Summer in East Lothian!

I thought about writing this post yesterday when summer had indeed arrived in East Lothian, as you can see in this lovely photo of the poppies in a field between Pencaitland and Tranent:

Summer Poppies Pencaitland & TranentSadly it’s a bit cooler and cloudier today but I’m sure there will be more sunny days before the summer is out. Here in East Lothian we are blessed with many beautiful beaches including the especially popular Gullane Bents, Yellowcraigs, North Berwick and Dunbar’s Belhaven Bay.

Panorama of Belhaven By, Dunbar looking North towards North Berwick

Blue skies and clear water at Belhaven Bay, Dunbar

The warm sunny weather brings many families to the beaches and the obvious place to cool off is in that lovely, blue water. However, to the unwary, the water can contain hidden dangers and the conditions are constantly changing with the tide and weather. With that in mind, I would like to point you all in the direction of some helpful advice that should help you stay safe while you’re having a break from your speech and language therapy sessions.

Please click here to go to the RNLI’s Respect the Water page where you will find lots of helpful advice that will help you and your family to enjoy a safe trip to the beach. At the very least:

  • Try to go to a lifeguarded beach if possible. The red and yellow flags you will see there show the safest area to swim in and that part of the shore will be being patrolled by the lifeguards.
  • Remember that swimming in the sea is very different from a pool. The seabed is very uneven and sometimes there are sharp changes in depth.
  • The sea around the UK is very cold, even at the height of summer. Take time to get used to the temperature as you go in and if you have a wetsuit, wear it. The Respect the Water website has some great advice about what to do if you fall into very cold water suddenly.
  • Make sure someone on the beach is keeping an eye open for you and can call for help if necessary.
  • Understand what a rip current is and what to do if you find yourself in one. Click here to watch Gwithian Academy of Surfing’s excellent video explaining rip currents. Basically a rip is a current that forms where the water coming into the beach in the waves flows back out to sea. They pull out to sea and may stay in one place like when they form around rocks or they can move around the beach as the tide changes. If you find yourself in a rip, swim at right angles to it (usually parallel to the beach) until you are free from its pull then either try to get attention and/or swim back into the beach. NEVER try to swim directly against a rip current, you will exhaust yourself and then you will be in a lot of trouble.

If you see someone in trouble in the water, your first action should always be to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. The Coastguard will then come to your assistance and will alert the RNLI lifeboat teams if necessary. If you can, avoid going into the water yourself as many people drown trying to save others.

Stay safe on the beach this summer and have fun!

Isla enjoying a sunny, windy day at Longniddry

Isla enjoying a sunny, windy day at Longniddry


Blethers Meets the Tall Ship in Leith

I was quite amazed when I turned the corner at Ocean Terminal in Leith and was confronted with the sight of the majestic ARC Gloria tall ship staring back at me. I’m sure you will agree that she is an impressive ship and her Colombian flag is particularly huge! I believe she is owned by the Colombian military and is in town for the Tattoo. I recommend popping down to Leith for a look, she’s a pretty impressive beastie. The Scotsman have published a wee report if you want to find out more, click here.

Tall ship, ARC Gloria in Leith docks with a REALLY BIG Colombian flag

ARC Gloria in Leith docks with a REALLY BIG flag.

The Best Kind of Testimonial!

As a small business, I’m constantly seeking reviews and feedback on my service so that I can check how I’m doing and make any necessary changes. Well, today I got the best review I could hope for from a 5 year old client! We’ll call him Peter to preserve his privacy. Following our session in the Mobile Therapy Room, Peter and I went back into his house. While I was filling his mum in on the session, Peter came rushing in shouting ‘Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!!’ then followed it up with ‘Isla, you’re the best lady EVER!’. I’m not making it up, those were his exact words. HAHA! There you go, a glowing review, direct from the horse’s mouth!

North Berwick Health Fair 22nd March 2014 – Free Speech Screening!

If you are passing North Berwick on Saturday 22nd March, please come and visit the Blethers display at the North Berwick Health Fair in St Andrew Blackadder Church Hall. I’ll have lots of information from Blethers and the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists as well as plenty of goodies to hand out on the day!

Blethers goodies for North Berwick Health FairI’ve planned my display to include information about Speech & Language Therapy in both the NHS and private sectors. If you want to know more about what Speech & Language Therapy is, who we work with and how we work, please do come along and pick my brains! If you are thinking about Speech & Language Therapy as a career, pop along and pick up a Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists’ careers booklet. I’m on hand to answer any questions you may have about training and working as a Speech & Language Therapist.

A work in progress! I have lots more information & pictures to add. Come along to North Berwick Health Fair to see the finished display!

If you would like to know more about charities & organisations that offer support with communication, I’ll have a range of leaflets and flyers from organisations like the National Autistic Society, iCan and the British Stammering Association for you to take away.

As well as handing out information, I’ll be offering a limited number of free speech screening assessments for children aged 4-7 throughout the day. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and would like some basic assessment and advice, bring him or her along to see me! I’ll have a sign up sheet which will operate on a first come-first served basis, so get along early if you would like to book a 20 minute slot! The speech screen will include:

  • A short picture naming assessment (Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation & Phonology).
  • A picture description or play activity so that I can hear some connected speech
  • Some informal assessment based on how the picture naming goes – things like copying speech sounds, discriminating between speech sounds and saying if 2 sounds are the same or different.
  • A brief summary report of your child’s strengths & weaknesses for you to take away.
  • Written advice to help you to support your child with any areas of difficulty we identify.
  • If necessary, referral to the NHS speech & language therapy team or you are always welcome to book sessions with Blethers if you prefer.

Do pop along and say hi!


Review of the Mobile Therapy Room in Winter

So far, this winter hasn’t brought any major extremes of weather (except excessive rain!!) but we have had a couple of cold snaps that have let me evaluate the performance of the mobile therapy room in winter conditions. Overall, I have been pleased with it and have found working inside to be comfortable and easy.

The cuddly slug draft excluder in actionI have certainly appreciated all the efforts we put in to insulation! The Celotex insulation board and bales of wool that are stuffed into all available spaces behind the panels mean that the van heats up quickly and stays warm with the odd top-up from the heater. The one problem I did find was that there is a tiny air gap between the back doors where the back step which was creating quite a nasty cold draft. That was easily solved with the addition of a cuddly slug-shaped draft excluder and the cunning use of a household sponge to well and truly plug the gap!

The Eberspacher heater that is fitted in the mobile therapy room has done a great job of keeping us all cosy on even the coldest days. I went for the D4 model which is quite a big heater. The reason I went for the D4 was that I wanted to be able to heat the workspace in the mobile therapy room quickly. On the coldest day I have had so far, the thermostat in the therapy area was reading a chilly -9C when I switched the heater on. Thankfully, within 15 minutes, it was up to a very pleasant +18C. Mission accomplished!

The mobile therapy room with the LED lights on in the dark.Lighting is a big consideration when you are working in Scotland through the depths of winter. Through December, it gets dark as early as 3-3.30pm on the dreichest (that’s grey and miserable for the non-Scots out there!) days. The mobile therapy room is fitted with 9 soft LED ceiling lights and I have found that these provide a gentle but bright light for working when it is dark outside. Because they are LEDs they don’t flicker or hum like fluorescent strip lights which was a key reason why I chose them. I’ve also found it handy to have LED strip lighting round the step recesses as that makes it easier to see where the step is in the dark.

In terms of winter safety features, my high visibility vests have proven a big hit. I think getting them on for heading out to the van just adds to the whole adventure! I have an adult sized one plus two paediatric sizes so that no-one is left out. So far, I haven’t needed to use my Snow Socks but it gives me great peace of mind to know they are there. Snow Socks are canvas wheel covers that are easier to put on than snow chains and give you extra grip when you need it in snowy conditions. I’ve used them on my car before and they’re remarkably effective.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had over the winter has been keeping the mobile therapy room clean inside and out when the weather is wet and grotty. The way forward so far has been to remove shoes if necessary when we go in and to make sure I give it a clean each week which I do anyway.

So all in all, I can conclusively say that the mobile therapy room has consistently given me and my clients a safe, warm and comfortable working environment through the worst of the Scottish winter! Mission accomplished :-)


Meeting the Lovely People at Kindred

This morning I bravely donned my waterproofs and headed into Edinburgh to do an informal training session for a group of parents at the offices of Kindred in Edinburgh. It was pleasure to meet those who attended and to learn more about their children and their experiences in relation to supporting communication.

For those of you who don’t know about Kindred, it is an Edinburgh-based charity which provides a host of support to families of children who have learning difficulties (including autism). Kindred offers a huge variety of support from advocacy services to simply providing a listening ear. If you live in the area and you have a child with a learning issue, I’d strongly recommend a look at the Kindred website.

Today, I joined one of the parent groups and we did a session aimed at developing understanding of the key areas to think about when you’re supporting a young person’s communication skills. Broadly speaking, we discussed:

  • Understanding the child or young person’s communicative abilities
  • How to make the most of the environment the child is in and build in opportunities for communication.
  • Tips for helping the child’s communication partner to get the best from the child’s communication skills.

I look forward to working with Kindred again in the future!

You have to love East Lothian!

My last few posts have been quite serious so I thought I’d go with a more light-hearted one today! Mainly because I’m feeling the love for East Lothian, I think it’s the nice weather we’ve had the last week or so. Here’s a picture to illustrate my point…

Barley field at sunset, Gullane, East Lothian

You have to agree, that’s pretty special. I hope it makes you smile. Have a good weekend whatever you’re up to!

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!

Summer in East Lothian!

Hooray! Looks like some summer weather has arrived in East Lothian! At last! I think we best enjoy it while it’s here, it might not last long… Here’s a nice picture of the Blethers van out and about at Dunbar Harbour enjoying the sunshine:

The Mobile Therapy Room in among the lobster pots at Dunbar HarbourIt’s been a busy week for Blethers with lots of visits all round East Lothian. Catriona and I were sad to see the last of the Little Listeners Group sessions in North Berwick on Thursday but we’re already planning the next one so watch out for details…