Monday, 31 October 2011

Make TV time, talk time! - by Lynne Milford, Press Officer

According to an article in the Daily Mail today (, ‘passive’ television watching – leaving the television playing when you’re not really watching - is as dangerous for children as passive smoking.

Experts at the American Academy of Paediatrics said parents are more likely to use television or a computer to keep children occupied, but they revealed watching TV interferes with the amount of time children and parents spend interacting and can also interfere with a child’s ability to learn from play. The Communication Trust strongly believe that spending time speaking and listening to your child is vital for developing their communication skills. However, that does not mean that you cannot turn TV and other forms of technology into communication opportunities.

Earlier in the year, as part of the Hello campaign (national year of communication), we were involved in the development and launch of Raa Raa The Noisy Lion. Raa Raa is a show on CBeebies that supports the development of speech and language through rhyme and rhythm. We developed some top tips for making the most of your television time. These include making sure children watch programmes that are age appropriate, encouraging your child to ask and answer questions relating to the programme and if you let your children watch TV, watch it with them as much as possible.

To see Raa Raa’s top ten telly tips, click here (

To find out more about Raa Raa, click here ( and you can also download Raa Raa resources for parents and practitioners here (

Monday, 24 October 2011

Charity praises supporters for successful campaign - Lynne Milford, Press Officer

For the 200 delegates, it was a chance to network, meet old friends and make new connections in the world of speech and language therapy.

For the visiting MPs and Ministers, it was a chance to see what the Hello campaign is all about and to meet people who work with children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

But most importantly, it was a chance for The Communication Trust to say a huge thank you to everyone who had supported the event, produced resources and generally raised the profile of the issue.

Event sponsor Annette Brooke MP hit the nail on the head when she said the purpose of the event was celebration. She said: “I was excited by what would happen during the year and the Hello campaign has been an amazing success. So many children were missing out on achieving their full potential in life for a host of reasons. We are here to highlight and celebrate the amazing work that has gone on and I would like to congratulate all the people involved in that.”

The highlight of the event was a presentation by 18-year-old Ben Morfey from Plymouth. Ben has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and cannot speak, but gave his presentation with the aid of the electronic communication aid which he uses to speak. He explained about his life, how he enjoys sending text messages to his family and attending Dame Hannah Rogers School for children with physical and learning difficulties.

Communication Champion Jean Gross spoke about the events she has toured the country to visit. This began in February when she found herself in Sheffield city centre with the Lord Mayor, Director of Children’s Services, the elected member for Children, children and their parents doing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ for the Chatterbox Challenge World Record attempt.

Children and Families Minister Sarah Teather MP told the gathering she had tried to make speech, language and communication needs a core policy. She said: “An enormous amount has been achieved by people in this room, laying the building blocks for work we can do in future.”
There are just two months left in the national year of communication but many changes have been made in the world of speech, language and communication and the Trust will be planning how to make Hello’s legacy long-lasting.

For more information about the remaining themes of Hello visit our website

Thursday, 20 October 2011

In the right place at the right time! - Lynne Milford, Press and PR Officer

I’ve managed to join The Communication Trust at a very exciting time. I’m the new press officer and I’ve arrived the week of a big parliamentary event to celebrate Hello, the National Year of Communication. There may only be two months left until the campaign ends, but there’s still plenty to do in evaluating its success and preparing its legacy for next year. This is where I hope to be heavily involved. It would be totally pointless to have had such a fantastic year encouraging parents, schools and children to focus on communication and raising awareness of children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), and not to build on it for the future. I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to look to the future and move things forward.

For me, communicating has never been a problem. Some people would say I talk too much, others say they love to hear my north-eastern accent (I’m from Durham), but I’ve never really had a problem getting my point across. Communicating, whether in speaking, writing or reading, has always comes as second nature to me. I find it baffling that some children grow up in a world where there are unable to communicate properly and cannot get the help they need. It must be incredibly frustrating for them. I take it for granted that I will be able to find the right words to express my point, and on the rare occasions I can’t it is annoying. Imagine what it must be like to never be able to find the right words? Or not to be able to say them even if you do know them?

So, that’s why I’m delighted to have joined The Communication Trust at a point where it is so able to influence the agenda. Yes, it’s going to be hard work, but with the help of our consortium, MPs, local co-ordinators, teachers and parents all working together we can keep this issue in a prominent place on the local and national agenda and we can make it easier to identify and help those children who so desperately need it. I’m looking forward to using my communication skills to make sure that no child ever has to struggle along unable to understand the world around them, that parents are fully equipped to know if their child has problems and how they can help, and that teachers and healthcare professionals are able to provide the help and support which is required.

Hopefully I can use my communication skills – my ability to speak, write and most importantly to listen – to make sure that children and parents can get whatever help they need. So for once in my life, I feel like I’ve arrived in the right place at the right time, somewhere I can really make a difference. So watch this space...

Monday, 3 October 2011

No Pens Day Wednesday - guest slot, Jean Gross, Communication Champion

Last week about a quarter of a million children and young people took part in the Hello campaign’s No Pens Day Wednesday, which seems to have really hit the spot with teachers.

I was lucky enough to visit St Joseph’s Primary School in Camden, where overnight a time machine had arrived in the playground. Covered in silver foil and cordoned off, it had a huge clock with backwards numbers, a 0-9 number pad, a Blue Peter-type control console and – best of all- a calendar with Wednesday 28th September marked with a cross and the words ‘St Joseph’s School, Earth’ scrawled across the page.

The local community policewoman came down to check for health and safety, while the children came out in class groups to explore and talk about the machine. The oldest children discussed what year they might want to go back (or forward) to. One girl said 9/11, so ‘We could stop it happening’. A child in a younger class suggested that maybe if you pressed a number on the number pad you would become that age – ‘You’d be six..or nine...’

Others speculated about where the machine might have come from. ‘I think it came from the sky’ (and ‘I think the teachers made it’), while the teachers encouraged speculative language and modelled exciting vocabulary.

Then each class used the time machine as a stimulus for no-pens activities. In Reception the creative areas had been set out with foil and glitter and boxes for the children to use. Older groups planned and made their own robots and time machines in design and technology.

In Year 6 children took part in an extended improvisation about life in the year 3011, when the world was ruled by orang-utans. One activity was group work to plan a talking brochure for a school in this new world. They had to choose a name for their school and its vision statement, then use their bodies to create a still image for the front cover of the prospectus. Later they recorded the images using camera and sound, and went on to work on the inside pages.

In another class I watched a maths lesson. Children worked in groups, each child holding a number on a card. No-one was allowed to show their card to each other. The task was to arrange themselves into a line with their numbers in size order, by asking each other questions – ‘Has your number got three digits?’ and so on.

The day made me very aware of the problems of acoustics in classrooms. Children all talking in groups makes quite a buzz, so they had to focus hard to listen to each other. Many classrooms aren’t designed for talk. Many twenty-first century workplaces are. Interesting?

There’s no doubt the day was full-on for the teachers, without those moments when everyone is writing quietly. But those I spoke to said they loved the day, despite the challenges. So did many other schools across the country, according to some of the Twitter conversations we picked up.

We have been asked if No Pens Day will happen again. Any school that wants to can still take part, of course – many have chosen their own Wednesday (or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday...) later on in the year. The guidance and lesson plans are still available at But I also hope the day will become an annual fixture in the education calendar, to remind us all that communication skills are vital for today’s learners, and that over a million children in the UK have speech, language and communication needs that are often misidentified, misunderstood - or missed altogether.