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.

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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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Let’s live and breathe AAC
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Let’s live and breathe AAC

We all have the right and want to express thoughts, feelings, and needs. For non-speaking or minimally speaking children, finding an avenue to communicate effectively can be a challenging journey. Parents are often at a loss as to where to start. Sometimes a little bit of Makaton signing has been used here and there but we mostly find that gradually signing fades as parents feel that it just doesn’t seem to get copied and used by the children.

They live and breathe their system

This is where we need to pick up the pieces and start again: because all successful families where children start using their boards or their electronic AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) systems do this one thing: THEY LIVE AND BREATHE THEIR SYSTEM.

  • They have boards in every single room of the house;
  • They have a board in the car, attached to the side of car door so their child can point to it as they need to;
  • They have a smaller board in their handbag/rucksack when out and about;
  • They have a board for shopping and attach it to the shopping trolley;
  • They are never ever without their board.

Because they realise that a child should never be without their mouths to speak, should never be without a means to speak. They use their own board to model and the child has always access to their board to model back or to just look.

This is where success begins

Success begins at consistent and joyful use of the board/AAC system throughout the entire day. If we think about it, doesn’t it make sense? Of course, it does! We talk to our child for the first two years of their life continuously wherever we are and our child is continuously encouraged to use their mouths for talking in all situations.

Same goes for Signing: Makaton or any other sign system is a very powerful means to aid communication and I certainly advocate and use it in practice. Though much like words, signs are very elusive and temporary—as soon as the sign has been made it is gone and no longer present. Same with words of course. This can be difficult for people who need longer to process information.

The beauty of symbols or photographs is that they are permanent: they don’t vanish, they stay and with the core board they stay in the same place! This is very reassuring. We can learn where a symbol is and we can be assured that it will still be there the next time we look at the board.

AAC core board

Here is a picture of a core board:

AAC board

You can download this and other boards for free on the Saltillo Word Power website.

It has 48 cells and we can see the most frequently used core words on here, words that we use 80% of the day when talking with our non-speaking/minimally speaking children, younger children and children with cognitive delay. We keep our sentences short and we say phrases pertaining to their daily lives;

  • Let’s GET your toy
  • PUT it here, PUT it away, PUT it IN
  • Let’s READ a book
  • UP you get
  • WANT some MORE?
  • That’s GOOD isn’t it?
  • Let’s OPEN the box and LOOK

And so on… All these phrases can be aided with the above board. Your child will learn OVER TIME and OVER CONTINUOUS USE where GET/PUT/MORE/WANT/IN—where these symbols are. For children who are slow to process this is so helpful, to have a visual representation of what has just been said. It aids understanding in the first place. Gradually as a child starts to copy they will point to powerful symbols themselves and if they want to speak they can also speak of course:

A child might point to WANT + MORE and then say with their mouths: BANANA!

Board examples

Here are some other boards I have made specifically for daily situations and preferences of some of my students. Here is one for toileting:

AAC toileting board

And another one:

These boards incorporate high-frequency and versatile words, enabling us to make little sentences.

Building Language and Literacy Skills

AAC Core Boards are not just tools for immediate communication. They also play a pivotal role in language and literacy development. By using these boards, non-speaking children engage with words and symbols, reinforcing their understanding of language structure and grammar.

Over time they naturally absorb language patterns, laying the foundation for improved literacy skills.

Customisation for Individual Needs

Every non-speaking child is unique, and their communication needs can vary significantly. AAC Core Boards are designed with this diversity in mind. The boards can be adapted to include specific vocabulary relevant to the child’s daily life, interests, and activities. This personalisation ensures that the AAC Core Board is a true reflection of the child’s personality and needs, making communication more engaging and effective.

Collaboration between AAC Core Boards and Speech Therapy

While AAC Core Boards are an incredible tool, they are only used effectively by the non-speaking child when the board is used BY ALL COMMUNICATION PARTNERS around the child.

Again, I know I am being repetitive here, but the board needs to be used and modelled by the adults constantly in the first place and for a period of time before we can expect our children to take an interest and use the boards themselves. Think how long it typically takes for a child to learn their first word: around a year! During that time the adults talk constantly to their child without hesitation or expectation! The same goes for introducing this new way of communicating.

Collaborating with your child’s speech-language therapist (SLT) ensures that your child receives the right guidance in using the AAC system. SLTs can assess your child’s communication abilities, recommend appropriate boards and provide guidance on how to best implement them.

Conclusion

For non-speaking children, AAC Core Boards are bridges to their world.

These boards foster language development, social interaction, and personal expression. AAC Core Boards offer a beacon of hope, helping non-speaking children break through communication barriers and thrive in a world that is waiting to hear their voices. Boards are simple for anyone to use and understand. Have a go! You will be surprised how lovely it is to use a board with ease and once your child sees you do this, you have a chance for your child to start copying you…and express something! HOW ABOUT THAT! I look forward to hearing your stories!

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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Answers to very common questions I get as a Feeding Therapist
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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.

Tips:

  • 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.

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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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How do we know our Gestalt Learner is moving to Stage 2?
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How do we know our Gestalt Learner is moving to Stage 2?

Image by Freepik

Is our student ready to move to NLA 2 (Natural Language Acquisition stage 2)?

We know that the GLP (Gestalt Language Processor) will move into the next stage when they are ready. But are they now ready you might think? When are they ready? How do I know? If you are not sure whether your child is ready to move forward then go and see your GLP trained Speech Therapist. Together you can work out what the next steps are and how to help your child settle into NLA 2. It’s very exciting!!

Tip

The first useful tip: keep a language sample of phrases your child says. This is very helpful!

You might want to check with your Speech Therapist and offer some language sampling you have taken so they can help you figure out where your child is currently. Always keep an Utterance Journal that you can share with your Speech Therapist and with others who look after your child.

Basically, we want to listen out for phrases our child says that you or nursery don’t say routinely; that way you can presume that this is not an echo but a mixing together of two chunks of gestalts. Watch out for those coco melon phrases though: double check it really isn’t an NLA 1 gestalt that is copied verbatim from a favourite you tube video.

You can best support your child best by listening, and thus figuring out what your child is TRYING TO SAY. Often your child might skip over the parts of gestalts they don’t want to say. This is common in older kids who have long gestalts, sometimes even whole episodes or whole stories!

Try and tease out their shorter mitigations and then focus on practicing and modelling those as they are so much more useful!

So back to our question: are they ready?

Are their gestalts covering a variety of situations and contexts?

Make a note in your journal to see what the backgrounds are to each phrase you ear, so for example:

  • Transitioning: ‘it’s time for the park’ ‘what’s next’ ‘shoes on’
  • Bed Time: ‘we need to wash’ ‘let’s get in (bath/bed)’ ‘ready for our book’
  • Toilet/nappy: ‘we need the potty’ ‘where’s the potty’ ‘let’s wash hands’
  • Mealtime: ‘time to eat’ ‘go get a spoon’ ‘yummy num num’
  • Park/going out: ‘look at the squirrel’ ‘funny doggy’ ‘I wanna swing’
  • At the shops: ‘let’s get the trolley’ ‘lots of veggies’ ‘no tomatoes’ ‘ooh long queue’ ‘back to the car’

And… does the child use the phrases for a variety of functions?

  • labelling
  • providing information
  • calling out
  • affirming
  • requesting
  • protesting
  • directing

We need to offer lots of similar language models so that in their own time our children can extract/mitigate useful phrases for what they want to express. The more similar utterances a child hears around him the more he/she can discover the communalities. Once the child has a small range of phrases, he/she can mix them up and create semi-original own phrases.

If the answer is YES!! our child has perhaps not all but a range of functions and a range of situations where they use a variety of easily mitigable gestalts then yes they are ready for moving to stage 2 of NLA!

Hurrah!

Keeping a journal of what your child is saying and in what circumstance is crucial to help with our ongoing detective work!

Next time I will be looking at how we can help our NLA 2 GLP produce even more of their own mix and match phrases.

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.

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A day in my life as an Independent Speech and Language Therapist

A day in my life as an Independent Speech and Language Therapist

During the pandemic I wrote a blog on what my working day looked like. Now a good year has passed since coming back to some sort of normality and I thought I would update this ‘day in the life of an SLT’ as my working life has changed of course to reflect the ‘new normal’.

I have become truly busy, perhaps busier than I have ever been to be honest. It’s probably mostly due to the fact that I do most of the aspects of my work myself — though I want to mention two invaluable people here without whom I could not function as well as I do: the excellent Nathalie Mahieu () helps me with my SEO, Insta posts and blog uploading and the wonderful Sue Bainbridge () makes sure that my accounts don’t get into trouble with His Majesty’s tax office.

Attached to our role as Speech and Language Therapists is an arguably enormous amount of administration/paperwork and preparation required for each and every client. This needs to be factored in when deciding how many families I can realistically see each working day. For me it works out as typically 3–5 clients a day, Monday to Friday.

So how does my day typically look? Each day varies a lot depending on what type of client I have, but on average it looks a bit like this:

First thing in the morning — after having a coffee and a quick check-in with my besties on WhatsApp — I do my Buddhist chanting for about an hour. My Buddhist prayers are the base of all I do and get me connected to my higher purpose and how to create value with each activity and each person I see that day. It sets me up for the day, I keep in mind who is going to come and see me and how I can best help them.

Next up, I do the daily ‘spring-clean’ of my therapy room (on all fours! no joke ???? those kids see every speck!), vacuum the floors, wipe down the toys with flash-wipes and tidy up all my boxes, making sure that the battery toys are working, and everything else is in place. On to the guest toilet, the hallway needs to be rid of all the men’s shoes and trainers and coats… It’s endless what needs tidying when you are living with three men… This takes about 45 minutes.

An articulation activity – packaging practice into a little game

Then I prep for all my clients that day. I have now got so much quicker about selecting therapy materials. For one thing I have purchased so many toys and materials over the past five years that I can literally now open a shop and need to consider building an extension! ???? The upside is that it is now very easy for me to select a good handful of toys or games for any one child, even at a minute’s notice. Though, on average, I spend about 30 minutes per child preparing activities.

Hurrah, it’s 11 am and my first client of the day arrives and the fun begins.

When they leave around an hour later, the cleaning and wiping down starts again, this time less extensively. I write up my notes and send homework whilst enjoying a cuppa.

The next client comes at 12.30 pm and once they have left, floor cleaned, toys wiped, notes written it is time for a quick lunch. No more than half an hour usually.

Afternoon clients tend to be one more little one (nursery age) at 2.15 pm and thereafter I see mostly older school children for a variety of reasons (mainly speech production but also some language-based activities). I tend to say farewell to my last client of the day around 6 pm. I spend another hour, sometimes more, on writing up notes, answering new enquiries, blogging and phone calls to keep my service fresh, inspirational and exciting.

And then dinner and the rest of the day rushes by. I tend to finish my day with some more Buddhist chanting, not a lot, perhaps 10–20 minutes to reflect on what has gone well and what could have been better — re-determine to improve or make better as needed.

Tele therapy activity using online materials plus a coreboard

In terms of where I provide a service, I still do a good mix of online clients (tele-therapy) and in-person clients in my clinic, which I love. Occasionally, I visit children in their nursery or at home but this service is now only available for long-standing clients.

Each client is hand-picked to make sure that we are a good fit: no one client gets the same treatment as another; each client is unique, we get to know one another well over the time we work together and they are always highly valued. That takes time and, in reality, each client gets about two hours of my time. That is the actual session plus all the preparation and aftercare, i.e., bespoke hand holding, tweaks, problem solving and reassurance in between sessions.

I absolutely love this way of working and would not ever want to do anything else. Nearly three decades of working both in the NHS and in private practice, countless courses (continual professional development) have enabled me to flourish as a therapist and I know that I offer something special and very valuable to my clients.

My unique way of working affords all my lovely clients the help they need to support their children to make progress; and it gives me the right balance of job satisfaction and work life balance for now. My lovely reviews and testimonials tell me that my clients appreciate my service and this at the end of the day is the most important.

If you are interested in exploring Buddhism/buddhist chanting then check out this link (https://sgi-uk.org/), and feel free to contact me about that specifically, regardless of whether you want speech therapy. I am always happy to chat about Buddhism, it has been so enriching for the last 43 years of my life.

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.

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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.

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