Gimme that’ etc.

Making Therapy Fun and Engaging:

Speech therapy for CAS doesn’t have to be all drills and exercises (though to be fair sometimes we can’t quite get round to making each and every word huge fun though we try…).

I aim to make all my sessions fun and have intrinsic rewards built into the speech practice where possible.

Home practice tips:

Therapy shouldn’t exist in a bubble. Working on prosody during sessions is crucial, but it’s equally important to integrate these skills into everyday interactions. Parents and caregivers can model appropriate prosody during playtime, story time, or even simple conversations. This consistent reinforcement helps our children to generalise their newfound skills and use them naturally in their daily lives.

  • Sing songs and rhymes: Songs naturally incorporate variations in pitch and rhythm. Singing familiar songs and creating silly rhymes can be a delightful way to practise prosody.
  • Use puppets and toys: Assign different voices and personalities to puppets or toys. This encourages children to experiment with pitch and volume to differentiate characters.
  • Read aloud with enthusiasm: Model expressive reading, varying your voice for different characters and emphasising key words. This makes reading time engaging and helps children understand the power of prosody.

Please feel free to contact me if your child has speech sound difficulties. It is my passion. I love supporting children with apraxia.

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.

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Using AAC during play with your child
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Using AAC during play with your child

Playtime! It’s a magic time for exploration, learning, and connection.

If your child is struggling to use words with his/her mouth, we can always use a robust Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device to help find their words. We know that using such a device does never stop or delay children to speak with their mouths. On the contrary it helps, enormously!

Can playtime still be a blast? Absolutely! In fact, incorporating AAC into play can be a powerful way to boost communication skills, build confidence, and create a truly inclusive play experience. Here’s how to make it happen, with a focus on core words and core scripts for our GLP’s (the building blocks of communication used by everyone). In this video I am using the core word ‘IN’ and ‘MORE’.

The Magic of Core Words

Core words are the most frequently used words in everyday communication. They might be verbs like ‘want’, ‘more’, ‘go’, or ‘stop’, or adjectives like ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘hot’. These words are the foundation for building sentences and expressing needs and desires. They’re perfect for children using AAC because they’re simple to understand and use.

Let’s Play! Here’s How

1. Choose Your AAC System

Many options exist! It could be a low-tech picture board with core words, such as the one you see pasted on my cabinet door in the background, or it can be a dedicated AAC app on your tablet. Here I am using the GRID app but I also love using others, such as LAMP Words for Life.

2. Make it Fun and Functional

No pressure! Integrate your AAC system seamlessly into your play routine. Here are some ideas:

  • Car/trains: Use core words to describe what the cars are doing: (‘down’, ‘go’, ‘stop’, ‘again’ ‘fast’ ‘slow’).
  • Dress-up: Use core words to choose clothes (‘want’, ‘hat’, ‘shoes’).
  • Tea Party: Use core words to ask for and share (‘more’, ‘juice’, ‘give’).
  • Building Blocks: Use core words to describe what you’re building (‘tall’, ‘big’, ‘house’).
  • Dolls/Stuffed Animals: Use core words to act out scenarios (‘sleep’, ‘eat’, ‘cry’).
  • Arts and Crafts: Use core words to describe colours (‘red’, ‘blue’), actions (‘draw’, ‘paint’), and feelings (‘happy’, ‘sad’).

If your child is a Gestalt Language Processor you will want to model meaningful, fun scripts instead of single words! As above, but use phrases:

  • Car/trains: Use scripts to describe what the cars are doing: (‘it’s going down’, ‘let’s go’, ‘make it stop’, ‘want it again’, ‘that was fast’, ‘it’s so slow’).
  • Dress-up: Use scripts to choose clothes (‘I’m gonna wear this’ ‘that’s a lovely hat’, ‘let’s choose shoes’).
  • Tea Party: Use scripts to ask for and share (‘I want more’, ‘more juice’, ‘give me this’).
  • Building Blocks: Use scripts to describe what you’re building (‘a tall one’, ‘that’s so big’, ‘it’s a house’).
  • Dolls/Stuffed Animals: Use scripts to act out scenarios (‘it’s time to sleep’, ‘let’s eat’, ‘he’s crying’).
  • Arts and Crafts: Use scripts to describe colours (‘a red crayon’), actions (‘let’s draw’, ‘I’m gonna paint’), and feelings (‘I’m happy’, ‘that’s so sad’).

3. Model, Model, Model

This is key! As you play, constantly model using your child’s AAC system.

  • Point to the picture or word or script you’re using.
  • Speak clearly and slowly while pointing.
  • When using core words for either Analytical or Gestalt Language Processors, try using good phrases. For example, instead of just saying ‘juice’, say, ‘you want more juice?’

4. Make it a Team Effort

Get everyone involved! Encourage siblings, grandparents, and caregivers to use the AAC system with your child during playtime. The more consistent the approach, the faster your child will learn and feel confident using their voice.

5. Celebrate Progress, Big and Small!

Every step counts! Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s efforts, whether it’s reaching for their AAC system or successfully using a core word. This positive reinforcement will keep them motivated.

Remember

  • Playtime should be fun, not stressful. Don’t force your child to use their AAC system. Let them lead the way and follow their interests.
  • Every child develops at their own pace. Celebrate your child’s unique communication journey.
  • Seek professional help when needed. Your SLT can provide tailored strategies and resources to support your child’s development.

By incorporating AAC and core words into playtime, you’re not just fostering communication; you’re creating a space for your child to thrive, explore, and build strong connections.

So, grab those toys, power up your AAC system, and get ready for a playtime adventure filled with fun, connection and, therefore, communication!

Don’t hesitate to contact me!

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.

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Baby-Led Weaning: A Speech and Language Therapist’s Take
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Baby-Led Weaning: A Speech and Language Therapist’s Take

Let’s face it, introducing solids is a rollercoaster for parents. You’re bombarded with advice (solicited and otherwise) on purees, spoon-feeding, and the much-discussed ‘baby-led weaning’ (BLW). As a speech-language/feeding therapist I see the world through the lens of communication and development, as well as safe munching and swallowing. BLW can be a fantastic option for many little foodies. But is it right for yours? Let’s take a dive into the messy, hilarious world of toddler feeding.

BLW in a nutshell

Your baby, perched in their highchair, eyes wide with excitement and curiosity reaches out for a platter of food. He/She grabs a fat avocado slice, and curiously explore it with his/her lips, gums and tongue. He/She spits some of it out, mashes bits of it into his/her hair, there was a tiny swallow and the rest is smeared onto the high chair tray. Now he/she grabs a bit of the banana and rinse and repeat as before, except this one he/she keeps in his/her mouth for bit longer and takes a tiny bit more before the rest gets deposited into his/her bib.

This, in a nutshell, is BLW! It’s all about letting your little one take the lead in exploring new foods, textures, and tastes. No spoon-feeding, just pure, messy, self-directed feeding fun.

The pros of letting your little one loose on solids:

  • Motor Skills: BLW is a sensory party for developing motor skills. Picking up that slippery banana or gumming a chewy piece of toast strengthens those tiny hands and mouth muscles. These are the very skills they’ll need for future talking and chewing.
  • Texture Time: BLW exposes your baby to a variety of textures right from the start. Think soft, steamed broccoli florets or smooth, banana half-slices. This sensory exploration helps them develop an understanding of different textures in the world, which can translate to better oral motor skills needed for speech development.
  • Independence: BLW fosters a sense of self-feeding independence. Your toddler learns to control how much he/she eats and the pace of his/her meal. This can lead to better self-regulation later on, not just with food, but in other areas of his/her development too.
  • A wider variety of flavours: BLW encourages exposure to a wider variety of tastes and smells. Let your baby discover the sweetness of roasted sweet potato or the tang of mashed avocado! This early exploration can lead to less picky eating down the road.

There are some valid concerns:

  • Gagging vs. Choking: One of the biggest concerns parents have about BLW is choking. However, gagging is a natural reflex that helps babies learn to move food safely around their mouths. Choking is much rarer, and with proper food selection and supervision, the risk is very low. The con here really is parental anxiety more than anything else and if you can overcome this then a bit of gagging is just fine and part of the process. Choking, again most children do choke occasionally a bit! Of course, close supervision and common sense is very important here.
  • It’s ever so messy!: Be prepared for mashed banana on the highchair tray, rogue peas flung across the room, and a general sense of chaos. But then again, this is an important part of the learning process! I would encourage you to embrace the mess (within reason and your personal tolerance level) and focus on the fun of exploration.
  • Nutritional Concerns: Some parents worry that babies won’t get enough nutrients with BLW. While it might take a while for them to master the art of self-feeding, a healthy child’s body is pretty good at self-regulating. Offer a variety of healthy options, and he/she will eventually get the hang of it.

BLW: Is it right for your Little One?

BLW isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some things to consider:

  • Developmental Milestones: Babies should be able to sit up with good head control and show an interest in food before starting BLW.
  • General good health and absence of food intolerances, allergies, or other significant health issues which might dictatea more controlled feeding regime.
  • Gag Reflex: A strong gag reflex is a good sign. It shows your baby’s natural ability to move food safely around their mouth. If, however, your baby’s gag is overly sensitive and causes frequent bouts of vomiting please consult your health care professional for an assessment (GP, Paediatrician, Dietician, Speech and Language – Feeding Therapist).
  • Your Comfort Level: BLW requires a relaxed and patient approach. If you’re feeling stressed about the mess or potential choking hazards, it might not be the right fit for you.

A final mouthful:

BLW can be a fantastic way to introduce your baby to solids. It promotes exploration, independence, and a love for food. Remember, there’s no pressure to go all-in on BLW. You can always combine it with spoon-feeding or purees to find an approach that works for your family and your child. The most important thing is to create a positive and relaxed mealtime environment where your little one can explore the wonderful world of food at their own pace.

P.S. As an SLT, I always recommend chatting with your health care professional. This way you can address any concerns you might have and ensure your baby is developmentally and physically on track for this exciting new chapter.

Don’t hesitate to contact me!

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.

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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.

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Teletherapy: A fun and convenient way to help your child master those sounds!

Teletherapy: A fun and convenient way to help your child master those sounds!

It can be hard to get your child to come to the clinic on a weekly basis to work on those tricky sounds. Perhaps the car isn’t working, you have had a lot on, or our student has a bit of a cold but is still able to do a little bit of sound practice?

The good news is that Teletherapy can be a fantastic option to continue your child’s speech journey from the comfort of your own home!

Even when your wifi is not working and your laptop is broken, as you can see on this clip I was able to stretch into running the session on WhatsApp video, but that is less then ideal I will say.

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is speech therapy delivered virtually, through a secure video platform. I use Zoom for example, but I have also used WhatsApp Video Call on occasions where parents’ zoom was not working.

When is Teletherapy perfect?

Here’s why teletherapy can be a great fit for helping your child solidify those learned sounds:

  • Basic sound patterns have been established in clinic: Your child is now able to say those tricky sounds BUT they are not saying them in daily life yet; they are not ‘generalising’ those new sounds into the normal speech.
  • You just can’t make it today: No more fighting traffic or fitting appointments into busy schedules. Teletherapy sessions happen at home, on your time. Sometimes even in the attic or the garden shed as in my video clip here ????
  • Your child is about 7 years old or older and is motivated to work on their sounds: I use fun and interactive online tools and games to keep your child engaged during practice sessions. Due to having done teletherapy over the Covid period I have amassed lots of great games and know-how in this area. Our student needs to be mature enough to be able to sit in front of the laptop camera and participate with a minimum of adult help.
  • Your child loves gaming and is best motivated through online games: Sometimes children are best motivated when playing online games in between speech sound/language activities; in this case teletherapy is totally perfect.
  • Focus on Carryover: The familiar environment of your home can actually be an advantage! I can guide my student on practising sounds in everyday situations, like reading a book together or playing with toys, sometimes even talking to their sibling or a.n.other in the room.
  • Parental Involvement: Teletherapy allows you to be directly involved in the sessions just in same way as when I see your child in my clinic. You can learn strategies and techniques from me to continue practising with your child throughout the day. You can also make a note of the online games I have and then use them in your home sessions.

What to Expect During a Teletherapy Session

  • Initial Consultation: We start with a brief chat on how the week has gone, what gains have been made with the home exercises and we settle the student into a good learning mode; sometimes I start off with a very quick game just to set the scene.
  • Working on generalising: When asking my student about how their week has been I will remind them to remember their new sounds and to try and produce them whilst talking to me. This is already the start of therapy.
  • Practising target sounds: We practice our target sounds in different contexts, using games, visuals, and activities.
  • The teletherapy session lasts the same amount of time as do 1:1 sessions, unless I see that a child becomes very fidgety and we are not able to hold out much longer, I will cut short the session and focus on increased home practice.
  • Home Practice: Just like in 1:1 clinic sessions, I will provide you with easy-to-follow tips and activities to continue practising sounds throughout the week.

Getting Started with Teletherapy

  • Technology Check: Ensure you have a reliable internet connection and a device with a camera and microphone.
  • What device is best: Ideally the student needs to be on a laptop or PC because that way the student can actively engage with their mouse, moving game pieces, or participating in online activities using their mouse. Tablets are ok but do not allow active participation of the student as described above. However once in a while we can make it work and I do have some games and activities that do not rely on student participation.

Finally, I would say that Teletherapy is a safe, fun and effective way to continue your child’s speech therapy journey. It’s convenient, engaging, and it is perfect on a rainy day when you don’t want to or can’t come out to bring your child to clinic.

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.

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

What is MOTOR LEARNING?

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.

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Unveiling the hidden spectrum: Why girls and autism often go unseen
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Unveiling the hidden spectrum: Why girls and autism often go unseen

Unveiling the hidden spectrum: Why girls and autism often go unseen
Image by Freepik

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterised by social-communication challenges, restricted and repetitive behaviours, and sensory processing difficulties. While the prevalence of autism is estimated at 1 in 54 children, research suggests a significant disparity in diagnoses between genders. Boys are diagnosed with autism roughly four times more often than girls, leading us to question: Why are girls so much harder to diagnose with autism?

The answer lies in a complex interplay of factors, including:

1. Different presentations of autistic traits:

  • Socialisation: The stereotypical image of autism often portrays boys with aloofness and a lack of interest in social interaction. However, autistic girls may exhibit more subtle social difficulties. They may appear interested in socialising but struggle with understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact, or navigating complex social dynamics. This ability to ‘camouflage’ their challenges can lead to misinterpretations of their intentions and abilities.
  • Restricted interests: While autistic boys may have intense interests in stereotypically ‘masculine’ topics like dinosaurs or trains, girls might gravitate towards interests traditionally associated with girls, like specific characters or activities. These interests, often deemed ‘typical’ might be overlooked as potential indicators of autism.
  • Repetitive behaviours: Repetitive behaviours are another core diagnostic feature of autism. However, autistic girls may exhibit these behaviours in more subtle ways, such as intense focus on specific routines, scripting conversations, or engaging in repetitive social interactions. These subtle expressions can easily go unnoticed.

2. The ‘camouflage’ effect:

Autistic girls, particularly those with higher cognitive abilities, may develop coping mechanisms to mask their challenges in social situations. This ‘camouflaging’ can involve mimicking social behaviours they observe in others, leading to significant internal distress and exhaustion. This effort to appear ‘normal/typical’ can further hinder accurate diagnosis.

3. Societal biases and diagnostic tools:

  • Gender bias: The current diagnostic criteria for autism were largely developed based on studies of boys, leading to a potential bias towards male presentations of the condition. This can result in girls who don’t exhibit the ‘typical’ symptoms being missed altogether.
  • Lack of awareness: Healthcare professionals and educators may have limited awareness of how autism manifests differently in girls. This lack of understanding can lead to misinterpretations of their behaviours and missed opportunities for diagnosis and support. I must say that this is really common in my working day. I see a child—girls or boys in this case to be fair, but mainly girls—where parents tell me: the doctor/health visitor/paediatrician has said it was ‘just a little delay’ and I am thinking ‘Really!??? What did they look at? How did they not see X Y Z’… It really is still very common.

4. Co-occurring conditions:

Autistic girls are more likely to experience co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression, which can overshadow the core features of autism. This makes it even more challenging to identify the underlying autism diagnosis.

The consequences of missed diagnoses and this goes of course for both, autistic girls AND boys!:

The consequences of undiagnosed autism can be significant. Children may experience:

  • Lack of access to appropriate support: Without a diagnosis, children may miss out on crucial interventions and therapies that can help them manage their challenges and thrive.
  • Increased vulnerability to mental health issues: The stress of masking and navigating social complexities can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.
  • Difficulty forming meaningful relationships: Social difficulties and communication challenges can hinder their ability to build and maintain healthy relationships.

Moving forward: Towards a more inclusive diagnosis:

To ensure all individuals on the spectrum receive the support they need, it’s crucial to:

  • Increase awareness and education: Healthcare professionals, educators, and the general public need to be educated about the diverse presentations of autism in girls and of course also in boys. Let’s not forget that we are still seeing older autistic boys with diagnoses given aged 12 years and older who have slipped through the net.
  • Develop gender-neutral diagnostic tools: Diagnostic criteria and assessments should be revised to encompass the broader spectrum of autistic traits, regardless of gender.
  • Encourage open communication: Parents, caregivers, and individuals themselves should be encouraged to voice their concerns and seek evaluations, even if their experiences don’t perfectly align with stereotypical presentations of autism.

By acknowledging the complexities of diagnosing autism, particularly in girls, and working towards a more inclusive approach, we can pave the way for earlier diagnoses, appropriate support, and a brighter future for all individuals on the autism spectrum.

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.

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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.

Remember:

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.

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Stage 2 NLA
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Stage 2 NLA

Image by Freepik

Last time we asked: is our child ready tp move to Stage 2 NLA (Natural Language Acquisition stage 2) and we looked at how we can know. Now we know: he/she is ready, they are mixing and matching those scripts quite liberally! Hurrah!

So for example we hear phrases like:

  • ‘let’s go’+ ‘downstairs’
  • ‘it’s’ + ‘downstairs’
  • ‘I see it’ + ‘downstairs‘
  • ‘I want to’ + ‘shoes downstairs’ (I want to put my shoes on downstairs)

To recap, it’s important to listen out to a variety of contexts because if we only hear the single version of a gestalt —this is so great, hurrah!— but that’s not yet Stage 2.

What we can now do on a daily basis to help and support at this time:

1. We need to offer more ‘mix and match’ phrases to help our child establish this new way of communicating.

Good phrases:

  • It’s … raining / cooking / eating / washing / brushing
  • That’s … great / cool / amazing / wow / so good
  • Let’s … see / look / go / run / chase
  • How’bout … some food / playing / I’ll chase / sleeping / we read a book
  • I see a … bird / large car / fire engine
  • I wanna … have a biscuit / have a book / have a snuggle
  • We’re … going out / going home / going in the car / going upstairs

Here in my video clip of train play I use:

  • Let’s go
  • It’s going up the hill
  • It’s coming down
  • Ooops it falls!
  • It’s stopping
  • Let’s put on another parcel
  • Ready steady go
  • Off we go
  • It’s come off!
  • Let’s fix it
  • I can do it
  • I don’t need help

You can offer these gestalts either with an AAC as you can see me do in the video clip or you can just verbally offer these.

2. Watch out for Pronoun confusion or reversal:

Gestalt kids repeat gestalts, so we don’t want to create ‘pronoun reversal’.

Instead model from a:

  • first person perspective: ‘I’ / ‘Our’ / ‘Us’
  • joint perspective: ‘We’ / ‘Let’s’ or a
  • neutral perspective: ‘It’

You can turn almost any sentence into a good language model once you get used to it. And you can avoid ‘you’ and ‘your’ at the same time!

So instead of saying, ‘Do you want to go to the park?’

You could say:

  • We wanna go to the park?
  • Let’s go out?
  • Shall we go out / to the park?

3. Start providing ‘variation’ in your language modelling:

Instead of just modelling something one way, start thinking about offering a pattern in a couple of other ways, in a couple of different situations, then several ways in several different situations.

Example: once you hear your child saying: ‘it’s raining’ and you know it’s a mitigation, because you don’t often say ‘it’s raining’, or haven’t said it in a while and you know your child says other ‘it’s’ phrases.

Repeat: ‘it’s raining!’

Then: ‘it’s’ + ‘raining hard’ / ‘it’s wet out there’ / ‘It’s’ + ‘raining lot’s’.

Then later think of other combinations for ‘it’s’ + ‘something’:

  • (rice) ‘It’s’ + ‘cooking’
  • (water/tap) ‘It’s’ + ‘running’
  • (radio) ‘It’s’ + ‘singing
  • (dog) ‘It’s’ + ‘peeing’ / ‘it’s’ + ‘running’ / ‘it’s’ + ‘jumping’

In my train video clip:

  • Let’s go
  • It’s going
  • Let’s make it go
  • Ready steady go
  • Oops its gone

4. Use natural intonation that shows you really mean what you’re saying.

You can be animated or try for musical if your child prefers that / doesn’t mind you singing —they might not like it if their hearing is pitch perfect and your singing is off key…—

  • ‘I’m’ + ‘trying to find you!’ (animated, goofy face)
  • ‘I’m’ +’ getting tired!’ (exaggerated stretch and yawn)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘catching up with you!’ (animated goofy)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘gonna get you!’ (animated goofy)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘sad right now’ (exaggerated face and tone of voice)

5. USE SILENCE!

Important, I might not have said this before but we need to hold back sometimes (hard I know) and not constantly offer models. Let our child sit in a bit of silence with us there just observing and waiting for their own offers. This is a very important point. Silence is golden sometimes. Try it out. I am not talking about the silence that comes with a person scrolling on their phone though, we do need to be present and receptive.

You will see this works wonders!

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.

You can also check my friend’s lovely handmade jewelry on her website.


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.

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