New Year good communication habits
Amongst consuming an abundance of food, opening presents, returning some of them (!) and watching Christmas movie after Christmas movie, this time of year often keeps us occupied in one other way; thinking about our new years resolutions.
In fact it’s hard to get through the last and first month of the year without someone asking you what you are going to change.
Plunging in to the new year with a whole list of things to change can be disheartening and often unrealistic! Not to mention; change can be hard and sometimes change can take a long time.
Food for thought
At this time of year we can quite literally have enough on our plates to even contemplate piling them up higher. Hats off to you if you did shed that half a stone or visit your in laws more. If you can do it then go for it. But let’s face it, we are already doing so may things well, why not focus on what we are already getting right and perhaps fine tune and increase the frequency?
This sounds more like a recipe for success. Don’t you agree?
Resolve to reflect
So when it comes to supporting communication, you probably know of and are no doubt using some great strategies. You may have picked these up on our previous blogs. Sometimes all we need is a little reminder .
Picking a couple of things and making them a habit is key. Take a few minutes to think about what you already do successfully, that could be optimized with a revisit. Write these down or tell someone about them. For some more inspiration, look at the list below:
6 New Year Communication Habits
- Reduce questions and increasing comments. This is a great one for taking the pressure away from child to talk. Comment on the world around you, books or simply on the task at hand e.g. “ you are building a really big colourful tower”
- Wait ten seconds for a response. This seems like a really long time but you will be surprised!
- Model back correct language. This not only demonstrates to your child that you were listening to them, but provides a good language model for them to copy. E.g child: ‘Put the presents down the tree!’. Adult: ‘ yes let’s put the presents at the bottom of the tree”
- Acknowledge the message rather than its accuracy. When your child has made and error but you understand what they have said, continue the communication exchange and respond appropriately. This will ensure that communication remains motivating and that your child doesn’t become frustrated and give up.
- Reduce background distractions. Take time where you can and focus on just the conversation. Turn off the TV and put the phone in silent.
- Provide feedback– comment on what you are pleased with e.g. ‘ I really like it when you use your words/ talk in sentences/remember your ‘p’ sound). Be sure to tell your child why e.g “ it helps me to understand/,it lets me know what you want” . This might also work for other things too e.g. “ I like it when you clean your room, it makes it look so pretty,”
Try using your useful strategies a few times a day or in a set 15 minute focused time. Think about where you would like to start. How often can you focus on using communication support strategies?. Can you focus every day at a particular time? Perhaps during breakfast or bath time? Maybe it suits your lifestyle better to put 15 minutes aside for this daily or perhaps focusing on it at the weekend is a good place to start?
Reflections rather than resolutions
Wherever you start, think about what has worked well for you and your family over the last year? What things have you already started doing that you can fine tune and perfect?
So enjoy those fully loaded plates of food, unwrapping gifts and watching the old traditional movies. And from all of us here at Iris Speaks, enjoy reflecting!
Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s Speech and Language Therapist
Practical takeaways for a Speech Error
The Iris Speaks Free Guide to the Ultimate Speech Strategies E-book
How to tell if your child has verbal dyspraxia
It is not an easy task for a small child to understand their emotions. That is why we love this book ‘The colour monster’ by Anna Llenas. The story of this cute little creature’s day aims to help our own little monsters raise their emotional awareness and make facing their feelings just that little bit less of a monstrous task!
Why get emotional about it?
Understanding our own emotions and the emotions of others is called Theory of Mind (ToM). With research highlighting links between ToM and language skills, it has become a hot topic within speech and language therapy. ToM starts to develop quite early on and can be encouraged by talking to our children about their emotions and the emotions of others. From around 4 years of age children might start to develop skills in thinking about how another person feels. Using books at this stage can be lots of fun and help them on their way to understanding emotions.
The colour monster
We meet the colour monster at the start of a day that is threatening to be rather confusing for him. This baffled little monster is in a bit of a frenzy over his feelings.
His emotions are cleverly depicted by colours. This little stumped soul is bemused and wearing all his emotions (colours) at the same time. The colours are intertwined and swirled together in a jumbled-up mess. Picture your child’s face and hands after a painting session. It is quite clear that this little guy needs a bit of help and along comes a trusted friend to lead the way.
She takes each colour, one by one and talks it through with the troubled guy.
Whilst giving the feelings a name, she explains what the feeling might make you want to do e.g. “anger can make you want to stomp”, thus helping children to recognize and identity with the different feelings. This could act as a great prompt to get your child to talk about what anger or another emotion makes them want to do.
This clued up companion goes on to say what you can do when you feel a certain way. When addressing fear, she says “If you are scared, tell me why and we will through the forest together”. Thinking about why we feel a certain way and what we can do about it can be a little tricky. With the monster sharing his emotions first and leading the way, we can then go on to attempt the same dialogue with our children.
What started out as a daunting day, turns in to a vibrant and educational journey for the colour monster. Together with the little girl they have organized his emotions and they are no longer tangled up. His world is much clearer.
For little ones and adults who enjoyed the movie Inside Out, this book is a must!!
Get our FREE Reading Skills Course!
Carrying over the colour of your emotions!
The colour monster book provides a lovely fun read with lots of talking points. You can try some of the below:
- Guess how the colour monster feels. As you look at each page see if you and your child can remember how the colour monster is feeling by looking at the colour.
- As you go through the story ask your child when they have felt sad/happy/ etc.
- What does it make them want to do?
- Are they the same or different from the colour monster?
- What about other people? Together can you think of how other people in the family feel and how they show it? What colour are their emotions?
- Together can you think of other emotions that the colour monster might have but has not shared in this story? What colour might they be?
Other fun activities
-Draw and colour pictures of how you are feeling today, what colour are you?
– Can you remember what emotions go with what colours? Use different colored tokens, or paper and match the right colours to the word for the emotion.
– create a mood map of the monster’s day by putting different coloured pieces of paper/tokens, or colouring in squares on a piece of paper in order e.g. morning, afternoon, evening.
– Share mood maps of your day. What colour did you feel in the morning, afternoon, evening.
Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s speech and language therapist
Access the best UK based speech and language therapists from anywhere in the world 7 days a week online and at home. Visit irisspeaks.com/consultation
to book to speak to us now.
Theory of mind and importance for speech therapy
Best two books for supporting language
What is colourful semantics?
Lego therapy love
I love it when research finds that something my students love doing is also really beneficial. Lego has been one of my favourite toys since childhood (I loved my pirate island), and a key part of my therapy toolkit since I qualified. But how can I claim Lego and lego therapy is so much more than a bit of fun?
Lego therapy groups are an evidence-based (LeGoff and Sherman 2006 , Owens, Granader, Humphrey and Baron-Cohen 2008), highly motivating and practical way of working on social communication skills. They are enjoyed by children and young people of all ages (although this post will refer to ‘children’ throughout for ease). I have even heard of some corporate away days using similar activities to develop team-work skills! They are also much more reflective of the actual play or social scenarios the child is likely to experience, compared to other social skills group formats.
Lego therapy sessions develop a lot of different skills:
- Team work, as the children have to work together to achieve a completed model
- Accepting your role, and practicing taking different roles within a group
- Listening and following instructions from others, particularly for the supplier and builder roles
- Giving instructions containing a range of vocabulary and language structures, such as adjectives (e.g. the size and colour of pieces) and prepositions (e.g. ‘at the side of the spaceship’, ‘behind the green square’)
- Communicating clearly (e.g. at the right volume and speed, giving enough information), and ensuring the other group members have understood
- Strategies to ‘repair’ a conversation if something goes wrong, such as asking for clarification if you don’t understand an instruction,
- Practical problem solving and flexibility of thought, e.g. what to do if you can’t attach the piece in the way described, or if the piece you need is missing from the box
- Expressing ideas clearly, listening to other’s ideas, and negotiating when building “freestyle”
This is how lego therapy sessions work…
There are normally three group members:
- An engineer (who has the instructions)
- A supplier (who has the bricks)
- A builder (who builds the model!)
Children can swap between the roles within the same session, or keep the same role for the whole session. Children agree to follow the ‘Lego group rules’, such as ‘if you break it you have to fix it or ask for help to fix it’, ‘do not put Lego bricks in your mouth’.
Children start by working together to build small models from instructions (I choose models that can be completed in one session), then can move on to building larger models with instructions over a series of group sessions. You can also have sessions of “freestyle” building where the children have a challenge (e.g. build a car), but no instructions to follow.
An adult is present during the session to help the group run smoothly, but crucially not to solve the children’s social problems for them – instead they just draw the children’s attention to a problem, and help them come up with their own solutions.
Adult: “There’s a bit of a problem here, does anyone know what it is?”
Child: “Sam got the wrong piece out of the box”
Adult: “How could you make sure he gets the right piece?”
Child: “Sam, I need a big red piece”
Adult: “That was a good idea – what did you just do?”
Child: “Said it again”
Adult: “Did Sam get the right piece that time?”
Adult: “Your idea worked! How do you feel now?”
Once the group have identified a good strategy, then this can be practiced in future groups until the children are using the strategy independently. I like to remind the children of useful strategies they have identified and been practicing at the beginning of each session. In this way, the children identify strategies they are happy using, and can start to reflect on the impact of their communication skills on other children.
So Lego therapy groups can be a really powerful way of developing social communication skills. If your child’s school suggests your child joins a Lego therapy group, you can be sure they are doing so much more than just ‘having fun’ (although it is a lot of fun too!). For more information about the benefits of play for children of all ages, see our ‘child’s play’ blog post. Lego can also be used in Speech and Language therapy sessions to help practice a range of other communication skills, such as extending sentence length (e.g. moving from ‘blue brick’, ‘there’ to ‘put the big blue brick on the flat red piece at the front’) or as a motivator in speech work. Lego is truly a versatile and fun therapy tool!
A word of warning
Some schools run ‘Lego clubs’ which are opportunities for children to play with Lego without the structure of a Lego therapy group. They can build whatever they want, on their own or with other children, and usually don’t have instructions to follow. Whilst this can also be useful to help some children learn to play alongside others, this is very different to a Lego therapy group. You may want to check with your school whether they are running a ‘Lego club’ or a ‘Lego therapy group’ if you think Lego therapy is the best option for your child.
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist and proud owner of a Lego Pirate Island
Why are nursery/school bothered about play skills?
Happy families – how to help siblings get on. Tips for fun playdates.
The importance of rhyme, song and repetition
How can speech and language therapy help my child?
Speech and language therapy can help by providing treatment, support and care for children who have difficulties with communication.
Speech and language therapists are qualified health professionals who can support children with primary speech, language and communication difficulties, such as stammering as well as speech, language and communication difficulties that are secondary to other conditions such as learning difficulties and hearing problems.
Speech and language therapists also support premature babies and infants with conditions such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate and Down’s syndrome from very early in life. They may have difficulties with drinking, swallowing and early play and communication skills.
17 areas speech and language therapists help with
Here are just some of the important ways that speech and language therapists can help your child:
– Pre-school language problems
– Delayed development
– Trouble understanding meanings, gestures, directions or answering questions
– Problems identifying words, objects and pictures
– Problems putting words into sentences or learning new vocabulary, songs or rhymes
– Having difficulty understanding what others say
– Poor pronunciation
– Speech and language delays
– Stammering or speech difficulties
– Falling behind in learning numbers, letters, spelling or telling the time
– Learning disabilities
– Not being able to form words (Apraxia)
– Early play and communication skills
– Asperger Syndrome
– Hearing difficulties
The list is not exhaustive – and speech and language therapists can help your child in a range of other ways.
The important thing to remember is that every child is different and that is why a qualified speech and language therapist will assess your exact needs and development goals to come up with a plan to help meet these vital communication needs.
Iris Speaks provides an initial consultation to determine if your child could benefit from speech and language therapy. Then, if you feel a speech and language therapist can help, we undertake a full expert assessment of your child’s exact needs and organise a personalised and flexible ongoing programme of support just for you and your child.
Access the best UK based speech and language therapists from anywhere in the world 7 days a week online and at home. Visit irisspeaks.com/consultation
to book to speak to us now.
How to tell if your child has a speech or language issue
How can I access speech and language therapy for my child?
5 common myths about online speech therapy
How can I access speech and language therapy?
Speech and language therapy can be a vital way to help improve the quality of life of your son or daughter by helping them communicate, learn, develop their language and achieve their true potential.
Expert therapy is carried out by qualified Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) who are trained to help children and adults improve their communication abilities and skills.
SLTs usually work with children, and their parents, on an individual basis to provide a customised programme of support to meet specific needs and goals. This is usually based on a development plan that identifies key communication, language and learning difficulties and how to help overcome these and reach important goals and milestones.
Speech and language therapy can be accessed free of charge on the NHS. You can contact your local NHS Speech and Language Therapy service, or speak to your GP, Health Visitor or school staff about a referral. Some schools also employ specialist speech and language therapists where demand is high with many children needing urgent improvement in their learning and language skills.
If you get referred to the NHS you will normally be put on a waiting list to access speech and language therapy.
However, waiting lists can be long. According to a survey by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists some children have had to wait a year to see a therapist. The institution suggests quality of care has been impacted by NHS cuts as half of services across the NHS, schools and local authorities in the UK have had budgets significantly reduced.
Private speech therapy
The alternative to the NHS waiting lists is private therapy with qualified speech and language therapists. You can contact speech and language therapists directly without an NHS referral. You will need to pay for any therapy. But the advantage is you can start assessing and addressing your child’s communication problems much sooner and seek improvements when it can matter most.
As well as Iris Speaks, which provides access to affordable speech and language assessment and therapy in your own home, you can contact the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice to find your local independent therapists.
This sort of service also allows you to make appointments at times to suit you and your child and see therapists more frequently to maximise the impact and improvements for your son or daughter.
You can top up your NHS therapy
And remember accessing an independent speech and language therapist doesn’t have to mean you lose your place in the NHS queue.
You can see a therapist before you get NHS treatment and continue, if you wish to, in conjunction with, or after any help you get from the NHS.
Whichever route you choose, timely and effective speech and language therapy can have a vital impact on the communication and quality of life of your child.
Iris Speaks helps parents by providing quick, affordable and flexible access to qualified and highest quality speech and language therapists for children in their own home.
Royal Collegeof Speech and Language Therapists
Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice:
ICAN – The Child Communication Charity:
What is speech and language therapy?
How to tell if my child has a speech or language issue
How can speech and language therapy help my child?
Engaging children after a long day at school, finding out about their day and how they feel about certain activities can be challenging at best! However, getting the conversation started and keeping it going can make you feel closer, support their language and help them to consolidate what they have learnt during the day. To get your little one talking, you can try some of the ideas below!
Make it visual!
When we return from our holiday or an interesting day out, we may share photos with our friends. These act as a prompt to help us remember key people, events and stories. Now, school may not be a nonstop holiday but using visual information from part of child’s day will help to get them talking. For example, pull out a picture from their bag that they drew or painted and comment on it. Rather than asking your child ‘what did you do today?’ use the picture to prompt them to tell you how they made it or why it is important to them.
Children who are prompted by objects from school like paintings, drawings and photos will refer to recent events at school much more than if these objects are not present (Marvin and Privratsky 1999)
It is really tempting to ask your child ‘How was your day at school?’. This kind of question style is after all how we communicate with others and normally what follows is a detailed explanation of events. For children, this question can be too open, have too many answers and require them to use skills to zoom in on one part of the day that stood out. To help them along, ask a specific question such as ‘Who did you sit next to today?’ ‘What happened today that was funny/scary?’, ‘What game did you play?’ This should help to trigger their memory to tell you a story.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves, children especially! So next time you are struggling to find out something about their day try asking them what they thought about something. So much can happen during the day and your child is bound to have something to say about it! Ask something like, ‘what is the best thing that happened to you today?’, ‘Who is the kindest person in your class?’ ‘Who did you share your snack with and why?’ ‘What teacher do you like the best?’
For older children, stimulate their imagination by asking them hypothetical questions. This can act as a fun and interesting way to find out more about what your child would like to change or things that they hope for. Try questions such as ‘If you could be the teacher what would you do?’ ‘If you could be friends with anyone at school who would it be?
Getting out pens and paper can be a fun way to share some experiences from your child’s day and yours. Drawing what happened in your day can be more interesting than telling your child. Point out the people you met, spoke to and places you went to. From this, they may be encouraged to draw their day too and explain it to you.
To find out more about how child achieved something or created something at school, you could ask them to take you through the steps e.g. show me how you did that. Giving them the role of the teacher once home can be a great way for them to consolidate what they learnt and share information with you too!
Talking about our interactions with others offers a great opportunity to develop Theory of Mind. For older children, you can ask them how they think their teachers or friends see them. Offer choices for answers if your child struggles with this, it can be hard to come up with ideas themselves. Questions like ‘Do you think X thinks you are kind/friendly etc.?’. ‘Why do you think they may say that?’ This will provide chances to talk about times where your little one shared something or helped someone.
Model sharing information.
Above we talked about drawing your day to encourage your child to illustrate theirs too. Just talking about your day will provide a prompt too and sharing your interests and activities will give them the template that they need to share theirs.
Listen, listen, and listen.
When the conversation is up and running, one of the most important things you can do is listen! Don’t worry about asking more questions. Take time to pause, listen and reflect with your child. This will ensure that you keep the conversation going!
If you’re looking for more in-depth learning sign up to one of our FREE parents programmes – courses designed to help you support your child’s speech and language skills.
What is Theory of Mind?
Activities for Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind for older children