Sweltering heat did nothing to deter our incredible young people from attending the launch of the Hackney Captains at Dalston Curve Gardens last week!


Five students signed up to be part of the Hackney Captains youth council, committed to giving a voice for their peers and supporting change and improvement in Hackney in the area of health.  The launch was supported by a multidisciplinary team including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, clinical psychology, and speech and language therapy.

The day started with some icebreakers and a hands on pizza making session, facilitated by the lovely Kiram Chahal from the People’s Kitchen.  Soaring temperatures aside, young people braved the heat of the pizza oven and made some delicious lunch for us all to share, as well as taking some entrepreneurial initiative and selling pizzas to the public, making a small profit which will then support future meetings.


We had the privilege of having a young person already represented in a youth council at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who was able to share her experiences and explain what the role of such a council could include.

We had fun dreaming up our ‘dream health service’ and started providing feedback on our experiences at Hackney Ark – from ideas on how to spruce up the reception and make it more teenage friendly, to best ways to communicate with young people and gaining their views.


We are extremely grateful to the Dalston Curve Garden to providing us with the space to launch out council, and provide a safe and green oasis that supports community projects in Hackney. We also enjoyed helping out by watering plants in the garden before and after the launch.


We are really looking forward to our first ‘official’ meeting – where we will be designing our logo, and starting to provide feedback on the health stuff that matters to young people accessing services at Hackney Ark.


If you are a young person aged 13 – 19 years and are accessing services at Hackney Ark (currently or in the past), we would love to hear from you.  Please get in touch by emailing, tweeting at @HackneyArkOT, or phoning 02070147025.

Forest School explorations at Hackney Marshes

On the 22nd March I attended an under 5s drop-in session led by Lauren Mills on Hackney Marshes. The children who attended were aged 2-4 years old and from different areas of Hackney. It was a wet, cold, spring day so we were all dressed in our warmest (and most waterproof) clothing. We met at Clapton Park Children’s Centre and then walked over to the Forest School camp area at Hackney Marshes:

forest pic 1

The first thing we did was make a shelter – the children and their carers used tarpaulin and string (provided by Lauren) and attached it to the trees to make a cosy, dry den. The children and adults then explored the natural environment. Lauren also set out some tools for digging:

forest pic 2

When Lauren brought some clay and wooden cuttings out the children gathered around her with enthusiasm and demonstrated excellent shared attention skills – it was fantastic to see such young children so engaged in an adult-led activity. The language that the children used was also very impressive. Even the youngest child used comparatives in phrases such as, “mummy make it smaller”.

When the weather worsened we all went to the den (that was made at the start of the session) for a story and snack. During this time the children were given insects to hold and explore and Lauren discussed their different features. The children used lots of spontaneous descriptive language to describe the bumble bees and asked the adults lots of questions.

It was then time to pack up and pull Lauren’s special trolley back to the children’s centre. Despite the cold, wet weather the children had clearly had a lot of fun and their parents and carers reported that the children really enjoy their Forest School sessions. One parent also said that she feels the sessions have helped develop her child’s language skills.

Emily Alton, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

Eggcited for Easter?

The Easter break is fast approaching! While this is a joyous time (filled with guilt-free chocolate eating!) the change in routine can be hard for many children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)

Changes in daily routine can be difficult, especially if we don’t really know why it’s changed or what’s coming.  The concept of time, days and weeks can be tricky too, making it hard to predict when you’ll be back or school or not.

To help make the changes clear we are sharing Easter holiday calendars with our young people and parents. These will help our children and young people to understand what’s happening and feel more happy and calm about any changes.

You can download these calendars here! One is designed for more independent students (Easter holiday calendar 2017- for more independent students), while the other is designed to be used with more parental support (Easter holiday calendar 2017- with parent support).

Look at the calendar in the days coming up to the break and talk about what will be different during the holidays, e.g. you won’t go to school, maybe you’ll go to the park, or away to see family. As each day passes, look at the calendar together and cross off the days as they go by. This will also help the child/ young person prepare for the return to school…we’d often all benefit from a calm count down to the dreaded return to work!

Happy Easter break everyone!

The most hidden disability

Chances are you’ve heard of conditions such as Dyslexia, Autism and ADHD. But have you ever heard of Developmental Language Disorder? Don’t feel left out if you haven’t, as it’s probably the most common childhood condition that most people have never hear of.

And yet it’s common. On average two children out of every class of 30 will have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Seven times as many children and young people have DLD as autism. DLD really is the most hidden disability.

Children and young people with DLD may:

  • not understand, or remember a lot of what has been said
  • find it difficult to express themselves with words
  • talk more like a younger child
  • struggle to find words, or use less varied vocabulary

DLD varies a lot from person to person, so a child or young person does not need to have all of the points above, just some.

DLD can be hard to spot. Some children get noticed when their teacher’s find that their reading comprehension is not developing as they would expect. About 60% of children and young people with behaviour difficulties also have DLD, so if you know a child or young person who struggles with behaviour then it might be worth talking a closer look at their language skills.

If you want to know a bit more about DLD then it is worth reading this article by Courtenay Norbury (Professor of Developmental Language and Communication Disorders at University College London) and Emma Broddle (specialist speech and language teacher for ECLIPS (Extended Communication and Language Impairment Provision for Students) with Lincolnshire County Council).

We also have a range of DLD leaflets available to download, for parents of primary school children (dld-leaflet-for-parents-2016)  and parents of secondary school children (DLD Leaflet for parents secondary 2016).

If you are concerned about a child then check out our Get Help page for parents, or Accessing Services page for professionals.

And if you live in Hackney in The City of London or your child attends school here then give us a call on 020 7683 4587.

Our aim is that every child and young person with Developmental Language Disorder gets the support they need. You can help by telling someone else about this common condition, so everyone knows about it.

Stephen Parsons
Speech and Language Therapy Service Manager


Sign along to Christmas songs

It’s nearly Christmas – a great time to get everyone involved with some singing – and signing. _MG_0064

Young children really love the chance to add some actions, and Makaton signing gives everyone a way to join in.

I keep hearing about schools and nurseries where the children are having fun using Makaton in their Christmas songs and plays. It’s really easy as well – just show the shape of a long beard and mime putting a sack over your shoulder – congratulations, you’ve just signed ‘Father Christmas’!

I’ve been looking on the Makaton website and they have a fun Christmas Count-down every year. Every day there is a new Christmas treat – today’s was a group of young people singing and signing the words to ‘White Christmas’!  There are also free Christmas downloads with all the vocabulary you need.