How our Team Handled 2020 like Legends

Choosing your attitude is one of the philosophies we live by at Eat Speak Learn and our approach to 2020 really brought this home.

When the Covid Pandemic ramped up we were worried about losing everything; our jobs, our houses, our sanity! Our Clinic was located next door to a Centrelink Office and we watched hundreds of people line up out into the street when they unexpectedly found themselves out of work. I don’t think anyone will forget Scomo’s Sunday night press conference when the country was shut down overnight and our lives changed literally overnight.

It was a great opportunity to put all the things we practice into a big life changing project.

We had a pandemic plan in place and clear communication channels. Our team even had boxes with lists in them with what to take if we suddenly had to work from home. We’d allocated time to build a telehealth platform and watched one of our team members step up and own the rollout like a boss. We invested in the right systems and updated our technology. Our team all had arrangements in place to work safely and productively from home. We were even able to let a practitioner continue services from their hometown in Tasmania!

We looked after each other like family. We had a check in each morning to make sure we were dressed, we were fed and we were ready for the day. We shared our wins, our lessons learned and had some fun. We had a catch up at midday around operations, problem solving and technical queries. You could guarantee that if you were having a problem that someone else was too. We even had after hours games and trivia nights.

We learned so much. We learned how to do the impossible. We pushed ourselves and we knocked down barriers. We weren’t afraid to try new things because we had the trust and support of our team mates to help us through each step.

We grew the team and opened up opportunities for new services. We had practitioners operating out of five different states at one point. We brought on casual administration staff who had lost their jobs in retail and hospitality.

We now have so many more pathways to help our clients achieve their outcomes. At the end of the day, you can give up, you can survive or you can thrive. We are so proud of what we achieved. We did it together; our team, our families, our clients and our community.


Recasting is one of the most simple, easy to use strategies that can be used by a communication partner to help support a child’s speech and language development.   

It involves the adult ‘correcting’ mistakes as part of the conversation but places no expectation on the child to copy the correction- even better if they do however! It allows a child to hear more accurate and descriptive language and provides them with plenty of opportunities to listen. It also allows a communication partner to teach language in a positive, low-pressure way whilst keeping the conversation going.  

So how do I do it?  

You recast your child’s language by adding something more to it. To do this, you need to listen to what the child is saying, interpret what they mean, repeat what the child has said using correct structures, model how to say the target correctly and emphasise the target. For example  

  • If the child says, “mummy home”, you could respond with “Yes! Mummy is home” 
  • If the child says “sleep it” you could say “you sleep on it” 
  • If the child says “doddy do” you could say “yes that doggy is going very fast”  

Recasting can help your child’s development in many ways including to develop vocabulary, to expand their utterance length, to improve speech sounds and to teach grammatical structures.  

Studies show that the more frequently you recast language for a child, the better. When communicating with a child, particularly those with a language delay it is recommended that children need exposure to approximately 1-2 recasts per minute. Remember this is a tool that can be used across as many settings as possible and by as many communication partners as possible- including, parents, teachers and the speech pathologist.  

Bridget McDonnell  

More Than Reading – Book “Play” to support and develop language                   

Toddlers and young children may be ready to engage in books and reading with you, but may not be able to listen to or follow the whole story, and that’s ok.  

Your child may enjoy holding the book, turn the pages and talking about what interests them. The main goals of reading with your child are promoting their interest, interacting with you and the book and learning new words in a fun way.  

Books can be used to enhance and build language as there is usually so much more happening on the page than what the words can tell us.  

How to set up your Book reading time for Optimal Communication and Interaction:  

  • Sit Face to Face with your child so you can both see the book and each others face. This allows you to pick up on their subtle communication such as smiling and reading their cues.  
  • Let your child control the book at their own rate. This means they are actively involved in turning pages and can spend as much time as they like on the pages that interest them.  

How to “READ”:  


React – Encourage the child to participate by pausing and waiting, and then respond appropriately, letting them know you have heard and understood. You can respond using words or smiling and encouraging with non verbal cues.  

Expand – Ask your child questions about what they can see on the page. Asking questions encourages development of general language and vocabulary as well as skills in comprehension, reasoning, inferencing, predicting and problem solving.  

Questions you can ask:  

Simple  Asking for more detail  
Point to the ones you saw  Say what I say  Show me the one you heard  Show me the…  Show me what you touched  Show me ….  What is this?  Which one did I point to?  Which one did you hear?    Find the one that is  Find the one that  How are these different?  Point to a part …  Point to the picture that goes with this  Show me  What is happening?  What is this for?  Who?  What?  Where?  

Add – Use a variety of words to add language to the interaction. Try to avoid just naming the pictures in the book as this will result in your child being exposed to mostly nouns. While nouns are important, your child also needs to be exposed to words that describe, action words, words for feelings, location words, words about time.  

Words you can add to expand your child’s Language  

Adjectives – describing  Verbs – doing words  Feelings  Prepositions – locations  Time  
Size   Shape  Colour  Smell  Texture  Running  Jumping  Swimming  Driving etc.  Happy  Sad  Angry  Surprised  Sleepy etc.  In/On  On top/Under  Behind/In Front of  Inside/Outside  On/Off  Between  He/she is going  He/she went  He/she will go  They are going  They went  They will go  

Discuss – Talk about how the topic or people in the book may relate to something your child has done or something they like. Children get a broader understanding of the world when you draw the connections for them between the book and their life. E.g If you are reading a book about a spider, talk about a time a spider may have scare or startled them.  

Remember your child will engage in their READing at their own pace according to their interests and what they find fun. Avoid asking too many questions and let your child explore, imagine and engage in a way they find meaningful.  

They don’t have to be able to read, to enjoy READing.  


Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Michnick Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, vol. 2012. Available online at:  

How can allied health professionals help my child

Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists… How can allied health professionals help my child?  

Feeling confused about what each allied health profession does? Concerned about your child in some way and not sure who can help? Quite possibly an allied health professional may be able to support you and your child.  

Speech Pathologist: otherwise known as a speech therapist, SP, SLP or as we like to call ourselves, ‘speechies’. Speech pathologists work with individuals who have communication and/or swallowing/eating issues. They can provide assessment and intervention into speech, language, social skills, literacy, stuttering, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), voice, as well as feeding, eating and drinking (i.e. swallowing, oral motor, sensory issues).   

Occupational Therapist: otherwise known as an OT. Occupational therapists focus on prompting health and wellbeing of individuals by supporting them with participating and coping in everyday activities. This can involve fine and gross motor skills, social activities (play, friendship), learning activities (e.g. memory, cognition), sensory and emotional regulation. They can also work with individuals who require modified equipment (e.g. grips, wheelchairs).   

Physiotherapist: otherwise known as a physio. Physiotherapists have extensive knowledge about the human body and its movement. They can provide assessment and intervention in a range of physical conditions that are either developmental or acquired (e.g. crawling, walking, core support, jumping).   

Psychologist: otherwise known as a psych. Psychologists are trained in human behaviour and how individuals change the way they think, feel, behave and react to various situations in their lives. There a lot of different types of psychologists as they often specialise in certain fields. There are some psychologists who are involved in the assessment and diagnosis of conditions (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and others who provide regular intervention services for clients and their families.   

Dietician: Dietitians have an extensive knowledge in food and nutrition. They are trained to support individuals who have ongoing health conditions to manage nutrition in order to maintain their weight and overall health. They often work closely with Speech Pathologists when the child’s weight and nutrition is poor due to ongoing swallowing and/or feeding issues.   

For more information on allied health professionals, please check out the Allied Health Professions Australia website:  

Will social skills help with an autism diagnosis

QN: My child’s just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. What does this mean for his future –  will Social Skills actually help? 

My brother was diagnosed with high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome (now simply known as an Autism Spectrum Disorder) at the age of two. 

He had many symptoms that could be considered typical of ASD, including; difficulty engaging with others socially, discomfort with eye contact, preference for routine and repetition (and a tendency to become upset when this didn’t happen). 

My  brother participated in Social Skills classes with a Speech Pathologist from when he was three years old until he was 13. 

He was explicitly taught about how people express emotion, how to respond to others’ emotions, how to behave socially and how to cope with change. 

I asked him to share some experiences of his childhood in social skills classes, what he remembers and where he is now. 


Tell us about yourself 

My name is Alexander Darling, I’m a 25-year-old journalist living and working in Horsham, Western Victoria. At three I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, called Asperger’s Syndrome back then. 

How did your Autism Spectrum Disorder affect your childhood? 

I understand it hasn’t affected me as severely as many other people on the spectrum, but I remember times when I would get very nervous or upset if routines changed: things like being driven to kindergarten via a different route. 

I was told I couldn’t always read non-verbal social cues as well as other people. I think in hindsight the most distinct feature for me was I couldn’t immediately empathise or think about how other people were feeling, and that sometimes affected when I wanted to talk to people and recognising if they were actually willing to talk to me. 

In my first year of primary school I think no little kids are great socially, so I had some good friends I could kick the footy with. The differences between myself and my classmates probably became more pronounced when I became a teenager: Everyone was socialising and forming friendship groups, and I realised I didn’t really like the things they did. I had very narrow interests and I felt anxious talking to people that I didn’t really know unless it was about those interests.   

What support did you receive? 

I got a lot of support from a young age due to a young diagnosis. I was lucky that people identified and knew my situation and catered for it, which meant that it was a lot less stressful for myself and my parents than it could have been.  

My earliest memories of social skills are of the take home tasks. We were told to try and have conversations with people and what the structure of that is. I remember they told us that the first thing after exchanging niceties was to ask someone a question. That’s something that has stuck with me and I still use today – I would have been maybe eight or nine when I learned it.  

We also got given a handout with pictures of facial expressions, to try and identify how the people making them were feeling. We had a discussion around how people are reacting and how we can respond. Someone told me; “So your dad comes home from work is slamming doors and growling is that a moment when you try and talk to him?” The answer is obviously no, but I had to have very explicit training of what situations can occur and then lots of home practice for the skills to transfer and become what I use now. 

I got to the point when I was 13 or 14 where I thought “I don’t want to do this anymore”. it seemed like there was nothing else to learn by being in social skills,  the rest would have to be what I could pick up by myself – using the knowledge from the social skills classes as a lasting guide – and seeing what did and didn’t work in the real world. 

I’ve heard it said it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, and if you do it for long enough you can read more subtle social cues. I still make mistakes at 25 years old, but after being introduced to obvious facial expressions and cues slowly, it became easier to have empathetic responses to people. 

How do you think your Social Skills training helps you still? 

Social Skills is really a long term goal, because while you are more implicitly learning things and applying at primary and secondary school I didn’t start really consciously applying and using it until I found people who had the same interests as me at University, and I really wanted to engage with them and learn more about them. 

I remember a story my mother told me when I was young of another adult (18) with ASD who used the all the social skills training they had accumulated every single day. At the time thought it would take a lot of brain power, but by the time I got to that stage I realised a lot of it was subconscious.  

I’m still using the instruction that had been given to me in that concentrated social skills today. Skills such as maintaining eye contact, not sitting too close to people, not trying to go for physical contact unless I’m sure people will appreciate it. It’s a long haul. 

With my job at the moment I’m more able to recognise emotions in the tone of people’s voices as much as facial expressions. If I call up about a story and they seem distressed, I can now read those cues and use a softer tone of voice and make sure my line of questioning isn’t inappropriate. I wouldn’t have been able to respond like that if I hadn’t have had facial recognition or empathy training when I was seven or eight years old. 

What is your most significant memory of Social Skills ? 

I freely admit there were many times I was in classes where I absolutely didn’t want to be there.  

There was nothing I would rather have been doing than playing a computer game, kicking a football or anything else that didn’t require the brain power of trying to socialise. My parents definitely cajoled me a bit: More than the difficulty of the sessions and the annoyance, it was the chocolate milkshake I got at the corner store afterwards I remember about those classes.  

That meant more than anything, most of the time I was just looking forward to the milkshake next week. It’s a strategy that works. It’s the good memories that stick with you from your childhood. 

What is the hardest thing you’ve learnt? 

That there is value in not getting it right– failing for success –. Socialising can be very subjective.  

Almost on a daily basis I have conversations where I think I could have done something better after they’ve ended – that people dislike me as a result of what I did or didn’t do.  

But more often than not the next time I’ve gone and talked to them they have been fine. From my perspective all of this tells me that no social blunder is as ever as serious as you think it is, so long as you try and be polite. So long as your heart is in the right place other people will see that too. 

You don’t need to dominate a conversation or be a social butterfly. It’s about just participating in a way that’s genuine. 

Anything else you thought our Parents should know? 

I’m Alex Darling first, and a person on the Autism Spectrum second. By virtue of all the training I got I believe people see my personality before they see my disability, and I know that that’s the end goal of all speech pathology. 

I hope that is something parents can take away, that their kid is their kid, with unique personality traits, and them being on the Autism Spectrum is secondary.   

If parents are worried their kids won’t be like all the others – that’s the truth of it. But it’s by no means a drawback, it can actually be an advantage.