Thursday, 26 May 2011

Latest blog from Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director

Oh come on – now the Guardian says that bottle feeding mothers are responsible for an increased risk of their child having Behavioural , Social and Emotional Disorders. Leaving aside irritation that, having reviewed all the articles on the subject, it is the always the mother who chooses to give their child the bottle (are fathers somehow absolved from making decisions about their child by the British media) it brought home to me again that the line between supporting parents with good information and making them feel bad for their, often well intentioned, decisions is a thin one.

Both the Trust and our members aim to get the best possible guidance and support to families - and I think that the wonderful range of materials that are coming out under the Hello campaign and the services available from the charities that we work with exemplify this.

But it's easy to get it wrong. Being a parent of any child is hard – being a parent of a child with a disability or additional need is even harder. Guilt weights heavily on parents of children with SLCN and so many parents blame themselves . Organisations or experts that add to these pressures through careless words, that often expose their own subtle prejudices of how things should be, cause great pain.

Inevitably journalists, MPs and especially parents themselves want to know what it is that parents can do better. But for every thing that parents can do better (and heaven knows for me there is a long list) there are a hundred things that parents are doing brilliantly. And it is that point that we need to make because parenting is not one choice – tv or no tv; forward facing pram or parent facing pram; bottle or breast – it is a hundred choices. There is no one magic bullet and the things that we know make the biggest difference to the outcomes of any child – class, income and parent education – are still areas that we struggle to find the right words over and struggle even more to find the right solutions for (note the angst that Field’s and Allen’s reports on childhood outcomes created when they attempted to tackle these issues).

So for me – I'm giving Josh his next bottle in a few hours. Following his tummy time, baby massage, ten minutes in front of the TV while I wash up and a push around the block in his parent facing buggy while he looks at pictures on my IPhone. I’m leaving guilt aside for a while and replacing it with love – and as I do that it occurs to me that maybe there is a magic bullet after all.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A little brave lion - Andrew Ball, Campaign Director

I recently had to take my 3 year old son to our local Accident and Emergency department. We’re lucky that our local hospital has a separate emergency department for children with a nice waiting room with a handful of toys (mostly broken), a vending machine (full of healthy sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks) and a nice big widescreen TV (to help while away the hours waiting).

To my surprise, whoever run this children’s A&E had decided that it was appropriate to have the EastEnders omnibus edition showing on the television...

When I arrived there were two young parents with their kids already waiting to be seen – a father and son and a mother and daughter. The young father was content for his 18 month old son to play with the toys whilst he concentrated on his BlackBerry. In the 20 minutes we were waiting there, the only thing that the father said to his son was "I'm watching you" (while he clearly was playing with his phone) and “sit down, and watch that”.

Meanwhile, the young mum was watching the television with her 4 year old daughter. After a few minutes the daughter turned to her mum and said "I love Cat and the baby..."! Now I know that ‘cat’ and ‘baby’ are probably two of the first words that children learn but surely they should never be used by a 4 year in relation to a story line involving cot death, kidnapping and who knows what else. Tom and Jerry never covered those issues.

All this was very timely I thought given the launch last week of Raa Raa the Noisy Lion and our recent surveys about parents attitudes towards watching TV with their children. My son ended up being admitted to hospital overnight which meant that I got to watch the first episode of Raa Raa with him – and he loved it. We’ve watched each subsequent episode at least a further 3 times thanks to the BBC iPlayer so that’s at least one very happy viewer!

So, if you’re a parent of a young child and are wondering what to watch together or if you manage a children’s A&E department with a TV and are wondering what to show on it, may I suggest Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. It’s so much better than EastEnders - and far more realistic!

P.S. My son made a full recovery...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Check out what Essex are doing - Linda Rooney, Local Advisor

Here are just some of the activities and programmes being undertaken by Speech and Language Therapists, Early Years and Education colleagues around Essex.

- In Southend-on-Sea there has been a "Big Hello" event at the Thorpe Greenway school
- A supermarket treasure hunt is being organised for 31st May-3rd June
- A "Communication Champion Setting" Quality Mark event will be held on the 22nd June
- Look out for the "Speech on the Beach"event on 10th August
- In October there will be an event to highlight the monthly theme -"not just words" - exploring alternative and augmentative methods of communication.

The Early Years Specialist Teaching Team will be showcasing the impact from the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP), Speech, Language and Communication Needs, facilitated by their participation in the East Region cross Local Authority IDP Impact Projects 2010-2011.

Makaton " taster sessions" will be offered to childcare practitioners throughout 2011 and Makaton resources have been purchased for loan through the Early Years Library.

Multiple copies of the I CAN resources "Babbling Babies " and "Toddler Talk" have also been included in to the Early Years Resource Library for loan to all Early Years practitioners.

The area SENCO team is busy monitoring the relevant websites and is e-mailing copies of all relevant downloadable resources to all 650 pre-school settings in Essex as and when they come on line.

The pre-school team is planning conferences and workshops on the use of picture communication systems within pre-school settings.

The Early Years consultants will continue to promote the National Year throughout the summer with "Walk and Talk " materials utilising providers and festivals.

To round the year off, the Speech and Language Therapists and Early Years Team will be devising "Seasonal Gifts" with a communication theme.

All great news for children and young people in Essex - working for a better quality of life.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Hello Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire - Linda Rooney, Local Advisor

Well, it’s one month now since I took myself out of retirement and stepped forward to have a go at doing something for children that need help with their speech, language and communication.

I have been busy in Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, as a local regional advisor, asking people to take action for the National Year of Communication - Hello campaign. This is more than a national campaign - as with communication - it’s everybody’s business. It’s not a “top- down initiative - it’s about spreading the word and making change happen in local settings. So, I have been establishing networks between local practitioners, providing resources, offering advice, capturing good practice and sharing ideas.

And......there are some great things going on out there!

From a “Big Hello” event to “speech on the beach”; from the purchase and sharing of essential communication resources for practitioners to “walk and talk” activities in the park! From conferences to celebrate the National Year (including the use of alternative and augmentative systems of communication) to the establishment of steering groups to ensure that the initiative is sustained - it is all happening in the region!!

So, hopefully, by the end of my placement I will have been able to help the Hello campaign be the national and local success it absolutely needs to be!!