My final week in Kisumu with Yellow House

By Catherine Clancy, Speech and Language Therapist


Unfortunately, I fell ill at the beginning of this week and it took me some time to get back to my usual self. However, I was able to attend a Communication Camp that had been organised by Yellow House to support parents of children with Cerebral Palsy. This post will be focused on the content of the camp and how Yellow House are raising awareness of cerebral palsy and empowering parents to support their children.

On the left is Florence and the right is Duncan (with Gregory translating), who explained what communication is and ways in which children with cerebral palsy can successfully express themselves when speech is unclear or not present. The communication house is a lovely way to understand the foundations that need to be put in place before you can expect a child to understand spoken language, and then begin to express themselves using gestures and speech.


There was a specialist talk from an Occupational Therapist who discussed ways parents can support their child’s fine and gross motor skills through daily exercises. Here, John is demonstrating how to support a child’s ability to stand with support.


Here are some of the toys that the parents made for their children using those materials that are easily accessible to them – a very creative way of recycling waste into something kids can enjoy!


Whilst the parents were busy attending the talks within the camp, the children were taken into a separate room where they had the opportunity to play, sing and dance – it was a lot of fun and it was lovely to see the supporting adults interacting so freely and easily with the children – the children were in their element!


After the camp and on my final day, I said bye to a client and his mother who has been supported through the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). A symptom of cerebral palsy for this client is stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity). Unfortunately, this means spoken language is extremely difficult for this boy and direct access to a communication board (e.g. pointing to a picture) is not possible. For this reason, eye gaze (looking at the picture) has allowed this client to communicate a preference when given a choice. This has given the mother a new way to communicate with her son and the joy that this brings to the both of them is wonderful to see!


My time working with Yellow House has been eye-opening, rewarding and enjoyable. I have met a team of people who are raising awareness of speech, language and communication needs in Western Kenya and are working hard to support children and their families. The stigma around disabilities is still very much present and during the camp many mothers expressed their sadness around the fact that friendships and relationships had ended simply because they had a child with a communication disability. However, seeing these parents come together and pro-actively learn about their child’s condition and how to best support them was very inspirational, which is heightened by the fact that these families are doing their best to integrate their children in their communities to reduce social stigma and normalise their child’s differences.

Goodbye Kisimu!

Goodbye Kisimu!

It has been lovely to see parents and families so invested in supporting their children.

By Catherine Clancy, Speech and Language Therapist


Week 3.

29.07.19: On Monday I spent the day at Russia working with the team to complete a triage. This is to support the management of new referrals who are seeking support for their child. Here, I completed case history questionnaires to find out the child’s strengths and difficulties, and as a team we discussed how to prioritise the new referrals seen. There are many people seeking support from Yellow House which can unfortunately mean long waiting times for clients to be seen. However, the triage gave us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with families and offer advice.


01.08.19: It’s August already! On Thursday I continue to see clients for their weekly therapy sessions. Above are some of the resources I made with the team to help children express their wants/needs and interests if they are finding spoken language difficult. When lunch time came around I thought I would try something new and ordered the local vegetables with chapati and beans – YUM!


30.07.19: On this day I continued to see clients for their weekly therapy sessions. The picture above shows a mother supporting her child through parent-child interaction strategies that aim to promote language development. The mother was focusing on following her child’s lead and using 1-2 key words to comment on her play. Videoing was used as a therapeutic tool to empower the mother to continue using those strategies that she used positively to support her child.


31.07.19: How was it Wednesday already?! (the weeks fly by!). I travelled to the EARC centre and continued seeing clients for their weekly therapy sessions. The photographs above show parents interacting with their children and supporting the use of low-tech augmentative communication. For these children, they were unable to communicate successfully using only speech and therefore a total communication approach has been adopted where we are using speech, gestures, key signs and a communication board to help them express their wants/needs/interests etc. Parental education is fundamental to the success of therapy as parents have to feel invested and motivated to use the strategies advised by us in order for therapy to have positive outcomes. Fortunately, both parents are open to learning to ways to communicate with their children and they are now aware that the belief ‘signing/pictures with stop my child from talking’ is only a myth!!


This week has been empowering and also eye-opening. It has been lovely to see parents and families so invested in supporting their children as ultimately, they are the experts on their child and have the opportunity to make the biggest impact - I have found videoing a great way of supporting this! However, the policies and procedures within the care system are very different to those we experience in the U.K. and it has required me to adapt a very flexible way of working to continue supporting children with the limited access to resources and early interventions.

My second week working for Yellow House

By Catherine Clancy, Speech and Language Therapist


19.07.19: On Friday I said goodbye to Maggie, one of the volunteers who has spent 10-weeks working with Yellow House Health and Outreach Services as a Speech and Language Therapy student from Torono University. It is great when students complete their clinical placements with Yellow House as it is a fantastic opportunity for clinical development, not only for the students but for the team themselves.


23.07.19: David (one of the Senior Speech and Language Therapists employed by Yellow House) and I spent the day working in the Speech and Language Therapy clinics situated within Russia, a hospital in Kisumu which is government funded. Here, I was working with children and their parents with a focus on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This is about supporting children and their families to implement other forms of communication which is building on the child’s strength. An example might be using key word signing alongside speech as well as supporting the child to communicate through symbols on a communication board. Parent education plays a critical role here as it is vital for parents to be invested in the therapy for it to prove beneficial for the child!


The team work alongside other professionals in the hospital including occupational therapists who support patients in their own clinic (see picture above).


24.07.19: I travelled from Kisumu to the EARC (assessment and resource) centre on a matatu (local mini bus) which takes around 45 minutes. Here, I saw more clients for therapy, again focusing on the use of AAC. I incorporated the use of videoing with parents to support their interactions with the children and it was lovely to see parents getting down on the floor and supporting their child in the best way they knew how. After a busy morning, Duncan (one of the Speech and Language Therapists employed by Yellow House) and I enjoyed a local lunch of chapati, skumowiki (green vegetables) and green grams (lentils) – it was delicious!


26.07.19: After another busy day supporting clients from Russia, I went back to the office and caught up on paperwork and resource making. This is the office for Yellow House and where the team carryout all the administrative duties, including planning for communication camps – this is when they invite children and their families to a 2-day training camp where they learn all about different diagnoses, the impact on communication and how to support their child using a total communication approach.

My second week on working with Yellow House as a speech and language therapist has really allowed me to get ‘stuck in’ and see clients and their families for therapy. However, it has been essential for me to collaborate with the therapists working for Yellow House to support their clinical development and to ensure the interventions I am suggesting are realistic and functional for this setting. It has been great to learn from the team working here and I hope that I have supported them to feel more confident using AAC within their own practice!

My first week in Kisumu, Kenya

By Catherine Clancy, Speech & Language Therapist


14.07.19: Just before I flew out to Kisumu! 


23.07.19: My first day! I visited Russia, the hospital in Kisumu where Yellow House support clients with speech, language and communication difficulties. This is where I had a lunch of chapati and cooked greens during my lunch-break.  


24.07.19 The Educational Assessment & Resource Centre (EARC) in Vihiga, a 45-minute journey from Kisumu on a Matatu. Here, I supported assessment for new referrals to the service. 

I have had a busy but very eye-opening and rewarding first week with Yellow House! It was lovely to hear from families about how the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) has given them a new way to successfully communicate with their child. Recently, a client with cerebral palsy was taught to communicate using eye gaze with a symbol communication board and the mother has been overjoyed with how this has enabled her to talk with her son which for the past 8 years has not been possible. This mother is very proactive and supportive of her son and does her best to raise the awareness and acceptability of disability in her local community by ensuring her son is treated with respect, compassion and integrity. 

WARNING! The following blog will make you sing a song in the supermarket when you see a BUCKET!!!

By Wai Seng Thong (Speech and Language Therapist)


What is Attention Autism?

One of the things I love about visiting schools is the expressions of joy on the faces of the children I work with. When they know it is bucket time some children can barely stay sitting down. In case you have never heard about Attention Autism, it’s an intervention designed by Gina Davies, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, aiming to develop natural and spontaneous communication through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Attention Autism is one of my favourite activities as it makes learning fun and memorable for children. Before I start, NO you don’t need to be an X Factor level singer, but you do need to be able to hold a tune as this helps the children sing along. You also need to prepared to collect strange and fun toys to make the activity differ from week to week. I tend to use eBay and pound shops to add regularly to my collection.

All you need to do is have fun, as it engages the kids with your activity. If you are engaged, they will be too. It’s all about engagement, fun, motivation and showing them something worth communicating about.


Benefits of Attention Autism

Attention Autism is a regular part of my week. In the school I work in the children are always desperate to know what is in the bucket and jump up and down trying to look inside (this makes me think of children trying to take a sneaky peak in Santa’s toy bag on Christmas Eve!).

What is fascinating about this programme is that it sparks their curiosity and therefore creates reasons for them to communicate by asking questions, commenting and guessing what might be coming out of that mysterious bucket. From my experience of using this programme, it does not merely work on the children’s attention and listening skills, but also on their language skills (both receptive and expressive language skills). These can be a challenge for children with ASD. The sessions can be tailored to build on their vocabulary knowledge, for example, they can be themed around dinosaurs or superheroes etc.


What a session looks like and example activities

A myriad of themed activities can be incorporated into an Attention Autism programme. For example, bucket time can be filled with dinosaur toys (from sensory to wind up dinosaur toys etc).

I start with the song, ‘I’ve got something in my bucket, in my bucket, in my bucket. I’ve got something in my bucket, and I wonder what it is. Let’s look and see!’. The children sing along transfixed on the bucket, wondering what might be inside. Just a warning this song will take over your mind and at times I can hear it when I am mopping the floor or shopping! You then demonstrate the toys one by one and the idea is the kids watch, pay attention and do not touch. Hard to imagine, but it is surprisingly easy to achieve when following the attention autism programme.

The activities ‘Sleeping dinosaurs’ and ‘Roll the dinosaurs’ involve the children pretending to be asleep and rolling each other along the floor and more song singing. There are also more hands-on activities where children make dinosaurs with Play-Doh or arts and craft materials with big googly eyes. My kids love it all!

Useful tips when running an Attention Autism group

Always remember these useful tips when you are running an Attention Autism group:

•       Say less.

•       Use lots of pauses.

•       Exaggerate gestures and facial expressions.

•       Give time for thinking and stay quiet!

•       Show first then add words.

•       Have a clear idea of your objective.

•       Make sure your activity is the most exciting thing in the room! Cover up or remove distractions.

•       Turn disasters into ‘part of the plan’. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out, this is a great way to model ‘uh oh’ and ‘oops’ etc.


As Gina Davies says: ‘let’s create an irresistible invitation for learning’. Attention Autism principles can be generalised into curriculum activities, for example, literacy and numeracy to facilitate learning and skills development.

Let’s really think about the activities we plan for kids. Is the activity irresistible? Is our activity worth communicating about? Fun and engaging activities create good memories. Let’s create a shared experience that is memorable and share laughs with our kids to help them learn.

For further information and more ideas on Attention Autism, take a look at these:

Facebook page - Gina Davies Autism Centre



Top 10 Language Apps

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By Faye Nugent, - Magic Words Level 1 Speech & Language Therapist

There is a huge variety of apps available to support a child’s language development.  Here is a selection of 10 of the top apps:

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Splingo Language Universe is an app that helps develop a child’s comprehension (understanding of language) by exploring the number of keywords a child can understand in a sentence.  It is an entertaining and motivating game that helps develop your child’s understanding of different aspects of language such as verbs, nouns, prepositions and adjectives. 

The app can be used with children at a developmental level of 18 months to a developmental level of 4 years and upwards.  It is customisable, so you can adapt the app to your child’s developmental level.  The app builds from single key word (e.g. ‘find the apple’) to more complex four key word instructions (e.g. ‘give the big red apple to the boy’). 

The app is available to download on Google Play (£2.39) and iTunes (£2.99).

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Grammaropolis helps develop knowledge and understanding of parts of speech.  Each part of speech is explored using a map which includes a variety of games and activities to explain the item.  As the child explores each map their understanding is assessed by quizzes throughout.

The free download offers games and activities for nouns.  Within the app you can buy access to other resources such as; verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, interjections.

The app is suitable for children aged 7-8 years onwards. 

The app is available to download on Google Play (free with option to buy extras) and iTunes (free with option to buy extras).  You can find out more information at:

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Verbs News helps support the development of a child’s understanding of different verb tenses (simple present, present continuous, simple past and simple future). 

The app introduces Andrew who is a news presenter, he explains the four verb tenses via an animated video.  There are a variety of options as you can select the words you would like to work on and the type of activity for example auditory bombardment (hearing the accurate model of the verb used in a sentence), fill in the blanks or make up sentences.  For each correct response, the child is awarded with an anchor microphone. At the end of the session, children can take the role of an anchor, record their own news, and watch it in the newsroom.

The app works best with an adult supporting the child as this gives the opportunity to discuss each verb and provide an accurate model if the child has any difficulties.

The app is available to download on iTunes (£9.99).  You can find out more information at:

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Pronouns with Splingo follows Splingo the speech and language alien helping to teach the understanding and expressive use of a variety of pronouns.  The app is engaging and motivating, after 5 correct responses the player gets to select three items to place in their virtual bedroom. 

The app is fully customisable giving you the option to choose the pronouns you work on, a UK or US voice for instruction and whether the verbal instructions are written down too.

The app is available for download on iTunes (£2.99)

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Prepositions Journey is a fun and interactive app. With adult support the app can be used to develop your child’s understanding of prepositions, as well as giving them the opportunity to use prepositions to expressively respond to ‘where?’ questions.  The app allows the player to record their responses, replay them and see if they are correct. 

The app can be adapted to the child’s needs as you can select the specific prepositions you would like to work on.  The app creates reports following completion of a game which collates the scores together for each player.

 The app can be downloaded on iTunes (£9.99). You can find out more information at:

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The Magical Concepts app follows Mago the Magician as he guides the player through a variety of concepts.  The game is highly motivating and makes ‘drilling’ activities more engaging as the player earns a star for each correct answer.  With enough stars the child is rewarded with a magic show.

You can select from a wide variety of concepts making each game specific to your child and their needs.  The app focuses on the understanding of concepts, however with adult support can be adapted to work on the expressive use of concepts within the game.

The app is available for download on iTunes (£9.99).  You can find out more information at:

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Sentence Workout is a useful app to help support the development of the written form and expressive use of a child’s sentence structures.  It focuses on a variety of sentence types including nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs in a variety of sentence types.

The app is flexible to your child’s needs.  You can adjust the target sentences, whether you work on them by saying or writing the sentence, and the number of correct answers required before the reward football game.

The app is suitable for children aged 6 years and older.  It is available for download on iTunes (£12.99).  You can find out more information at:

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The app works on a variety of ‘wh’ questions, it initially offers the ‘who?’ question pack, however within the app you can buy additional resources such as ‘what?’ or ‘why?’ questions etc.  In each question pack you can choose between 4 games to play as a single or multi-player game.  For example, in the multiple-choice game players can either answer the question or select the appropriate question for the answer given.

The app uses bright and fun images and sounds that are engaging.  This is a useful app that can be adapted dependent on your child’s needs.

The app is available to download on iTunes (free with option to buy extras).

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As the name suggests ‘Categories’ focuses on organising information into their appropriate category. A variety of skills can be developed including a child’s vocabulary, understanding, spoken language and problem solving and linking ideas and concepts.  The app offers 5 activities; identifying an image relating to a category with an option of 2 or 3 images to select from, finding another item in a category, finding two images that go together and identifying the ‘odd one out’.

The app uses images of real objects and is simple and easy to use.

It is available for download on iTunes (£4.99).  You can find out more information at:

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This app focuses on understanding and answering ‘why?’ questions which develops a child’s receptive and expressive language skills and problem-solving abilities.  The player can complete a short jigsaw of an image and then answer a ‘why?’ question, for example ‘why is the child’s ice cream melting?’. You can record your answers using the iPad’s microphone and compare these to the answer given.   

This app can be used with children aged 4+ years.  It can also be adjusted to your child’s needs and levels.

It is available for download on iTunes for Free with some In-App Purchases.  You can find out more information at:

‘A’ is for ‘Autovocabiography’…

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By Elen Wales - Service Lead for Milton Keynes and Specialist Generalist Speech and Language Therapist, Developing Specialist in Hearing Impairment

Your vocabulary is a product of who you are, where you’re from and what you’ve done. No-one else will have the same vocabulary as you and I think that’s kind of cool. If you imagine all the words you know were written down it would be like your autobiography, your ‘autovocabiography’.

One of my favourite books, being an unashamed speech and language geek, is Dialects of England by Peter Trudgill. He talks about the different words used to mean ‘truce’ by children in games in different parts of the UK, and has a map labelled with which were used where:

‘Truce’: barley, keys, skinch, kings, crosses, exes, cruces, cree, scribs, fainties

Sure enough my Dad used ‘kings’ in Scunthorpe and my Mum ‘skinch/skinchies’ in Sunderland. 

Most children hear about 45 million words by the age of 3. To develop a typical-sized vocabulary, between the ages of 18 months - 6 years, they need to learn about 8 new words a day. And that’s learn. Not just hear, or be exposed to, or say once, but to fully understand and be able to use appropriately - crikey. 

Vocabulary development is affected by:

  • experiences: things we see and do, either in our own lives, or with others

  • memory: ability to remember and retain the word

  • opportunities: to practise and hear the word repeatedly

  • motivation: how important / interesting is learning the word to the child?

  • cognitive abilities: any learning difficulties or cognitive impairments

Research shows a child’s vocabulary is one the best predictors of educational achievement and employment. It’s our job, as parents, teachers, therapists and adults working with these kids, to help them write their own autovocabiography.

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'No one else will have the same vocabulary as you and I think that’s kind of cool.'

So how can we do it, how can we nurture them to be best-sellers? Well, there’s lots of ways and you don’t need a whole load of resources to do it. Firstly, we need to acknowledge that words are more than their spelling. If you want to sound clever you can call it ‘semantics’, but this just translates as ‘word meaning’. The overall goal is to develop a child’s semantic network, or web, of what the words mean and how they link to one another.

Consider the word ‘spoon’. We know that:

  • it has 1 syllable and rhymes with ‘moon’

  • it can be made of metal, plastic and sometimes wood and come in a range of different sizes

  • it is in the same family as the words ‘knife’ and ‘fork’, and that word family is called ‘cutlery’

  • we use a spoon for eating, stirring, measuring and serving

  • it has a handle part and bowl part, and is normally hard and sometimes shiny

  • spoons are often in drawers in kitchens and on tables or in hands in the dining room

  • the word can also be used as a mild insult implying someone is stupid

 Imagine a word like a spider on a web in the brain. When the spider has a strong web, and is linked to lots of different information about the word, if the child forgets a few of these links the spider is safe and web can still hold the spider in the brain. If the spider has a weak web, and is only connected to a few bits of information about the word, then if these few bits are forgotten the web cannot hold the spider and he falls out of the brain:

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To build strong webs we need to approach the word and learning process from lots of different ways, utilise the power of repetition and keep it fun. You can try the following:

  • ‘Word of the Day/Week’: stick it on the fridge as reminder for them and you, see who can use the word the most, maybe keeping a tally on the fridge as you go

  • Read: support the child to read, read to them, get them to track the words as you read them - it’s all good

  • ‘I-spy’: play I-spy but instead of using clues about what letter the word begins with, use information clues, e.g. “I-spy something made from metal…found in the kitchen…we can use to eat with…”

  • Word stickers: It is notoriously hard to get kids to do extra work outside of school, but a bit is better than nothing. I send kids home with stickers on which have a word we have been working on, and if parents only have time to ask the kids why they have a bizarrely large sticker with a random word on, on the way to the car, then it’s a good start.

  • Make it multisensory: turn it into a cheerleading song, e.g. “give me an S…S!...give me a P…P!...” 

  • Word associations: start with a word and the next person needs to name something related and continue around everyone, e.g. ‘spoon - soup - bread - butter - cow - black and white - newspaper - book - paper’. Because everyone’s word webs are linked in different ways, it’s always surprising when someone links something to a word you never would have!

  • Don’t give all the information straight away: cajole them into a conversation with you, e.g. rather than saying “I went to a party at the weekend”, just offer a teaser such as “You’ll never guess where I went at the weekend…”

Lastly - don’t underestimate the capacity of these kids. I’ll never forget the time a 5-year-old boy, with a language delay I might add, used the word ‘googolplex’ in a session with me. It took me a good few seconds to pick myself up off the floor and dig around in my brain for a vague meaning of the word, which I recognised, but would never have remembered to use. I’ve now listed him as co-author of my autovocabiography - I’m hoping it’s going to be a best seller.

Trudgill, P. (2000) Dialects of England, 2nded. Wiley

The colour of language! Making language colourful

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By Carolyn Fox - Service Lead for Hearing Impairment & Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Hearing Impairment

What is colourful semantics?

Speech and Language therapists work with children who find communicating tricky. This may be because they can’t produce some speech sounds, understand social rules for interacting or perhaps they have trouble putting words together to form sentences. Your speech and language therapist will be able to give you information on how to support your child’s language using different strategies. In this blog however, we will look at one therapy approach used by many speech and language therapists, Colourful Semantics (CS), created by Alison Bryan. Have you heard of it? Perhaps you and your speech and language therapist are already using it or some of its principles.

CS uses a colour coding system to highlight words within sentences. Splashing words with a little bit of colour helps children identify them, increases the predictability of what is coming next and makes it more likely that they will, after enough practice, be able to independently make the sentences following the colour coding rules.

Let’s paint the scene for you

Having visual information helps children tune in to what they see as well as what they hear. Using colour gives children an additional hook to pin the language on to while they learn, providing them with the language boost they need. 

Still a bit blurry? Let’s paint a sentence for you!

Carolyn is eating an apple at home.

There are different parts that make up this sentence:

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Why we love colourful semantics

  • Giving your child a structure for supporting their word order can help them express themselves and it will also help when it comes to writing. We love CS because it offers an easy to use way to do this. One colour follows another, so your child can do this themselves once they have learnt the colour coding rule and then you can check together that the words are in the correct order.  Using a sentence strip like the one below can prompt your child to put the pictures in the right order:

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  • This approach to language learning can be used at almost any stage. Your little language learner might just be starting to understand the concept of ‘who’, perhaps they are putting two words together or they may even be constructing more complex sentences. CS provides a flexible approach and can help expand your child’s sentences regardless of where they are on their journey. 

  • You can spend time focusing on the important concepts such as ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘what’ before you begin putting sentences together. This can be lots of fun and ensures your child has a good grip of these concepts before moving forward. For example, if you are teaching your child ‘who’, take a blank orange (the who colour) sheet of paper and find lots of different pictures of people or animals. You can have fun cutting these out from magazines or looking through family photos. As you look through the pictures place them on the orange card. It is important to emphasize the words ‘who’ and ‘orange’ so your child makes the link between the two as this will help with sentence building later. You can say things like ‘Who is this?’, ‘It is grandma’, ‘That is who it is’, ‘Who is orange, I will put it on the orange card’

  • You can follow the method described above for ‘who’ with all the different coloured parts of a sentence e.g. ‘doing’, ‘what’, ‘where’. Once your child is confident, you can mix up the pictures and see if you can sort them on to the right coloured cards. 

  • CS not only helps children learn the sentence components and construct sentences, it also supports them in understanding questions and asking them. Whilst using this approach, as you emphasize the key words and colours, they will learn to pay attention to questions e.g. ‘Where did she go?’, ‘Can you find the blue word?’, ‘That is right’, ‘she went to the cinema’, ‘you found the blue word’, ‘where’.

  • You can get as creative as you like! Once your child is confident, help them to expand their vocabulary by prompting for alternative orange, green and blue words. This will teach them that sentences change and are flexible. They can explore sentences and change words all within the safety of this neat colour system! Eventually this will support storytelling, making up alterative endings and beginnings and helping them order their story!

  • Get a little silly! An important part of learning language is to make sure it is as fun as possible. We all learn the most when we can have a good giggle. Have words for each part of the sentence written on different coloured card that your child can chose randomly, then following the order of the colours, they can make their own silly sentences. 

Need more inspiration?

In August we are running a training course on how to use Colourful Semantics to support language development. If you would be interested in attending please go to the link below for more information:

Alternatively, if you would like any more information on how to use colourful semantics or think it might be a useful approach for your child, then why not contact one of our therapists at Magic Words! 

Have fun!

5 signs your child might need speech therapy...

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By Frankie Paterson - Director of Magic Words Therapy and Specialist Generalist Speech and Language Therapist, Developing Specialist in Stammering

How to spot signs that your child might be struggling with speech sounds:

  • Your child is non-intelligible to adults who do not know them well

  • They miss sounds from the beginning or ends of their words

  • The child has a limited range of speech sounds

  • They get vowel sounds mixed up

  • They have difficulty with multisyllabic words

Early intervention is key, so as soon as you notice any irregularities, get in touch with us!

Bilingualism: Children developing more than one language

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By Sunita Shah - Service Lead for North West London and Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Bilingualism

I grew up in a bilingual family and was exposed to Gujarati and English from birth, I learnt to speak Hindi watching films and trips to India. I have very basic knowledge of French, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu and Punjabi, which has been learnt through school, and families I have worked with.

I have two boys…. English is the dominant language at home, although we always use a few Gujarati words. My children hear Gujarati spoken when I am interacting with friends and family. The oldest that is 5 years old understands a few phrases and is now beginning to speak a few phrases. This is to my total embarrassment as I have been a practicing Speech and Language Therapist for 18 years and 15 years of my practice I has specialised in working with bilingual children and families and developing Early Years Settings, Schools and Speech and Language Departments nationally to encourage children to develop more than one language. How services should support and identify bilingual children who have learning needs or underlying communication difficulties. I have been the Chair of the London Clinical Excellence network for a number of years and also the National Advisor for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapist in Bilingualism.


Did you know 75% of the world is bilingual? And there are over 6,000 living languages in the world. In London Schools over 200 languages are spoken.

Do you speak another language? How did you learn the languages you speak? Was it from birth? Is it the school you went to? Or a country that you lived in? How fluent are you in the language/s you speak? Do you children speak and understand the language/s as you?- wow lots of questions….

BILINGUALISM – A simple word yet such a complex term. How would you define bilingualism?
Is it?
The level at which they understand language?
The proficiency of the language spoken?
Should this extend beyond oral language reading/writing?
Is it dependent on the frequency/context of language use?


Many families disregard teaching their children an additional language, thinking it will confuse them…. THIS IS THE TOTAL OPPOSITE! Bilingualism has sooooooo many ADVANTAGES to the cognitive and language system which we will explore later.

So how do children develop another language? Well if you think about it an Elephant will ALWAYS be ‘big, grey with a tusk and trunk’ no matter what language you speak, you are not changing it into a tiger!, we have to always remember that children will bring their knowledge and experiences as a joint system when developing languages. An elephant will always be the same, so when a child is learning more than one language they are not learning two features just one… the only thing is in English we call it “Elephant” and in Gujarati for example it’s a “Hathi”. There is always a common underlying proficiency, (Work of Jim Cummins 1984:2001).

Initially the child develops an understanding of words e.g. 'chair' (= 'sit on it'). Then they develop a name 'label' (vocabulary), which might include names of objects from all the languages the child hears

When making sentences, children use rules to help them put the words together. The bilingual child initially only has one set of rules. Your child may mix rules from both languages or use the rules from the language he/she hears most. This stage makes the child's sentences sound incorrect or confused

Develops when the child separates the vocabularies and rule systems for the two languages.
The child may also mix the two languages in one sentence, this mixing is a normal and acceptable feature in bilingual language development.


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There are many advantages to being bilingual… here are a few
• Bilingual children have found to have a higher IQ
• Increases academic potential
• Have increased self esteem
• Think more creatively
• Find it easier to learn other languages
• Bilingual children have better reading abilities
• Communicate with a range of people
• Job Opportunities
• More empathetic

I think one of the priceless and most precious things that being bilingual has given me is the ability to communicate with the elder generation… it’s been magical being able to communicate in the same language as my grandparents listening attentively and learning so much about their past, their experiences, and life teachings. Something I treasure immensely.


  • It is important that you continue to use all languages introduced to the child.

  • Do not be concerned about mixing different languages in one sentence. This is natural for a bilingual speaker.

  • The focus should be helping the child feel successful in giving and receiving a message. Continue speaking your chosen language/s to your child even if he or she speaks back to you in a different language. If the child responds the message has been understood.

  • Use short phrases with lots of gesture and facial expression, as well as expression in your voice. This will help the child understand the meaning behind the words.

  • Do not tell your child “answer in XXX Language”, this puts additional pressure on the child to communicate and the child may develop anxiety or refuse to communicate.

  • Do not only use one language, its natural for bilinguals to switch between languages, be as natural as possible with your communications.

  • Avoid one language one environment, one language one person scenarios. Communication should be free and natural for it to give the child consistent model in the home environment to learn.

  • Remember it’s All about exposure to the language if you do not speak the languages in the household they child may have exposure from grandparents.

  • Encourage your child’s attempts to communicate in either language, giving lots of praise.

  • Use nursery rhymes and stories from any culture/language

Lego® Therapy: Teaching Teachers to Play

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Over two very successful sessions, Magic Words provided training for Learning Support and Teaching Staff who were eager to understand how Lego® groups could be utilised in a way to support their pupils' needs. The group came together from various school settings based in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.

Amongst some enjoyable practicals and video examples of therapy sessions, we covered: 

  • History and research on the development of Lego®-based practices

  • The communication pyramid 

  • Language and Social Skills

  • Job-roles: Builder, Supplier, Architect, Facilitator, Examiner

  • Who should do each role?

  • Lego® rules

  • Discussion of how to facilitate a group

  • What a typical session looks like

  • Visual timetable

  • Evaluation of progress

  • Question-time with a qualified speech and language therapist

Magic Words Therapy - ladies discussing around a table with Lego on it

We received some encouraging feedback from several of the staff to the effect that they would be running their own Lego® groups as soon as possible. It would appear that Lego®Therapy is not only extremely accessible for our children, but is an inviting scheme for the adults facilitating social growth and communicative needs.

This particular continuous professional development training was arranged in association with PEP:MK, Primary Enrichment Partnership. For further dates, please visit their website here.  

Alternatively, we can provide direct training adapted to your needs. Please contact us to learn more.