SEN Exhibition

October 23, 2012 at 11:19 am | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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A couple of weeks ago QEd exhibited at the London Special Needs exhibition.

There is no doubt about financial constraints being felt in all sectors – numbers were noticeably down and visitors were not spending quite so much. Walking around the exhibition hall, I also noticed some of the smaller companies that have exhibited in the past were missing. I’m not sure if they have folded or they’re just tightening their belts like the rest of us … but it did make me sad because it has always been the best event we attend. SEN has always had an unusual ‘community’ feel about it and I hope that doesn’t go away.

From our own point of view the show was pretty good, thanks largely to Maggie Johnson’s Active Listening for Active Learning resource. She presented a lecture covering the topic and we were sold out shortly after she finished speaking!!

If you are unfamiliar with Maggie’s courses (I realise that’s unlikely if you’ve signed up to this blog), there are details here of her courses around the country.  She really is exceptionally good.

Colin at QEd Publications


Language development test for toddlers

March 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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I saw this in SEN Magazine (link at the bottom)

The results of a new speech test suggest that a limited vocabulary at the age of two years can signal language development problems which persist into later life.

Scientists at the Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania have devised a speech test for children which compares their speaking ability against a checklist of 310 basic words. Most toddlers have a vocabulary of between 75 and 225 words but around 15 per cent are “late talkers” who use less than 50 words. These children then go on to perform less well in tests measuring language and reading skills at age 17, even though they do not show developmental problems in other areas.

Speaking at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver,  Dr Leslie Rescorla, who led the study,  said that low scores on the checklist could highlight an “enduring relative weakness in the area of early language development and hence later language skills.” Identifying late talkers could enable parents and practitioners to establish interventions to speed up their child’s language development.

We’ve got excellent resources here by Maggie Johnson, a speech and language therapist adviser specialising in childhood communication disorders, Carolyn Player and Rebecca Bergmann.

Colin at QEd Publications

Cuts likely to mean greater hardship for children with Communication Needs

February 7, 2012 at 9:13 am | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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The outgoing Communication Champion has cautioned that cuts to speech and language services and new commissioning procedures could cause greater hardship for children with communication needs. 

In a report issued to coincide with the end of the National Year of Communication, Jean Gross argues that the Health and Social Care Bill (currently making its way through Parliament) should be amended to make joint commissioning of children’s community health services compulsory to improve services for those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

The report, Two Years On: final report of the Communication Champion for children, highlights the problems of cuts to NHS and local authority budgets at a time when the numbers of children with SLCN is growing rapidly – there has been a 58 per cent increase over the last five years in the number of school-age children reported as having SLCN as their primary special need.

Mrs Gross puts forward 30 major recommendations which address a number of key issues, including ensuring effective early intervention for SLCN, tackling uneven application of joint commissioning across the country, raising awareness of SLCN, addressing gaps in services for children with SLCN and providing additional support for teachers.

A copy of the report can be found at

Colin at QEd Publications

Year of Communication

January 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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We’ve known for a very long time the importance of children developing good communication skills … haven’t we??  I’m always slightly amused by these initiatives …. let’s have a year of numeracy … I know, let’s have a year of literacy or music.

Anyway, I suppose it does highlight a very important issue and hopefully, on the back of it, we will supply many thousands of people with some of our excellent speech, language and communication resources!

So how is the Year of Communication going to proceed?  From what I understand there are going to be monthly themes. In February and March the focus is on early years development … Early Chatter Matters being the catchphrase.

I’ve covered some of this in earlier blogs … yes, we’re well ahead of Government here!  But seriously, you can’t do better than having a look at Stories for Talking if you are working with young children. It is such a comprehensive, but easy to use programme to help children with their speaking, listening and communication skills. Tried and tested. Just read the reviews if you need any further persuading.


July 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Posted in special needs, Speech and language, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Talking . . . loudly!

Expressive language, or talking, is much easier to spot when it is not developing correctly.  Generally, this is the aspect that gives most concern to the parent or early years practitioner. It may be the child has only developed a few words or has a good range of words but does not put them together in sentences.

The Stories for Talking approach works on both aspects of expressive language:
• building up the number of words in the child’s talking repertoire (developing their ‘vocabulary’);
• helping them learn how to put words together in the right way to build up phrases and sentences (developing their ‘grammatical skills’).

Depending on which level you choose to work at, you can help children build vocabulary, construct sentences or learn to tell stories.

Comprehension of language

July 16, 2010 at 8:55 am | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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Comprehension, or the understanding of language, is absolutely crucial to developing effective spoken language skills and many aspects of learning and yet  this is an area of difficulty that is not readily identified. Many parents confidently report that their child ‘understands everything’.

Early years practitioners will often have noticed the child’s lack of spoken language before their lack of understanding. With some children it is very obvious that most of what you are saying is not being understood. However, many children become so adept at reading all the clues in their environment, and so appear to understand the language (they are watching where your eyes are pointing, your gestures, what the other children are doing, using their knowledge of routines). In some cases, they have good understanding, but more often than not, children with poor talking or ‘expressive skills’ have difficulties with comprehension too.

Usually, weak understanding underpins poor talking, so it is really important that we work on comprehension of language at the same time, if not before, expressive language.

Remember – understanding before talking.

From Rebecca Bergmann’s Stories for Talking


June 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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Learning and using language is truly one of those remarkable tasks we achieve. Think about a simple conversation:

Mum: Where did you go?

Samantha (3 years old): We goed in a shop

What passed between the two of them was just a series of noises. Both Mum and Samantha convert the sounds into meanings … they decode. They have to know something about the sound structure (phonology) and the word structure (morphology) of English. Each of the words has meaning so they know something about the semantics of the language. Samantha picks up on the intonation in her mum’s sounds to decode that there is a question. Samantha is only 3 and yet somehow she can manage these complex tasks … it is amazing!

The core aspects of language include comprehension, expressive language, semantics, functional use of language, and attention and listening skills.  We’ll cover each of these in turn over the next few days.

Adapted from Rebecca Bergmann’s Stories for Talking.

More Story Time

June 4, 2010 at 11:33 am | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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The use of books and stories are excellent ways of developing vocabulary, widening experiences, fostering imagination and creativity, introducing sequence and narrative, exploring different options and outcomes, and providing examples of problem solving. These are the beginnings of the journey of literacy.

So, how can we help a child with the problems described in the earlier blog? The very activity that could help these children with language difficulties is, in fact, the one that proves to be hardest. This turns them off – possibly for life, with far reaching implications if we don’t get it right.

Here are some tips:

  1. Timing – try different times of the day for storytime, bearing in mind that your intention should be to enthuse and captivate young minds.
  2. Size of the group – you will need all staff members to be involved in storytime, each taking their own group;   have smaller groups for storytime – grouped according to ability and with all staff involved.
  3. Position – position your small group carefully in front of the book and check that they can all see clearly.
  4. Language level – for children with language difficulties, start with really basic books – those you might consider too young for nursery-aged children. Once you are confident the children are accessing the story and understanding the words, you can gradually move on to more complex stories.
  5. Illustrations – choose books with lots of large, clear pictures and pictures that illustrate key aspects of the text.
  6. Repetition – same story, read daily, for at least a week.
  7. Structure and nature of the story – be mindful of the type of story you choose for children with language difficulties. Choose repetitive, simple stories.

Adapted from Rebecca Bergmann’s Stories for Talking.

Story time

June 3, 2010 at 9:30 am | Posted in special needs, Speech and language | Leave a comment
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Imagine . . . you are a 3 year-old. You’ve not been at nursery for long, and you have language difficulties. That means you have difficulty understanding language, you struggle to listen and maintain concentration, you don’t have very many words and have difficulty recalling the words you do know . . . and find it hard to put sentences together.

It’s late in the morning, you’ve had a busy time. The teacher says something to the whole class but you don’t catch it. The others are starting to move towards the carpet area. You decide to follow, but when you get there, there is only room at the back of the area. Aha! You see there is space next to that boy you often sit near to – he’s friendly and you often play with him – you decide to sit next to him.

The teacher begins to read a story. You don’t understand what she’s saying but the pictures are quite interesting. After a while though you get a bit fed up with stretching your neck to see around and over all the children in front of you. The Velcro on your shoe is undone – better fix that – do it up, not quite straight, undo, do it up, not quite right, undo – uh oh . . . the teacher’s looking at you and saying something! Oh no . . . it looks like you’re in trouble. You’ll just try and look at the pictures again.

You watch for a bit and then the teacher looks up and says something. You don’t know what she said but it looks like she’s asking a question. Everyone else is putting their hand up so you do the same. The teacher looks at you and says your name. Oh no! She wants an answer to something! You don’t understand . . . er . . . er . . . er . . . oh, you can see a picture of a dog on the page of the book, and you know that word, so you say ‘dog’. The whole class starts laughing, ‘Great’, you think! ‘I’ve cracked a joke! Everyone thinks I’m funny’ so you say it again. Everyone laughs even louder . . . except the teacher. She looks cross and says ‘no’ to you, followed by something else and then asks a different child. Oh dear! You must have got it wrong.

Never mind, the ribbons and hair slide of the girl in front look really interesting so you decide to have a look at those. She turns around and smiles. Great! The boy next to you is a bit fidgety too so he plays with the ribbons. The three of you have quite a giggle and begin a tickling game – this is much more fun and you’re good at this. But . . . oh no you’re in trouble again . . . oh dear, the teacher’s pointing at the front of the group next to her chair. Oh no, you’ve go to move. She looks so cross.

You go and sit right beside her chair, but in order to see the pictures you have to really crick your head back and your neck’s hurting. You’re tired. In fact you’re hungry too. You begin to wonder when your mum is coming . . . and what you will have for lunch . . . and what you will do this afternoon.

Great! At last it’s finished. Everybody’s moving and the book’s on the shelf.  At last that’s over!

This is an extract from Rebecca Bergmann’s Story for Talking. Tomorrow I’ll post some details about her suggestions to help children who find themselves in a situation like this.

Early Intervention

May 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Speech and language, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Early intervention is so important … the sooner you get a programme going the better. There a number of programmes available … I looked at quite a few when I was thinking about publishing something in this area. Finally I went for Stories for Talking written by Rebecca Bergmann, a speech and language therapist.

What I like so much about it is that it is very easy to use.  It’s a big, hefty manual and it looks a bit daunting, but once you browse through it you can quickly see just how good it is.

If you want a good understanding about delayed language development there’s plenty of information. If all you want is the programme, you can get straight into that. There are masses of photocopiable resources to use as visual aids.

So what exactly is it? 

The programme uses five stories 

  • Dora’s Eggs (topic: farm animals)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (topic: things in our homes)
  • Washing Line (topic: clothes)
  • The Enormous Turnip (topic: family and pets/growing)
  • Walking in the Jungle (topic: jungle animals)

What you find then is a structured language programme using each story as the basis for a series of activities.  For each story there are three levels:

  1. teaching vocabulary,
  2. building sentences and
  3. developing sequencing and narrative skills

Repetition is one of the key themes running through the programme, and the same story is used every day for a week, with detailed plans setting out activities for each day at the different levels.

One reviewer said “This is an excellent resource to use with all children in the Foundation Stage to help their attention and listening skills, understanding, using key vocabulary, putting sentences together and interacting with others. It can be easily implemented by teachers, teaching assistants, nursery nurses and parents/carers wanting to help children’s receptive and expressive language skills through story time and other suggested activities.”

It really is one of the most comprehensive, easy to use programmes around … have a look at what other people think about it


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