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It's official, Instagram is my favourite social media platform.  I love the visual aspect of it. I love social side. AND I secretly love the fact it all looks nice and organised into little squares (#typeASLP).

To me, Instagram has been a revelation; I've loved connecting with Speech Therapists and teachers all over the world! I love finding new ideas and resources that I can try in therapy sessions, and I love getting the different perspectives and advice from everyone.  I love it so much that I wanted to share with you my 5 best tips to help you get the most out of your time spent scrolling those squares!

Tip #1: Start a New Account
This is totally up to you, but if you are wanting to share photos from your daily SLP life, it helps to make your account public, so other people can easily find and like your photos and follow your account. If you already have an Instagram account where you've shared snaps from your holiday or a meal with your family, and you have lots of friends following you, you might want to keep your personal one separate from your speech therapy one, so your friends don't get overwhelmed with pictures of your cute sensory bin and crafts. (Equally, you might not be bothered, and that's fine too!)  Starting a new account is easy, but you'll need a different email address to your current account. (You can easily switch between both accounts on an iPhone without having to log out too!)

Tip #2: Connect with Others
This really is one of the best things about Instagram for me! Spend some time looking through Instagram to find some amazing SLPs and SLPas to follow; they might be the big SLP Bloggers or they may be an SLP from another district.  Either way, connecting with them is so fun! Be sure to like and comment on their posts and stories, and respond to them if they comment on yours! If you've got questions for particular Instagrammers, don't be afraid to drop them a message; but remember that not everyone has the time to respond (most SLPs on Instagram have full time jobs, so Instagram is a hobby for them too!).  We love it when new followers come say hi, so feel free to pop over to our Instagram page; we share therapy ideas, resources and fun stuff to help keep you inspired!

Tip #3: Use Hashtags
Basically, hashtags are ways for people to "tag" their posts so other people can find them. You can use hashtags in your posts so they're found by others, and you can click the hashtags to find more related pictures.  Popular SLP hashtags include #SLPeeps, #speechtherapy, and #instaslp.  You can use any hashtag you like though. If you've posted a picture about a sensory bin, you can either click the hashtag in your post or you can type #sensorybins into the search bar on the 'Explore' page (the one with the little magnifying glass) and find all the other pictures that show sensory bins.  If you're really interested in a particular topic, you can also follow hashtags and view any stories that people have tagged too!

Here's an example of the #schoolslp hashtag:

Tip #4: Use Collections
Seen a picture of a therapy idea, blogpost or craft that you like the look of? Press the little pennant on the right side of the photo, and it will save it to your "Collections".  If you press and hold the pennant, you can save it to a particular collection; I have them for Winter Therapy Ideas, Blog posts, Recipe ideas and more! No one else can see your collections, so you shouldn't be embarrassed about what you save/how you name each collection!  You can view what you've saved in your collection at any time by going to your home page and pressing the pennant button again.

Here's an example of my collections:

Tip #5: Don't Compare- Just Be Yourself!
You know the saying "Comparison is the thief of joy"? Well, bare in mind that when you're looking on Instagram, most of the time you're getting a very one-sided view of a person's daily life.  They're choosing what to share with you, and how to word it, so take it with a pinch of salt. Just because it might look like they've got it all together, doesn't mean they always have. So don't go hard on yourself if your last session felt like a total flop, and they've posted about a successful mixed group session where everyone made amazing progress!  Be yourself when you post your pictures and ideas too; don't worry if your pictures aren't as polished as another SLPs, or if your desk isn't as clean; you'll have amazing therapy ideas and knowledge to share too, so snap the pic and let us know what you've been up to!

I hope these tips have been useful for you! Have you got any other ways you use Instagram that you think I should know about?  Let me know below!

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"I know she wants to tell me something, but I just don't know what she's saying", "He always gets upset when I can't understand what he's telling me", "He's just being lazy; he can say it when I remind him".
Have you ever said that to a colleague, or heard that said, about a child?

I've mentioned this fact before, but I'll mention it again because it's so important...

In the UK, it is estimated that around 10% of school age children have some form of Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). This can include difficulties with speech sounds, using and understanding words and sentences and social communication skills, as well as associated conditions such as autism or ADHD. That's approximately 2-3 children in every classroom! (Afasic. (January 2017)).  
SLCN comes in many forms; in this post we are going to focus on speech sound difficulties and how you can help.

What are Speech Sound Difficulties?
Speech Sound difficulties can present in a variety of ways in different children; I'm not going to go into specifics in this post, however generally a child's speech may be delayed for their age, or it may be disordered.

  • Delayed speech: this means that the child may be following typical developmental patterns with the errors they make, but they're making them past an age we'd typically expect.
  • Disordered speech: this means that the child is making errors that aren't following a typical developmental pattern, or they're using a wide range of errors that make them difficult to understand.
Deciding whether the child's speech is delayed or disordered is the job of a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) or a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). However as teachers/educators it is important for you to consider whether the child is difficult to understand, particularly when talking out of context or to less familiar listeners, and whether you need to refer them for additional support.

What's the impact?
Put simply, the classroom environment can be a difficult place for a child with speech sound difficulties; there's lots of new vocabulary to learn and lots of people to talk to. There are negotiations to make during play, and explanations to give when things go wrong.  The child can have difficulty communicating their needs and wants, and difficulty with spelling and writing skills. All this can impact on their educational attainment and confidence. 

A child with speech sound difficulties may be accessing support/have previously accessed support from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) (also known as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in the US). It is important to follow any advice that you've been given by the SLT/SLP previously, and if you have concerns about a child's speech or language skills, you should discuss this with their caregivers and refer them to your local Speech and Language Therapy service for an assessment.  However this post provides some simple strategies you can use to help a child with speech sound difficulties in your classroom!

How You Can Help:

1. Repeat words back as they should sound, but avoid telling the child they have said it wrong. Give the child a clear repetition of how the word/sentence should sound; this is called modelling. Modelling is most effective when you repeat the target word a few times:

When you're modelling the word to the child, there is no expectation for them to repeat it (as they're likely to make the same mistake again). So the focus is for them to listen to you saying the words clearly.

2. Cue the child in to listen to particular sounds in words.  For example, if a child says '"tar" instead of 'car', you could say: "Yes, it's a 'car', 'car' has a 'c' sound at the start, can you hear it? Car". 
If you're using this strategy, remember to use the letter sound, rather than the letter name, for example it's a "k" sound, not "kay", or "sssss", rather than "ess".  There's also no need for them to repeat the word/sound after you've said it; they just need to listen to you say it clearly.

3. Have conversations with the child where you know the topic: It is often easier to understand a child when you know the context. By giving them opportunities to communicate and be understood, you will be boosting their confidence to communicate. Setting up these conversations also provides a useful opportunity for you to model the target words clearly to the child. 

4. Encourage other means: If you are struggling to understand the child, reassure them that it is OK, and encourage them to show you, point, draw, and/or take you to the thing they are talking about. 

5. Ask their peers: Generally, children can be better at understanding each other than adults. If you're unsure what the child is telling you, see if a peer can help you to understand. When you've worked out the message, be sure to model the words clearly back to the child, for example:
Child: "I want my but bad".
Peer: "He wants his book bag".
Adult: "oh you want your book bag! Yes you can have your book bag. Let's get your book bag".

6. Ask questions about what they're telling you: If you can't understand the child's message, ask them simple questions such as "are you telling me something about this room?", "are you telling me about your work?".  Once you've understood what the child has said, repeat back the main points so they know they have been understood, and they hear the words said clearly. 

7. Develop listening skills:  Encourage the child to listen to sounds around them in their environment. Play listening games where they identify environmental noises (such as a telephone ringing, the doorbell etc.) and games where they identify noisy vs quiet sounds, long and short sounds etc. Encourage the child to listen to letter sounds in words if they are at an age where they can do this with relative ease. 

8. Do sound awareness activities. For example you could:
Go on a sound hunt: If you know the sound errors the child is making, (for example they replace 'k' with 't', so they say "tar" instead of 'car') you could go around your classroom/school and look for things that begin with the 'k' sound.
Or you could make a speech sound scrapbook, which I've talked more about in our post here.

9. Clap out syllables: Encourage the child to clap/stamp/beat out the number of syllables in a word. It is often more engaging for a child to start with familiar word/names, such as their own name, or family/pet names. It is also useful to begin with words of 2-3 syllables, and then to practise clapping out 1 syllable words.  Clapping out syllables is helpful because the child hears the separate parts of the word said clearly, and it can be easier for them to try repeat the word when it is segmented.

10. Blame yourself: If you haven't understood a child, blame your "old ears" for not hearing properly, or tell them that you didn't have your "listening ears" switched on.  When you take the blame for not understanding them it can help preserve their confidence and can make a child more willing to repeat themselves.

I hope you find that these practical strategies can be easily applied in your classroom; hopefully they will help you to support a child with speech sound difficulties. However as I have said before, if you have concerns about a child's speech, language or communication skills, it is important to discuss with their caregivers and refer to your local SLT/SLP service. 

Have you got any other strategies that you use in your classroom to help children with speech sound difficulties?  I'd love to hear about them, drop me a comment below!

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Today, 22nd September 2017, is DLD Awareness day.
DLD, or Developmental Language Disorder is nothing new, but it is the new, internationally agreed term for Specific Language Impairment. But, you may be wondering what is in a name, and why did it need to change?
I've gathered together a range of videos, blog posts and useful information to help you make sense of this new term and to give you ideas of where to go to find out more information.

Why Did it Need to Change?
In Speech and Language Therapy, we have a range of terms which we use to describe children's speech, language and communication difficulties. For a long time, there were a few different terms used to describe difficulties with language skills; sometimes these terms were used interchangeably, despite them not always being the most accurate, and this caused confusion within the field which impacted on research and awareness. In 2016, a group of experts in a range of fields came together to agree a consensus on a term for children with language disorders, and agreed on the term Developmental Language Disorder.

This video of Professor Dorothy Bishop shares more information about this process, as part of the RADLD Campaign.

What is DLD?
As the video explains, DLD, or Developmental Language Disorder, is the new term to be used for language disorders that:
* Cause severe language problems that interfere with communication in everyday life and/or affect educational progress
* Are likely to persist over time rather than spontaneously progress
* Occur in the absence of a specific biomedical condition, such as autism spectrum disorder, a brain injury or Down Syndrome.

Why is There an Awareness Campaign?
As explained above, this communication difficulty is not new, but it has been misunderstood for a long time. The RADLD campaign wants to raise awareness of these three key messages about DLD:
* DLD means that a child (or adult) has difficulties with understanding and/or using language
* DLD is a hidden condition but is surprisingly common (it is estimated that there are 2 to 3 children in every class with DLD)
* Support can make a huge difference to children with DLD.

This video by Eddie and Dyls explains a little bit more about DLD and the campaign:

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you'd like to share this information with colleagues, head over to the NAPLIC website, which has a useful PDF that explains the 3 key facts.

If you're on Twitter, be sure to use the hashtags #DevLangDis and #DLD123 to find tweets and more information all about DLD.

This post by Adoption: The Bear Facts gives some great information from the perspective of an SLT and parent of a child with DLD which is definitely worth a read too!

To see more useful videos like the ones I've included above, head to the RADLD YouTube Channel- full of videos about strategies to support children with DLD

Are you keen on finding out more information? Head over to SpeechBlogUK to read more information about strategies for children with DLD and then follow the blog hop to see even more useful resources all about DLD!

Are you getting involved with the DLD Awareness Day Campaign? Why not save this pin so you can share it with your colleagues.

I really loved using these fun, brightly coloured, patterned stamper pens when I was younger. My sisters and I would make fabulous pictures full of unusual patterns and bright colours using these! Inevitably we'd all fight over our favourite one (hello yellow star, I'm looking at you!) and our mum would insist that we all shared them fairly!  Well, when I saw these at the shop, I knew I HAD to get them to use in my speech therapy sessions!  I was so pleased when the kids shared my joy and excitement when I first got them, and they've proven to be a really simple and inexpensive motivator during our sessions!  Here's a few ways I've used these pens in my therapy sessions...

1) Data Collection
Kids use a stamper pen to keep a tally of their good repetitions! They get to put a stamp on a little piece of paper every time they've done a good sound. It's a super simple and motivating way for them to take their own data!  This works really well in groups sessions too; because they're all keen to use the nice pens, they're more willing to have another go so they can use a stamp! #winwin

2) A Reinforcer
Quite simply, they practise their sounds and then they get to make a pretty picture using these cool stamper pens!  No catch! They don't need to be tracking their trials, they can just go wild and stamp to their hearts content... which is great for those days when you don't really have the desire or inclination time to rebuild Jenga, again.

3) Tracking Contributions in Groups
Whenever I do written work in small groups, I let everyone pick a pen and I make a list of which child has which pen. Then, as we go through the session, whenever they make contributions in the group, we write it down onto the worksheet or big piece of paper, and they put a little stamp next to what they said so I can make a record of it later.  This is useful because we don't need to slow the pace of the session down while I make a note of who said what, and we don't fill the sheet up with their initials.  It also acts as a motivator for them because they like seeing all the different shapes being added, and it helps me quickly see who's contributing most/least, so I know where to direct some more specific questions, to ensure everyone contributes equally.
Here's an example of how I would use that system with one of the worksheets from our Spring Language Activities Pack.

4) Gaining a Speech & Language Sample
You know those kids who are reluctant to do any kind of assessment when you first meet them? They're really shy and don't really want to talk to you?  Well, I've found that these pens are a great way to get a sample of speech sounds in spontaneous speech without any pressure. I reassure them that we don't need to look at pictures if they're not ready, and we can just do some colouring and use my fun pens.  We might decorate their speech folder or their homework log, and I talk about the design I'm making... slowly but surely, they start to make little comments too, like "I want the green tree" or "it's a yellow star!" Boom. Straight away I'm able to gain a language and speech sound sample without any pressure!  If I think I need to hear the sounds again in single words, I use the pens and lead them in, e.g. "look, I've got a pink..." "pate".. "yes, it's a pink face". 

5) Social Skills
These pens are a great tool to use in social skills groups too; you can work on initiating interactions, requesting and turn taking in a slightly more natural situation.  I like to use them with the 'All About Me' bunting craft from our Ice Breakers & Team Building Challenges pack in my small groups. I get kids to decorate the bunting with things that they like and that reflect them. They use these pens (and other craft supplies), and we can target requesting ("Can I have the purple bug please?"), sharing, taking turns ("Can I use the red heart next?"), making appropriate comments ("I like your blue fish") and more!

There are so many great ways to use these pens, and these are just a few of the ways I like to use them.
Did you ever have these pens as a kid, and do you use stamper pens in your therapy sessions? What other ways do you use them? Let me know below!

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A speech therapist friend of mine recently retired; when she was organising her materials and sorting what she wanted to take with her and what she would leave, she very kindly gifted me a big ol' box of speech therapy materials!  I was overjoyed! She was so experienced and had gathered so many amazing materials that I couldn't wait to see what she was donating to me! I was so excited to see all the new games and resources that I could use in my speech therapy sessions! That was, however, until I saw what was actually inside the box! My friend has always had a good sense of humour and needless to say, the resources were anything but new!  We laughed so much that I wanted share some of these fabulous, retro therapy materials with you today!

I'm sure we all use verb pictures and everyday object cards, right?  Check out these wonderful ones circa 1970something!
 I mean- that car?!

Working on everyday objects? How many of your youngsters would recognise that helicopter or that vacuum

Working on social skills? Let's pretend to make a call to our friends on this rotary dial telephone!

 Working on some early vocabulary skills? Your preschoolers will definitely recognise the sweet treats and vehicles here!

OK, How about we play a game from the 1960s while we practise our sounds?
(Disclaimer: I played 'Coppit' as a child and it is actually awesome, but I'm not sure many of my 5 and 6 year olds would agree!!)

It's time to do some assessments... Name the 4 target words in this vocabulary test!

Let's work on some sentence formulation and talk about what we can see happening in this picture...
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to talk about half of the things happening here! 

These resources really made me chuckle and it made me think about how many of us have other weird and wonderful retro resources stashed away in our speech therapy rooms! I'd love to see what you find while you organise your speech rooms this year!  Share your pictures on Instagram, tag me @thesltscrapbook and use the hashtag #retrospeech, and I'll laugh along with you and share your pics too! 

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