Four struggles parents face when out and about with children with speech, language, and communication difficulties

Four struggles parents face when out and about with children with speech, language, and communication difficulties

A man and a woman hug a young girl at a table

You (as parents) often describe yourselves as being under constant pressure and stress when looking after your children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). You may find going out to do the simplest of tasks a challenge. And you will try to avoid social situations out of fear and anxiety. One of the most important factors to you is having like-minded people who understand your position as a parent with a young person with additional needs. Let’s look at some of the challenges you face and how I can support you and your family.

1. Challenging behaviour and going out to the shops

When your child displays challenging behaviour and won’t go into a shop without buying a toy that they insist on having, it can be tough on your family. You see people around you staring as you try to manage the situation. They do not understand the pressures you face, or that the simplest of tasks are a huge challenge.

I can support you by giving strategies to use when out and about. I know that using visuals is important for your child. They may not understand or take in language when they are in a heightened state of anxiety or feeling overwhelmed. You could print pictures of the places you’re going to and put them on an easily accessible chain. Then you could use that chain when out and about at the shops. You may want to introduce a visual timetable at home. That way your child or young person understands where they are going. This may lessen their anxiety and subsequent behaviour.

2. Your child is not able to communicate their needs to an unfamiliar communication partner

When your child has difficulty communicating to an unfamiliar person it can be hard to manage. You feel yourself explaining your situation repeatedly. I can provide your child with individualised strategies or communication aids which support your child to communicate with both familiar and unfamiliar communication partners. We’ll work together to find which communication methods work in different situations and how your child will use these to help their independence.

3. Being overwhelmed

Your child or young person may easily be overwhelmed which may contribute to behaviour changes. I’ll work with your family to understand what the behaviour means, looking at what happened before and what happened afterwards. We’ll not only look at the behaviour but at the environment as well. This can inform how you can support your child or young person in the future, to reduce sensory stimuli (if needed) and for them to feel emotionally regulated.

4. People avoid engaging with you

One of the hardest things as a parent is for others to avoid you. You see them crossing the street because they don’t know what to say to you. All you want is them to accept you, to maintain your identity as a person and not as a SEND parent. I can support you emotionally. I can give you advice on local support networks where you can find other parents in a similar situation.

We know the stresses that being a parent with a child with SEND comes with. Please know I am always here to support you, to find solutions so that when you’re next out and about. Your experience will be a little easier and you’ll feel less isolated.

Improve your child’s communication, confidence, reduce overwhelm and feel supported 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.

Joint Attention For Children With Autism

Joint Attention For Children With Autism

Kids Speech Therapist London

Why is joint engagement important for communication development?

It has been well-documented that the development of joint attention is impaired in children who have social communication difficulties or autism. It is, in fact, this impairment which distinguishes children with ASD from children who have other developmental delays.

A lack of joint attention in very young children is an early sign of autism as it is a signal that there is a disruption in the motivation to connect socially with others. Since this is a crucial element, I thought I would outline what we mean by Joint Attention as supported by the research undertaken at

In typically developing children, the ability to shift attention between a person and an object for the purposes of connecting socially or for requesting develops around the same time. However, for children with ASD, these components emerge one at a time and in a linear fashion. Children with ASD usually start with requesting something and later they may learn to share attention for social sharing. (see pattern below as a general guide).

As with typical development, there is variation in the order that these skills emerge but the following patterns of development is commonly seen:

  • Reaching, taking adult’s arm/hand or pointing to ask for something — but without looking at the adult
  • Gradually alternating looking between person and object of desire
  • Then learning to follow the point of another — which is responding to joint attention initiated by another
  • Directing attention to share interests — without looking at the adult: pointing to a truck on the road/ helicopter circling above
  • Then directing attention to share interest by alternating gaze shift between person and object — here the child is now initiating joint attention.

What is important to note is that in order to fulfil the criteria for true joint attention, the purpose of directing the attention of another person must be social in nature. In other words, it must not be exclusively to obtain a desirable object or event/action. True Joint Attention is seen verbally or non-verbally; we want to share a thought with another person and direct them to something we are interested or excited or spooked by.

For example: we can see an amazing firework display in the distance and we want to quickly direct our friend’s attention to this. In order to do this we might be tugging their sleeve/arm whilst pointing to the display in the distance, and perhaps we might add “wow look over there!” We are doing so simply to share an interest without obtaining anything, we are just being social with each other. So True Joint Attention is not just looking at what we want to have, then look at the person who can get this for us and then point to the item. We can say that this is the precursor to true joint attention, which is purely social in nature.

Because true joint attention is an essential precursor to typical language development, the absence of joint attention in children with ASD contributes to difficulties with language learning. Beuker, K., Rommelse, N., Donders, R. & Buitelaar, J. (2013).

The Hanen programme for Parent Child Interaction teaches parents of children with Social Communication Difficulties step by step how to enable their children to learn to pay attention to an object and the parent at the same time.

We learn how to enable a child to:

  • engage take turns
  • shift eye gaze between toy and adult
  • copy adult’s actions, gestures and then words
  • play with toys in different, new ways
  • interact and for longer periods of time
  • have fun whilst playing

If you would like to know more about the Hanen programme please get in touch. I look forward to exploring the topic with you and help guide you forward if this is something your child is struggling with.

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.