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

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 .EXPAND .ADD . DISCUSS  

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.  

References:  

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: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/cdr/2012/602807/cta/.  

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: https://ahpa.com.au/allied-health-professions/  

What is AAC?

AAC is short for Augmentative and Alternative Communication 

Augmentative – something that supplements speech 

Alternative – something to use instead of speech 

AAC can be devices, strategies or tools which help a person communicate.  

AAC is often broken down into two groups: 

Unaided (doesn’t require physical aids)  

  • Gesture  
  • Auslan 
  • Key Word Sign  
  • Facial expression  
  • Body language. 

Aided (physical object required or device)  

  • Symbols  
  • Aided Language Displays  
  • Communication books  
  • Speech Generating Devices (SGD’s)  
  • Keyboards and/or alphabet charts  

Who is suitable for AAC? 

AAC is suitable for anyone who may have trouble speaking, or even if they have some words, however others find it difficult to understand them. This allows the person to have more success in chatting to others and gives them the opportunity to enjoy interactions with other people about whatever they would like to talk about.  

What is a Multi-Modal Communicator 

A multi-modal communicator is someone who uses several forms of communication to get their message across. It is common for a verbal speak to enhance their verbal communication with gesture or facial expressions. An AAC user may need assistance to use such strategies for example, supplementing their communication with vocalisations, gestures, photographs or some attempts at words to enable their listener to understand them.  

Are there any pre-requisites for AAC?  

This is a great question and is easily summed up by the below image  

 
There are absolutely no prerequisites (other than being able to breathe) for an individual to be a candidate for AAC.  

Some individuals with severe sensory-motor challenges cannot show how strong their cognition is without a means to communicate (Romski and Sevcik 2005) thus it is incredibly important that an individual has access to some form of communication 

Will using AAC stop my child from ever talking to me?  

This is a common question that is raised when discussing AAC with families. The research has shown time and time again that AAC will not prevent a child from becoming verbal, rather quite the contrary, it may encourage the development of spoken communication, which should always be a simultaneous goal when working with an AAC user. (Romski, Sevcik, and Adamson,1997) (Cress, 2003), (Quick et al. 2019).  

AAC is a valuable tool to increase access to communication and promote participation for anyone who may be experiencing communication difficulties.