How will I know if my child has a communication problem? (0-5years)

This information sheet describes typical communication development up to the age of 5 and lists key points of concern. It will help you to decide if you need to contact a speech & language therapist for advice. The sheet is designed with both parents and nursery staff in mind. Any NHS or private speech & language therapist will be happy to talk to you on the phone to discuss any concerns you may have.

Click on the link below to download:
How will I know if my child has a communication problem?

Building Communication Out and About

Wow, this year is passing quickly! I can’t believe it’s nearly May already. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Blethers what with Little Listeners Group running in North Berwick and getting out and about across Edinburgh & East Lothian to see clients and visit nurseries.

As the weather improves, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy being out and about with your children in the lovely Lothians. Why not try adding a few language building activities into your days out! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Play ‘I Spy’ – this is a brilliant and versatile game for building language skills which is really easy to play on the bus, in the car or while walking somewhere. You can do lots of variations like ‘something beginning with…’, ‘something that rhymes with…’, ‘something that is (add a colour)…’, ‘something that (add an action)…’
  • Bubbly Buss, East Lothian

    A day out at the beach gives lots of opportunities to learn new vocabulary!

    Scrapbooks or Treasure Boxes – if you go on a trip somewhere, collect objects, tickets, photos etc that remind you of the trip. You can stick these into a scrapbook or put them in a ‘Treasure Box’ when you get home. Encourage your child to draw pictures of the things they enjoyed about their day out. As you talk about the things you saw, did and found on your day out, you (or your child if they want to and are able to) can write the story in your scrapbook. This sort of activity helps children to learn and remember new vocabulary as there are some physical reminders of the new words and a real story to use them in. You will also build your child’s ‘narrative’ or story telling skills. As well as being an essential literacy skill, telling stories is how we communicate our experiences to other people and in turn form relationships, solve problems and develop understanding of our personal experiences.

  • Twenty Questions – This is a good game to help older children to develop their focused questioning, categorisation and descriptive skills. One of you secretly chooses an object, famous person, animal, place or food. The other has to ask up to 20 different questions to try and guess what it is. Encourage your child to summarise the information they have before asking the next question, eg ‘So, it’s something you can eat, it’s a fruit and it’s yellow. Is it curved?’. To make the game a little easier, you can write down some key questions to be used each time like: ‘Is it a living thing?’, ‘Is it a place?’, ‘Can you eat it?’…

Have fun giving these games a go and enjoy being out and about!


Little Listeners Group – still a few spaces left!

Catriona and I had great fun yesterday with our Little Listeners in North Berwick. It was the first of 6 group sessions for pre-schoolers to help build phonological awareness skills. Research shows that well developed phonological awareness is linked strongly to later success in learning to read and write, but what is phonological awareness?

Well, it’s all about breaking words down into the sounds that make them up. It includes skills like syllable counting, rhyme awareness, identifying the first sound in a word, sounding words out and ‘spoonerising’ or playing with the sounds in words to make silly phrases or philly srases!

Our spelling system in English is ‘alphabetic’. That means that there is a letter (or sometimes a group of letters like ‘sh’) that represents each spoken sound. To be able to match sounds to letters for literacy, children need to be able to divide words up into individual parts, a bit like taking apart a jigsaw to see how many pieces there are.

The programme for Little Listeners is designed to follow the typical pattern of development of phonological awareness skills and to give an extra boost to preschoolers skills, ready for starting school. In weeks 1 & 2 we will be covering syllable awareness, weeks 3 & 4 will focus on rhyming, week 5 will be about the first sounds in words and week 6 about last sounds in words.

We still have some spaces left in the group so please do contact us if you are interested! Isla Davies 07810 393866 or, Catriona Black 07900 935733 or 

Little Listeners takes place at St Andrew Blackadder Church in North Berwick on Thursdays 1.45-2.30pm. Sessions are £15 each and the next one is Thursday 26th April.

Increasing prevalence of autism in the USA despite phasing out of mercury-based preservatives in vaccines…

This week’s New Scientist drew my attention to a report published recently by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the prevalence of ASD in the USA. The report shows that the prevalence of autism in 14 areas of the USA has risen by 78% between 2002 and 2008. Interestingly, in these same areas and across the USA, Thiomersal, the mercury-based vaccine preservative that has been blamed by some researchers for the rising prevalence of ASD, was phased out of paediatric vaccines from the year 2000 onwards. As the children in this latest study have not been exposed to Thiomersal, the obvious conclusion is that it does not play a role in the increasing rates of diagnosis of ASD. This replicates findings from other large-scale studies carried out worldwide which have also concluded that there is no link between vaccinations and ASD.


To most people, speech simply means talking but Speech & language therapists are more specific. We tend to use ‘speech’ to mean ‘pronunciation’ or how you say words and speech sounds.

Social Skills

The skills you need to take part in social conversation, things like empathy, knowing how to read facial expressions, knowing when it’s your turn in a conversation, knowing how much information to give your listener. Social skills are very much subconscious for most of us, that is we ‘just do it’ and it is often VERY obvious when someone has problems with this area of communication.


Anything relating to meaning in language. All words we use have some meaning and those meanings often relate to each other. For example we know that apples, pears and bananas are all different, each word has its own meaning, but they are also all related because they are all fruits and things you can eat. Sentences also have meanings which can be more tan the added meanings of the words inside them. Think about figures of speech like ‘You’re driving me round the bend’. The meaning of the sentence is different from the meanings of the words inside it.

Pre Intentional Communication

You can think of this as ‘accidental’ communication. A good (and simplified!) example of this is a baby crying because it is hungry. In the first few weeks, the baby simply cries in response to the discomfort of hunger but, crucially, the parents interpret the cry as a request for food and give the baby a bottle. Over time, the baby begins to learn that crying results in being fed and starts to do it with the intention of getting food. This is the beginning of deliberate, planned and intentional communication.