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When a child wishes to join her school there is a two-day assessment that ensures that children really get the chance to be themselves: “The assessment consists of a series of tests and unlike a multi-disciplinary approach where a child is tested separately by a number of different agencies, a team works with the child during the two days and together assess the child, sharing discoveries. This means that the Educational Psychologist and the Speech and Language Therapist are able to give a really well-informed view of each child. The boundaries are often blurred so the professionals understand each others’ tests and can compare notes. The Educational Psychologist might notice that the child had very poor attention but realise that the problem was language rather than attention based on the Speech and Language Therapist’s results.”


Jackie explains: “Programmes are developed for each individual and use all sorts of exercises and strategies to get children functioning well to build their confidence back up. When the Speech and Language Therapist assesses a child they are looking at a number of different difficulties. The problem could be that the child lisps or stutters or finds it hard to articulate sounds. There could be a number of reasons and the therapist will know whether the child needs specific help or whether this is just a developmental issue that will disappear as the child matures.


WHEN TO CONSIDER SEEKING HELP?


0 – 6 months • If the baby is not startled by loud noises. • If the baby does not engage in eye contact when spoken to. • If the baby does not smile back at someone smiling at them. • If the baby does not watch a speaker’s face with interest.


6 – 12 months • If the baby does not respond to noises by 9 months.


• If the baby does not point to things they are interested in by 1 year.


• If the baby does not try to gain your attention by making noises by 1 year either through eye contact, facial expressions or reaching.


• If the baby does not make strings of sounds like ‘no-no’ and ‘go-go’.


• If the baby does not recognise the names of familiar objects like car or daddy.


12 – 18 months


• If your child has not started to babble to communicate by 12 – 15 months.


• If your child is not saying their first words by 18 months.


• If your child does not respond well to language, such as not following simple instructions like ‘kick ball’. 18 – 24 months


By 2 years, usually children will:


• Concentrate on activities for longer, like playing with a particular toy.


• Sit and listen to simple stories with pictures. • Understand between 200 and 500 words.


• Understand more simple questions and instructions. For example ‘where is your shoe?’ and ‘show me your nose’.


• Copy sounds and words a lot.


• Use 50 or more single words. These will also become more recognisable to others.


• Start to put short sentences together with 2-3 words, such as ‘more juice’ or ‘bye nanny’.


• Enjoy pretend play with their toys, such as feeding dolly. P.14


• Use a limited number of sounds in their words – often these are p, b, t, d, m and w. Children will also often miss the ends off words at this stage. They can usually be understood about half of the time.


You should be concerned if by 2 years, they are: • Slow to follow simple instructions. • Not saying 25 recognisable words.


2 – 3 years


By 3 years usually children will: • Listen to and remember simple stories with pictures.


• Understand longer instructions, such as ‘make teddy jump’ or ‘where’s mummy’s coat?’


• Understand simple ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions. • Use up to 300 words.


• Put 4 or 5 words together to make short sentences, such as ‘want more juice’ or ‘he took my ball’.


• Ask lots of questions. They will want to find out the name of things and learn new words.


• Use action words as well as nouns, such as ‘run’ and ‘fall’.


• Start to use simple plurals by adding ‘s’, for example ‘shoes’ or ‘cars’.


• Use a wider range of speech sounds. However, many children will shorten longer words, such as saying ‘nana’ instead of ‘banana’. They may also have difficulty where lots of sounds happen together in a word, e.g. they may say ‘pider’ instead of ‘spider.’


• Often have problems saying more difficult sounds like sh, ch, th and r. However, people that know them can mostly understand them.


• Now play more with other children and share things.


• Sometimes sound as if they are stammering or stuttering. They are usually trying to share their ideas before their language skills are ready. This is perfectly normal, just show you are listening and give them plenty of time.


It is important to seek advice from a speech and language therapist if:


• Your child points or shows what they want rather than says it.


You can also check the website: www.talkingpoint.org.uk/en/Parent.aspx


• They only say single words instead of joining words together into short sentences.


• They are slow to respond to your instructions. • They rely on being shown what to do rather than being told. • You cannot understand most of what they say.


3 – 4 years By 4 years usually children will:


• Listen to longer stories and answer questions about a storybook they have just read.


• Understand and often use colour, number and time related words, for example, ‘red’ car, ‘three’ fingers and ‘yesterday / tomorrow’.


• Be able to answer questions about ‘why’ something has happened.


• Use longer sentences and link sentences together.


• Describe events that have already happened e.g. ‘we went park.’


• Enjoy make-believe play. • Start to like simple jokes.


• Ask many questions using words like ‘what’ ‘where’ and ‘why’.


• Still make mistakes with tense such as say ‘runned’ for ‘ran’ and ‘swimmed’ for ‘swam’.


• Have difficulties with a small number of sounds – for example r, w, l, f, th, sh, ch and dz.


• Start to be able to plan games with others.


You should be concerned if: • They are struggling to turn ideas into sentences.


• The language they use is jumbled and difficult to understand.


• They are unresponsive or slow to follow instructions. For older children:


Discuss any worries with your child’s teacher.


“Hi Jackie” may not be acceptable when talking to the headteacher but would be fine to a friend in the playground


So words such as ‘wabbits’, and a difficulty with using ‘t’ instead of ‘th’ may be that the child’s speech patterns are still immature or in the case of ‘f’ and ‘th’ may just be down to regional dialect!”


The therapist will not just look at speech but they will also assess how the child receives language and expresses themselves:


“As well as receptive language and expressive language there is also the question of seeing how children communicate in social situations. This is pragmatic language – how a child speaks to different people, how his body language affects his speech, does he look people in the eye, does he know how to use language to suit different audiences? For instance, he may need to learn that there is a different salutation for a teacher than there is to a friend, so “Hi Jackie” may not be acceptable when talking to the headteacher but would be fine to a friend in the playground. Some children need to be specifically taught this skill.”


“In Dyslexic children, the Speech and Language therapist may record that they are having difficulty processing sounds, that their phonological awareness is limited. They may also have word finding difficulties which may present itself through the use of sentences punctuated with ‘ums’ and ‘ers’.” The Speech Therapist will work on giving the child exercises and strategies to improve.”


LINKS


Royal college of Speech and Language Therapists: www.rcslt.org


Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice: www.helpwithtalking.com


The Children’s Communication Charity ICAN: www.ican.org.uk


Talking Point site from ICAN: www.talkingpoint.org.uk/en/Parent.aspx


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