Communicating with Young People who have Autism

In this information sheet you will find some general advice that will help parents, carers and education staff to get the most out of communication with a young person whose autism is more severe and affects them significantly day to day. This might be someone who has limited or no spoken communication and who needs support to engage successfully in day to day activities. This is a general information leaflet so you may find that some of the points are not relevant for your child but hopefully you will find something that is helpful for you!

Click on the link below to download the information sheet:

Top Tips for Communicating with Someone who has Autism

Top Tips For Vocabulary Building

There are loads of easy things you can do as part of your day to day routine that will support your child’s vocabulary development. Children need a wide range of vocabulary to be able to build longer and longer sentences and to express themselves clearly. That means that they need to know not just object names but also action words, describing words, location words and greetings. This help sheet will give you some ideas of easy activities that you can build into your daily routine.

Click on the link below to download:

Top Tips for Vocabulary Building

East Lothian’s Secrets!

While watching Coast on BBC2 the other week, I was really surprised to find that the wrecks of 2 World War II miniature submarines lie in Aberlady Bay, East Lothian. Ever curious and making sure we checked the tide times first, Tom and I decided to go and have a look yesterday. Thankfully our trip across the sands was not just timed well with the tide but also with the weather! We made it out to the wrecks and back to the car (a 2 hour round trip) without getting rained on. An achievement in itself!

If, over the holidays, you are looking for a nice day out with older children that will support their language and vocabulary development, this is a really nice activity. As you walk out from the car park through the nature reserve and across the sand, you will see a wide variety of birds, sea creatures and plants & flowers – a great opportunity for vocabulary building. The World War II Midget Submarines themselves provide a topic-based discussion point where you can develop general knowledge, vocabulary and story-telling skills.

A view of the western submarine wreck at Aberlay Sands, East Lothian

Like the skeleton of some ancient dinosaur, the western submarine wreck looms out of the sand.

It’s difficult to see here, but the submarine is only about 6m long. These subs had a crew of 5 brave souls! I can only imagine how cramped and sweaty it must have been with 5 people inside! At the end of World War II, these 2 subs were moored up in Aberlady Bay and the RAF used them for a bit of target practice. If you would like to learn more about these submarines, have a look at the excellent Coastrider blog for more detail.

Copper piping sticking out of the Eastern Sub wreck at Aberlady Sands, East Lothian

Like some weird snakes, the old copper piping from the Eastern sub's hydraulic system is remarkably clean and shiny!

If you do decide to head out to Aberlady for a look, you will need to plan to reach the sub wrecks about 30-60 minutes before low tide. They are only visible around low tide and awareness of the tide times is essential for your trip as the tides come in very quickly at Aberlady Sands. Avoid a lifeboat call out by going to the BBC Weather website to check tide times. Now, a word of caution! Tide times are always quoted in UTC (Universal Time Co-ordinates) which is pretty much exactly the same as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). That means that the times given don’t take into account the clocks going forward at the end of March. If you are checking tide times between the end of March and end of October you will therefore need to ADD ONE HOUR to the time shown. For example, yesterday’s afternoon low tide was quoted as 14.45 which means actual low tide was at 15.45. All of this tide and beach stuff gives you another set of learning and language building opportunities for your children. For older children, you can find out more about how tides work at Science Blogs and Geography for Kids talks about tides, tsunamis and the water cycle which is a topic in the national science curriculum.

Finally, develop your child’s real-life problem solving skills and help them stay safe on the beach this summer by visiting the RLNI’s excellent beach safety advice page or CBBC’s Newsround article about beach safety.

An anemone inside the Western Submarine wreck at Aberlady Sands

An anemone has made its home in the western wreck!

New Assessment!

Well, I finally bit the bullet and shelled out for a copy of the new and improved Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 4-UK (CELF).

The CELF 4 UK picture books and scoring formsI used it for the first time yesterday and was generally quite impressed. It’s actually quite similar to version 3 to administer the core sub-tests. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about is that the item analysis for the Concepts and Directions section is no longer on the scoring form which I find a bit awkward. You can’t see at a glance if there’s a pattern to the errors a child makes, you have to go digging in test manual first. Having said that, the layout of the new scoring form is clearer and I think easier to record on. I did find the layout of the front pages a bit confusing first time out but that may just be lack of familiarity. I haven’t yet used any of the extension sub-tests for phonological awareness and working memory but, at a cursory glance, they look to be very useful. If you’re looking for a very comprehensive language assessment, the CELF is probably what you’re looking for. I would, however, see if anyone you know has one you can borrow before you buy it as it is very expensive!

Little Listeners is Back!

Our Little Listeners group was such a resounding success with those who took part that we have decided to squeeze another one in before full-time school starts in August! We’ll be running 5 weekly sessions starting on Monday 23rd July, 1.30-2.15pm – venue in North Berwick to be confirmed. So that’ll be the last 3 weeks of the summer holidays plus the first 2 weeks of term while most of the P1s are still in mornings only.

The group is for children who are starting school in August and it’s aimed at all children in this age group, not just those with speech, language and communication needs. 

Over the 5 sessions, we’ll explore the basic phonological awareness skills that underlie learning to read and write. Most young pre-school children are aware of words as whole chunks that help them communicate with others. They are not typically aware that each word is made up of smaller bits. As they approach school age, they start to become more aware that there are divisions within words and might start to experiment with syllables and rhyming (word endings). These broad divisions are the beginnings of phonological awareness for literacy.

Our spelling system in English is ‘alphabetic’ which means that there is a letter (or sometimes a group of letters like ‘sh’) that corresponds to 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. Because the first sound in a word is emphasised by virtue of being the first one you hear, children typically learn the concept of ‘begins with’ as the first step in this process. They then go on to break the word down further and start to realise that there are separate sounds at the end and in the middle too. There is now a large body of research which shows that well developed phonological awareness is strongly linked to later success in learning to read and write.

In Little Listeners, we will be learning about:

  • Syllable awareness
  • Rhyme awareness
  • Picking out the first sound in words
  • Blending sounds together to make words
  • Breaking words into individual sounds to sound them out

We recommend that children attend all 5 sessions so that they get the most out of the group. So that each child gets the intensive attention they deserve, spaces are limited so contact us now to book your place!

 Isla Davies: 07810 393866 blethersslt@gmail.com

 Catriona Black: 07900 935733 catrionablackslt@googlemail.com