Holiday Countdown Calendar

The Hackney Speech and Language Therapy team has created a Holiday Countdown Calendar to help your child understand how long the holiday lasts for and when they need to go back to school. It can help prepare your child for starting school again and settle back in to the school routine. You can download the calendar here.

Happy Holidays!

Stammering Awareness Day – Thursday 22nd October

by Jo Lester, Locality Manager (North) and Clinical Lead Specialist Speech and Language Therapist for Children and Young People who stammer in Hackney & The City

Today is International Stammering Awareness Day! I always remind people why sea green is the associated colour: Michael Sugarman the Founder says: “The colour ‘blue’ has traditionally been associated with calm while ‘green’ represents liberty, freedom and justice. The combination of these colours for People who Stutter shows the bond between ‘peace’ and ‘liberation’ when finding support and community with other people who understand and share their experiences. These are reflected in the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities of People who Stutter (link to ISA website)

Here are some things you can do to mark the day:

  • Wear sea green!
  • Watch some brilliant videos of adults who stammer talking about their stammer in the context of their work/job here.
  • Read some blogs, poems and other interesting observations by people who stammer and share with others here.
  • Watch this video of Erin Stoner a pupil performing an AMAZING poem about her experience of having a stammer:
  • Watch this Ted Talk by Singer Megan Washington:.
  • Check out interesting events which you can sign up to here.

Finally, Children’s Integrated Speech and Language Therapy Service for Hackney and the City are delighted to be collaborating with the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering in a feasibility study of a 10-week therapy programme for children aged 8-14 and their parents, called Palin Stammering Therapy for School Children (Palin STSC 8-14). Helping children to be more confident communicators is the main goal. To achieve this, the therapy focuses on three areas: building communication skills; finding ways to manage unhelpful thoughts and emotions; and, speech tools to reduce struggle when speaking. Watch this space!

Happy Stammering Awareness Day everyone!

DLD Awareness Day – 16th October 2020

by Anna Sowerbutts, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Hackney & The City

This Friday, 16th October, marks International DLD Awareness Day, when our Speech and Language Therapists, along with those working with children and young people with DLD across the world, will be working to raise awareness of this little-known condition.

DLD – or Developmental Language Disorder – affects around 7% of children, which is around 2 children in every class of 30. DLD is a lifelong condition, affecting understanding and using language. Children and young people with DLD often have difficulties with literacy and learning, and it can also impact on their ability to form and maintain friendships and their emotional well-being.

As we’ve all been getting used to wearing masks this year, we wanted to make a film to highlight that DLD is a hidden condition, which not many people have heard about. Watch our film – ‘DLD Unmasked’ here.

Want to know more about DLD and how you can support the children and young people you work with? We are running CPD sessions for school and setting staff on DLD Awareness Day (Friday 16th October) at 1pm and 4pm. You can contact us to access the sessions live, or watch a recording here afterwards.

You can also find out more information about DLD by speaking to your Link SaLT or contacting us via the website

Back to school support

Over the next two weeks many children will be returning to school for the first time in over five months. Starting a new school year can present challenges at any time but this year children will need to adjust to new safety routines and procedures that schools have worked hard to introduce in response to the government guidelines. Here below are some links to resources that parents might find useful to support their children during this time of transition:

Widgit have produced a free toolkit to help parents support their children returning to school. The pack includes: social stories to help reduce anxiety and prepare children for changes in routine; planners, checklists and reward charts to support structure, routine, behaviour and independence; emotional and well-being supports to help children talk about how they are feeling, and a maths mat and science experiment to ease children back into curriculum learning. You can download the free pack here.

Earlier this summer a useful series of free webinars about preparing children for returning to school was produced by Schudio. The webinars were developed by an autism specialist, but relevant for all children. The webinar include clear explanations about explains how teachers and parents can support transition with some very practical tips and resources. You can access the webinars here

Blog post by Student Speech and language therapist

My interest for language and communication, together with my passion for helping people, supported my decision to study Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT. During my studies I learnt how to support children with speech, language and communication difficulties. As SaLT students we work in different settings to learn about the service and the role of a SaLT in practice. During these clinical placements, SaLT Students complete lots of different tasks with the supervision of qualified SaLTs, such as:

  • Doing speech and language assessments with young people
  • Planning therapy sessions
  • Facilitating speech and language therapy sessions
  • Writing reports summarising children’s strengths and needs and recommending strategies and next steps in intervention
  • Offering training to teachers, nursery staff and other professionals

It is also important for SaLT Students to take responsibility for their own learning and development while on placement. Every SaLT Student will be challenged both on a professional and personal level. I personally enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone and getting experience doing new things with the right amount of preparation and study. On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges has been balancing my work at university and my clinical work on placement. I am glad to say that being trained as a SLT within the Hackney Learning Trust has given me the opportunity to develop both my clinical skills and my practical skills as a therapist.

by Federica Ferri

New Resource for parents with a child aged 0-5 years

The Speech and Language Therapy team have been working hard with the multi-agency team who work with children under 5 to jointly create the Birth to 5 resource.    The resource is designed to support a parent’s journey through the first years of their child’s life highlighting key milestones.  Along each step of the way advice is given about how parents can support their children along with lots of tips for where to go to get trustworthy and local advice.  This resource is so unique because it brings together all the advice different agencies might give a parent with a young child and presents it in a structured and accessible way. We hope that you find it useful. Click here to access this resource.

From a parent of a toddler: a reflection on screen time during lockdown and some advice I need to follow myself

by Hackney Speech and Language Therapist Holly Strickland

As speech and language therapists, we’re often asked by families we work with about recommended ‘limits’ for screen time (TV, computers, tablets, phones). The truth is, there isn’t enough good evidence around for us to be able to say exactly how much is too much. And even as the lockdown eases childcare options

are limited or non-existent and playdates and ‘adventures’ outside the home are limited. You may also haveto add working from home to the mix, and having to divide your attention between parenting and working can mean you feel like you’re not doing a good job at either. And sadly, there may well be ill health (mental or physical) or bereavement in our families on top of all this.

It’s no wonder we are perhaps finding that we need to turn to the virtual babysitter now more than ever, and you may have noticed the screen time in your home increasing dramatically, as I have in mine.  

It’s a time to be kind to ourselves, though, and so while guilty feelings are understandable, they are probably not helpful. But if it is something you’re worried about, here are some general questions (taken from guidance released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in January 2019) that you can ask yourself that might help you identify if something needs to change:

  1. Is screen time in your household controlled?
  2. Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  3. Does screen use interfere with sleep?*
  4. Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

(* this is an area where there is some good evidence, and so the RCPCH recommends that ‘screens are avoided for an hour before the planned bedtime’.)

And, more specifically, here are some further questions and suggestions to help reflect on how to prevent screen time from having a negative impact on communication development, as well as how to use it to create communication opportunities.

– Think about the balance of screen time with time spent doing other activities: (e.g. playing with toys/you/siblings; going outside (for permitted exercise); drawing/painting/messy play; sharing books). Look at it over a week rather than a day and decide if you need to shift the balance towards other activities.

– Avoid having screens on in the background: turn the TV off if you’re not actually watching it (we can all benefit from a break in rolling news coverage!) Background noise makes it more difficult to focus on playing and interacting.

– Decide on some boundaries and try to be consistent with them, as well as thinking about how you communicate them to your child. ‘You can watch for half an hour’ might not mean much to a young child. A five minute warning might help some children, but you could also try to make the limit clearer by specifying which episodes or how many, or the moment in the film they can watch until.

– Think about what comes before or after screen time: be clear about what has to happen first (breakfast/tidying up/star jumps) and also what is going to happen next when screen time finishes: bonus points if it can be something fun!

– Consider your own use of screens and the behaviour you are modelling: are you being fully present or distracted by pings on your phone? Try to find times (even just 5 minute bursts) where you can give your child your undivided attention.

– What is your little one watching? There is a vast spectrum when it comes to the quality of different content. By watching along with your child, you can immediately boost that quality by turning it into an interactive experience. That might mean simply laughing along together and sharing enjoyment, or being able to act out, retell or just talk about different stories after you’ve finished watching. Could you pretend their favourite character is coming to tea? Is there a favourite song you can sing or dance along to with just the music?

– Identify some times that you want to be screen free (including adults’ phones!) – e.g. mealtimes, which offer lots of opportunities for communication, especially if you are able to eat together. If making all mealtimes screen free seems daunting, try choosing one to start with and go from there.

– Embrace video calls! Although technically happening on a screen, video chats with friends and family are a two way interaction and so will be helping children learn about communication much more than any educational app teaching shapes/colours/numbers/letters.

Countdown clock image created using InPrint 3 software

Supporting families with English as an additional language

With the schools closed due to the Coronavirus, many families are accessing home learning online via laptops and tablets. This is challenging for all families, but especially for families with English as an Additional Language (EAL).

The Bell Foundation is a charity that works to support people with EAL to access education. Katherine Solomon from the Bell Foundation wrote this piece about:

  1. The challenges faced by families with EAL
  2. How teachers and other professionals can support families with EAL to access home learning.

Some ideas to support families with EAL:

1) Provide written information with translations if possible. If this is not possible, use clear, simple English with visual supports such as photos or symbols.
2) Try to use audio or video messages so that families who have difficulty reading English can access the information.
3) Highlight the value of multilingualism and encourage parents to support children to complete school activities in their home language.

You can read Katherine Solomon’s blog post here: