How can I help support the development of listening and attention skills and speech, language and communication in 0-3s?

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Key messages for parents, grandparents and other care-givers

Those who care for children can be supported to aid the development of listening and attention skills and speech, language and communication in 3-5s through promotion of the following key messages. Parents, grandparents and other care-givers should be encouraged to:

  • Play and speak at their child's eye level and, as much as possible, while face-to-face with them.
  • Avoid distracting background noise (e.g. television or radio on all the time).
  • Respond to their baby pointing and reaching by naming and picking up toys or objects they gesture towards.
  • Talk about what's happening and what they're doing - children understand long before they can respond with speech and learn lots of new words.
  • Allow time for their child to respond.
  • Clearly repeat any words or part words their child says.
  • Read to their child daily. If reading is a problem for a parent, grandparent or carer, they can be encouraged to simply talk about the pictures in books.
  • Access age-appropriate books - as many as possible. For example, by encouraging them to join their local library and check charity shops for free or cheap books.
  • Limit television viewing - playing with toys and listening to stories are better for language development.

Further tips, advice and suggestions for activities are available to parents and carers online at the Play, Talk, Read website.

These cartoon-based resources developed by Speech and Language Therapists give information and advice on supporting the development of good interactions with children:

Please also see below for further resources.

Nursery school staff and childminders

In addition to the above advice for parents:

Lots of tips, advice and suggestions for activities are available online at the Play, Talk, Read website.

Please also see below for further resources.

Health visitors and social workers

Health visitors and social workers can assist in the following ways:

  • Be aware of the importance of positive early parent infant interaction and attachment as precursors to normal communication development.
  • Be alert to the indicators and risk factors for problematic speech and language development.
  • Use the Lothian guidelines for referral to SLT (MSWord Download - 116Kb) (or similar) and refer at the earliest opportunity.
  • Encourage parents to play with and talk to their children while face to face with them.
  • Highlight the importance of a good learning environment over that of household socioeconomic status.
  • Be aware of and encourage limitation of distracting background noise (e.g. television or radio).
  • Ensure receipt of Book Bug resources.
  • Encourage visits to library.
  • Encourage engagement with group-based parental support.
  • Encourage enrolment into pre-school education.

Please also see the advice given below for Midwives, GPs, practice nurses.

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Service managers and commissioners

Service managers and commissioners can:

  • ensure services are accessible to all, relevant to vulnerable families and consistent with public sector policy commitments
  • ensure public health campaigns and information on services are accessible to those with a range of communication support needs
  • ensure that staff who have contact with parents are able (and have the time) to clearly explain any advice or information given in ways the parents can understand.

Midwives, GPs, practice nurses

Midwives, GPs and practice nurses should be alert to the indicators and risk factors for problematic speech and language development and use the Lothian guidelines for referral to SLT (MSWord Download - 116Kb) (or similar).

For children under 12 months, please consult Development of Interaction Checklist 0-12 Months (PDF Download - 66Kb).

Where problems are suspected, an approach of 'watchful waiting' is not appropriate, as the evidence base strongly supports the effectiveness of early intervention before 3 years of age.

Thus it is essential that referrals to Speech and Language Therapy take place as early as possible.

In addition, midwives, GPs and practice nurses can assist by:

The 'Teach-Back Technique' can also be used to help ensure that important information that has been conveyed to someone has been adequately understood: Teach-Back Technique Postcard (Download PDF - 360kb).

For information on local Speech and Language Therapists and services, you may wish to contact the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in Scotland.

Contact Kim Hartley - kim.hartley@rcslt.org or call 0131 226 5250.

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Voluntary sector workers and managers

Voluntary sector agencies can:

  • be aware of the Lothian guidelines for referral to SLT (MSWord Download - 116Kb) and encourage parents to seek help in the event of problems at the earliest opportunity
  • encourage parents to play with and talk to their children while 'on a level with them'
  • highlight the importance of a quality learning environment over that of household socioeconomic status
  • ensure receipt of Book Bug resources
  • encourage visits to library
  • encourage engagement with group-based parental support
  • encourage enrolment into pre-school education
  • ensure staff are appropriately educated and trained to be able to recognise and work with individuals with communication support needs
  • make information available in a variety of formats, including audio versions.

Speak to your local speech and language therapy service for support in identifying and working with children with delayed communication development and with parents with CSN.

The 'Teach-Back Technique' helps ensure that important information has been adequately understood by people with CSN: Teach-Back Technique Postcard (Download PDF - 360kb).

For information on local Speech and Language Therapists and services, you may wish to contact the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in Scotland.

Contact Kim Hartley - kim.hartley@rcslt.org or call 0131 226 5250.

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    Words together

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