As this is my first blog post I thought I should introduce myself! My name is Vicky, I’m a speech and language therapist and I work independently in Hampshire, UK. I live with my husband, 4 year old daughter and two labradors.

I have always had an interest in language development and working with children so speech and language therapy seemed like an ideal way to combine the two. I started my career working for the NHS but found it difficult to build up relationships with families and provide the support I felt they needed.

I started Learn to Talk because I know how important speech and language is to a child’s development. I know that difficulties in this area can impact on a child’s learning, social interaction and ability to reach their full potential.

I understand how concerning it is when your child’s speech doesn’t seem to be developing typically. As a parent I know it is too easy to look to the internet for reassurance and end up confused and worried. I know how frustrating it is to wait a long time for an appointment and then how helpless it feels to not be given a straight answer or anything practical to work on.

I develop positive relationships with the children on my caseload so they are relaxed and enjoy coming to my clinic. Children make more progress when they are engaged and therapy sessions are fun.

I quickly establish trust with parents through open communication. I help them understand what is going on and give clarity about how we can best support their child’s speech and language development together.

I work in partnership with other professionals involved in a child’s development to ensure everyone is working together on same goal – of helping the child learn to communicate.

I aim to share advice and information on this blog, so keep checking back for new posts.

Please contact me by phone or email if you have concerns about your own child.

Ten ways to make homework more interesting…

Many parents tell me that whilst their children will sit happily in clinic sessions and complete therapy activities they are not quite so compliant when it comes to doing the activities at home. The reality is that children will generally do more for me for the simple reason that I’m not their parent. I often struggle to get my own daughter to do activities I ask of her!

Here are my ten ways you can make flash card or picture based homework activities more interesting at home:

1. Sensory tray: put pictures onto a tray and add dry ingredients e.g lentils, cornflakes, rice, pasta so that children have to find them.

2. Laminate pictures and look at them at bath time when children can’t run off!

3. Hide pictures around the house or garden and encourage children to find them.

4. Put pictures in plastic surprise eggs (lots of places are selling these at this time of year!).

5. Take a photo of each picture on your phone and when you have 5 minutes with your child (e.g. in a waiting room, whilst sat in the car) scroll through them and encourage them to have a go at saying them.

6. Stick pictures in each room of the house. Every time you go past a picture encourage your child to have a go at saying it!

7. Give a reward by blowing bubbles or giving a piece of a puzzle or favourite game between pictures.

8. For children that have more energy, make games more active by placing pictures under skittles and saying the ones you knocked over, or hide them in flowerpots around the garden.

9. Put pictures on the table and set a wind -up toy going in the middle. When the toy stops, say the picture closest to the toy.

10. Make a post box out of a cereal box and encourage children to post pictures!

There are hundreds of ideas you can try. The most important thing is to choose something that motivates your child and is fun!

FAQ: Are parents present during therapy sessions?

Answer: I generally find it is useful for parents to be present during clinic based therapy sessions. You will see the sorts of activities that I am doing, the targets I am working on with your child and the language I use when explaining activities to them. You will also see how your child responds and any potential difficulties I encounter. This means that you will know how to do similar activities at home between sessions and will know how to encourage your child when they have difficulty.

In some cases, children may work better without you there, in which case you are welcome to leave the room whilst they have one to one therapy, and return at the end for feedback on their progress and to collect homework activities. If your child is seen in school then providing the school is happy, I would be pleased to meet with you following the therapy session, or I can contact you by telephone or email following the appointment.

FAQ: Will I have to do any follow up activities with my child?

Answer: Therapy is far more effective if follow up activities are carried out between sessions. I will give you activities similar to those carried out during the session and will demonstrate how to do these. Therapy sessions are just a very small part of a child’s life, so in order for them generalise what they have learnt in the clinic room to everyday life, they need to practise activities at home on a daily basis, ideally for around ten minutes per day. If your child also attends school or preschool then I am happy to send a copy of homework activities to the educational setting for staff to work on there.

FAQ: How often will you see my child?

Answer: Frequency of therapy sessions will depend on your child’s need, the type of therapy we have recommended and your wishes. We can offer weekly or fortnightly therapy, or on a less frequent basis if you would prefer, such as monthly or six weekly sessions. Some parents whose children are in school prefer termly or half termly visits to provide school staff with updated language or speech programmes.

FAQ: What information will I need to bring to the first appointment?

Answer: You do not need to bring anything to the initial assessment although it is helpful to bring any reports from previous speech and language therapists or other professionals if you have any. You will also be asked questions about your child’s development, including birth information, so you may find it useful to bring your child’s red book with you. If your child is particularly shy or anxious in new situations then it maybe helpful to bring a favourite toy or book with you.

FAQ: How does private speech therapy differ from the NHS?

Answer: Speech and language therapy is available free from your local NHS service, and you are still entitled to this service even if you choose to have private therapy as well. Private speech therapy tends to have no waiting list (or a very short one) so your child can be seen sooner and more frequently.

To find your child’s local NHS speech and language therapy service, contact your GP or Health Visitor.

FAQ: How will you assess my child?

Answer: We will use a mixture of formal and informal methods. Formal assessments usually involve us working one to one with your child, asking them to follow instructions or answer questions. It is important that when your child is being assessed that you don’t help them or rephrase the speech therapist’s questions as this will not give an accurate picture of your child’s abilities. Informal assessment is usually done by playing with your child, observing your child playing alone or with you, or by listening to your child talking to you.