Typical Development

Mummy-hood and Speech and Language Therapy

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By Hannah Heslam - Speech and Language Therapist

As a speech and language therapist and a Mum it can be handy to have all this knowledge about speech and language development. It’s been useful to be able to see where my children are in relation to the developmental milestones I have used so much in my role as a therapist. I felt absolute fascination when each of my little ones finally started talking which was a delight and a worry, as for any Mum. 

When I was 32 weeks pregnant with my second child I became concerned that my baby was not moving. I was encouraged by my other Mummy friends to seek advice, and by the evening I was in the hospital having an emergency C-section.  It was a scary time and I was presented with some challenging prospects for my baby, a beautiful boy.

My Journey

Having had a relatively easy pregnancy with my first little boy I wasn't prepared for or expecting to have my second child born early. It was a difficult time being swept into the delivery room and told by doctors it was going to be a hard journey ahead. He was born weighing 3lbs 4oz and spent just under 4 weeks in intensive and special care.  However, he has just turned 5 years old and is surprising us all the time with how well he is doing, achieving in line with or above expected levels at school and with his happy, cheeky personality. I’m sure he couldn’t have done so well without all the support of our family and friends.

At around 2 ½ years old, despite being able to put words together, his speech was at times difficult to understand. Wanting the best for my son and for him to be able to communicate as effectively as possible with other children, I started to carry out some speech activities through play. This really improved his intelligibility.  At about 3 ½ years old he did still make some sounds by releasing air through his nose instead of his mouth and he received some excellent therapy from a specialist speech and language therapist which resolved this issue.

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"Being a speech and language therapist and a mum, I'm extremely passionate about how early intervention really does work. I've seen the results in children I work with and in my own little one of course"

Some words of advice about speech and language

I feel that my speech and language knowledge has supported me with my own children and I know that not everyone will have this wealth of knowledge.  With Magic Words our goal is to support children with speech, language and communication needs. Below are a few key pieces of advice for you:

Repeat and Expand:

To help with your little one's language development, repeat and expand what they say. This helps to show them how they can build their sentences and to value what they are interested in communicating about e.g. Child: ‘I have car’. Parent: ‘Yes, you have a blue car’

Commenting is great:

As parents we naturally want to ask our child lots of questions to check how they are getting on. A great way to develop language is to reduce the pressure of questions and to model language to our children by asking 1 question to 4 comments. Think of a hand, 1 question (your thumb) to every 4 comments (your fingers). 

Use modelling:

If your child has unclear speech, when they say a word that isn't clear, instead of correcting them, model it back to them so that they can hear a good model of how it should be said. For example, Child: ‘I have a dat’. Parent: ‘Yes, you do have a cat’.  This allows your little one to hear how to say the tricky word but takes away the pressure of having to say it themselves.

If you would like to get in touch for any support with your child’s speech, language & communication development then please contact us.

Have we forgotten how to play?

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

Looking back at my fond childhood memories of growing up in Macclesfield, Cheshire, us kids had a fantastic time playing with friends and family.  In those days it was safe to play on the streets in the neighbourhood; hide and seek, water fights, hand stands, chasing friends, chasing balls and annoying my older brother whilst he and his friends jumped over cans with their skateboards.  Those were the days... fun...carefree... days filled with happiness and laughter. We didn’t need mobile phones for our Mums to monitor our whereabouts, we would just run to the command “dinners ready!”.  When we were indoors we would eagerly wait for a knock on the door and a “is Suni allowed to come out and play?”.

Reflecting on these treasured days of my childhood I feel very aware of how much things have changed since then. Now that we are so governed by social media, tablets and technology.  It is not just the influence of this technology but also how safe we feel our children are to have the freedoms we enjoyed. I know that bringing up my own children in Harrow I would never even let them out the front door without me by their side.   

The question I really feel we need to ask ourselves in our modern world of tablets and consoles is whether we as a society have forgotten how to play. We are bombarded with marketing for so many different types of toys and games, but as a parent wanting to choose toys that will enhance your child’s development; what do you choose?  As a mother myself being exposed to the world of children’s toys I find that there can be such a pressure to choose toys that help my children’s learning of letters, numbers, shapes, colours, handwriting... the list goes on! I find myself wondering whether 3 year olds really need to know the names of all the planets in the solar system or all the names of the bones in our bodies? There seems to have been such a shift towards play being a tool for developing our children’s academic abilities that we have forgotten what is really important.  We need to get back to letting our children just be children! Let them play, get messy, have fun and use their imaginations!

How often do you actually just sit on the floor and play with your child? Are you able to switch off your urges to encourage your child to be focusing on learning and instead to simply let go, follow your child’s lead and pretend to be a fairy in a grotto with them or a wizard battling through an enchanting forest? 

I am not saying tablets and watching TV should not play a part in children’s lives. I know myself as a full time working mum arriving home late that there is that moment of peace you get when they are watching a favourite movie or playing on their tablets so you can just get all the household tasks  done!! Also in today’s technology focused world our children do need to be able to use t technology adeptly in order to be able to compete in the job market when they grow up.

We need to consider what we are exposing our children to. How much opportunity are we giving them to develop their social interaction skills, imagination and ability to communicate using language? To best achieve this, tablets and the TV need to be switched off and we need to play with our children and interact with them in a fully conscious way.  There are some great board games available which develop vital skills such as turn taking and interaction and children just love to win! Most importantly these games are about having fun together, about children laughing when their parents are silly, fun and play their games... Even if you’re not following the ‘adult rules’ of how things should be done.  It’s all about letting go and sharing the play experience with our children.

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Sometimes when I look at my boy’s playroom it looks like Toy-r-us has just thrown up in there!  The best thing I did last year was to put all my their toys in the garage in boxes and called this their ‘toy shop’. My elder boy aged 5 is allowed to go in there once a week with his little basket. First he returns last week’s allowance of toys and then he chooses a new selection of toys that he will play with for the week ahead.  This ‘toy library’ system has made him appreciate his toys more, encouraged good behaviour in return for treat days on weekends, and promoted much more  excitement about always having something new to play with.  Most importantly from my perspective this scheme has improved his concentration skills. He is far more engaged with the toys he’s playing with as he has fewer toys to flit between.

A helpful thing to remember to do is to take a step back and think carefully before spending money on expensive toys for your children. Instead use your imagination and think of activities you can do together to help develop your child’s imagination and interaction. Things like making dens, playing dress-up and magical tea parties with dinosaurs and fairies.  Take time out to bake cakes and cookies with them; it’s motivating, fun and can really bring on their language, confidence and life skills.

There is such an emphasis placed nowadays on parents needing to DO THINGS and SPEND MONEY with on children like taking them to various experiences and activity centres. It’s so important to find balance with this kind of thing.  You don’t want your child getting so used to always going out to be passively entertained that when they are at home you are unable to have fun as a family. Try having fun with music and books; using interactive story telling and acting out scenes using funny voices for the characters.

Research is showing that today’s children are developing their play and imaginations skills later than children in the past. Also children’s lung capacity is decreasing and there is a higher instance of asthma. No wonder really as we don’t go out as regularly in the fresh air. This winter let’s wrap the kids up warm and go and pay in the park or the woods.

Let’s spend time with our children. Let’s teach them and remind ourselves how to let go, have fun and use our imaginations. So that when they are adults they treasure the memories they had growing up with their friends and families, having fun and just playing... just being kids

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