Talk About, the project all Norfolk settings are talking about

The Talk About project provides early years speech, language and communication needs (SLCNs) support in Norfolk.

Following on from the success of the Norfolk based project Every Child A Talker (ECAT), Talk About is a collaborative project which is currently funded by Norfolk County Council. If the project is successful in its aim to raise the quality of speech and language practice within Norfolk’s early years settings, the council may decide to continue funding the scheme. It has been developed and managed by a team of experts at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust’s Speech and Language Service and provides training for staff who work in a range of early years settings (nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups, reception classes) to assist practitioners in identifying and supporting children (aged 3-5 years old) who are experiencing difficulties in developing their speech, language and communication skills. As professionals we know that speaking, listening and interacting well with others are fundamental skills which are the building blocks to enjoying and achieving in both the early years and in later life. The early childhood years are a critical period for the development of these skills and the best time to implement interventions to support children who are experiencing difficulties.

Since pledging my setting to the project, I have taken on the role of Early Language Lead Practitioner (ELLP) alongside another practitioner from my setting. One of the benefits gained from joining is the abundance of free training offered by the 10 speech and language therapists who form the core group leading the project. Between myself and the deputy ELLP we have attended a range of courses including:

  • Hanen Teacher Talk
  • Every Child A Talker (ECAT) Monitoring
  • Signalong
  • Working with Selective Mutism
  • Early Language Development Programme
  • Expressive Language and Vocabulary Difficulties
  • Speech Sound Difficulties
  • Attention and Listening Difficulties
  • Difficulties Understanding Language
  • Working with Autism and Social Communication Difficulties
  • Working with Stammering
  • Working in Groups to Support Children’s Language
  • Elklan: Speech and Language Support for Under 5s (10 week, level 3 course)

All of these courses have ranged from 3 hours to a whole day or even 10 weeks. Needless to say, it has required some flexible working and attendance of courses outside operating hours. The Elklan course is the longest and most in-depth (completion of a Level 2 or 3 portfolio is recommended at the start of the programme), I intend to write a short review once the final session is complete. Next week will be the penultimate session and I dare say that I will be saddened to finish, despite the Monday evening session time!


Speech and Language in the Early Years INSET

Speech and Language in the Early Years

In Setting Training Agenda – 2012

The aim of this training is to support and develop practitioners’ understanding of children’s speech, language and communication development, knowledge of normal patterns of development, monitoring practices, effective multi-agency working, fostering parental partnerships and best practices when working with children with communicative difficulties.

10am -12pm Introduction
Why is communication so important?
Language Acquisition Theories
Contemporary Research-based Approaches to Communication
Types of Communicative Difficulties and Impairments
12-12.45pm LUNCH
12.45-3.30pm Practical Application of Theory
Augmentative and Alternative Means of Communication
British Sign Language, Sign Along and Makaton
The role of Early Years Practitioners, Speech and Language Therapists (SALTs) and other professionals


Full slides and supporting materials (speaker’s notes, appendix, handouts, activity outlines) to follow.

Patricia Kuhl’s The Linguistic Genius of Babies video can be found here.

Charles Limb’s Building the Musical Muscle video can be found here.

Leadership and Communication Presentation

Recently I gave a presentation on communicative leadership skills. As part of this I offered the audience examples (positive and negative) from my own experiences both as a leader and as a “follower”. I found the feedback to be overwhelmingly positive; most of the practitioners had experienced both roles either formally or informally at some point during their lives and were able to relate to the examples I illustrated. 


Slides and supporting materials to follow.



1 in 10 children in the UK have communication difficulties that require specialist help

Imagine spending the next 24 hours unable to express yourself, unable to make your needs known or simply unable to interact with others. The essential speech, language and communication skills you practice daily are often taken for granted; speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are sometimes referred to as “invisible” difficulties. “Speech, language and communication needs” is a general term used to describe any kind of difficulties with speech and language. It is estimated that 1 in 10 children in the United Kingdom have communication difficulties that require specialist help. Children with communication difficulties may seem withdrawn, isolated or labelled as “poorly behaved”. Too frequently these children’s needs are missed, presumed to be “shy” or seen as “difficult” due to the challenges they experience in socialising, reading or learning.

Awareness of the key features of speech, language and communication difficulties can enable the practitioners, teachers and carers who observe children to spot areas for development as early as possible. Early intervention can ensure that children receive the right help to learn, make friends and fulfil their potential.

A child with speech, language and communication needs may:

  • have speech that is difficult to understand
  • struggle to say words or sentences
  • not understand words that are being used, or the instructions they hear
  • have difficulties knowing how to talk and listen to others in a conversation

Children may have just some or all of these difficulties; they are all unique. If you have concerns about a child’s speech, language or communication skills, speak to your SENCO, local speech and language therapist or Local Authority Advisor. The first step to helping a child find their voice, is noticing the little clues that complete the big picture.

For further information, resources and publications:
Department for Education – Early Support materials, the Parent Booklet on Communication is useful for both parents and practitioners. I keep a copy near the Parents’ and Carers’ Noticeboards as well as a copy on the staff bookshelf.
I CAN – charity website with a huge array of resources, links, information on I CAN accredited settings, fundraising that focuses on building communication skills (and awareness of SLCN) and a wonderful “call-back” service enabling parents and carers to speak to a speech and language therapist.
Talking Point – a trove of information on communication difficulties, complete with parental advice tool and free resources.

Closure of The ACE Centre in Oxford

The Communication Trust (a coalition of nearly 50 leading voluntary organisations and an advisory group, which includes the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Association of Educational Psychologists and the General Teaching Council) has expressed concern in a press release over the closure of The ACE Centre in Oxford (scheduled for the end of June). The Trust has urged the Government to consider and implement the recommendations that Jean Gross (former Communication Champion), outlined in last year’s reports on Specialised AAC Provision.

The Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) reviews conducted by the Communication Champion (Jean Gross) in September 2010 and November 2011 can be viewed here. The reports served to assess the effectiveness of AAC provision across the country, with the aim of identifying good practice and development of future improvements to services.

The ACE Centre in Oxford has led the way in providing crucial support for children and young people with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) needs for almost 30 years. Their  specialist knowledge and tailored assessments have given thousands of children voices via pioneering communication aids and resources.

Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director of The Communication Trust said:

“It is very sad and deeply concerning to be losing such an expert skill-set on delivering specialist AACservices. The vital work of The ACE Centre in Oxford picked up the needs of what is typically a ‘low incidence’but ‘high need’ group of children and young people. There are therefore very limited pockets of this expertiseacross the country. The real risk is that unless the Government adopts quickly the model put forwards by Jean Gross, other expert provision will be lost. The Communication Trust and other experts in the field back this model and are calling for support to be made available to develop the provider market further. A number of children rely on AAC to communicate with their family, learn at school and to make friends. It is wrong that families are being told there is no provision available or that they will have to pay for this fundamental service. Tribute must be paid to the staff team at The ACE Centre in Oxford and we hope their expertise and skills can be utilised by others. We are pleased that great efforts are being made to sustain the legacy of their achievements such as the Speech Bubble website and Look2Talk resources.”