Tag Archives: development

Teaching Communication Skills To 3-5 Year Olds

29 Oct

I receive emails on a daily basis from worried parents of toddlers or young children.

Many of these emails stress the same concern… My child still isn’t speaking or is speaking little for their age compared to that of their peers.

For others its their child’s lack of understanding of language or how to use it that’s the concern.

Little man was a very early and advanced speaker, only he failed to use certain words in the correct contents, had poor social interaction and would normally dominate conversation. His listening and communication skills are improving all the time now that he has weekly speech and language therapy (SALT) at school. This just proves its never to late to start a programme though the earlier we are taught the skills we need the better, especially in those with autism or any other communication disorder.

Its natural for us parents to worry if our toddler isn’t using communication at the rate we expect especially if we have their siblings to compare them too. But despite the worry its important to note that its not always due to a medical or developmental problem… Some children just develop that bit slower than others, where some just require a bit of help along the way.

Whatever the reason I believe it is important for all parents to encourage communication from an early age… If you feel that development is slow progressing or even too advanced, early intervention is the key.

Those with experience will know just how long waiting lists are for Paediatricians or Speech Therapist… But there are things we can do as parents at home.

I was extremely impressed to hear about a new developmental tool called “chatting with children” I haven’t really seen anything of this kind before and feel its something that could make a whole lot of difference to parents everywhere.

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Chatting With Children is an activities pack designed to build the language development in children aged 3-5. Even better its been developed by Kate Freeman a qualified Speech and Language Therapist.

The pack from I Can (the children’s communication charity) is the third in its series following Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk (also created by Kate Freeman).

Chatting with Children is a stunning pack of 30 fun and interactive activity cards aimed at helping parents and practitioners develop young children’s communication skills. The pack also comes with a well written top tips activity guide that has been designed to help its user get the most from it.

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Inside this kit that resembles a hard back book, you will find 30 beautifully illustrated cards that make up a number of activities designed to encourage the language and communication of children aged 3-5 years. Each task is simple yet provides effective ways of enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills. The kit has been Designed in association with Studio Conran and illustrator Owen Davey, who has designed each beautiful activity card to feature an activity designed to develop a different aspect of communication.

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What I like most about this pack is that this is a tool recommended to professionals such as therapist & practitioners yet its simple enough for a parent to use at home meaning we have the tools of the professionals at hand to work with at home whenever we want to.

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The fact that the pack has been created by Kate Freeman A Speech and Language Therapist who holds over 15 years experience, gives me even more confidence when using the pack and applying each individual activity.

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Each activity is so simplistic and easy to follow that there is not really any excuses for not being able to try it on a daily/weekly basis. Its not time consuming whatsoever as there is always little if no set up involved.

Toddler Talk and Chatting with Children are each available in paperback for £7.99 or hardback for £12.99 and its available over at the I Can website

In my opinion this is beyond reasonable, I expected it to cost a considerable amount more considering the market its targeted at. I normally find most tools designed with the aim of encouraging a child’s develop within any area, to be over priced and beyond most families reach. So I’m seriously impressed with what I Can are providing here for little money!

What’s more every last penny of the proceeds are put back into the registered Charity “I Can” so they can continue to provide help and resources to parents like you and I.

Any parent with a question or concern about their child’s communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist – visit www.ican.org.uk/help

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. I was sent a sample of Chatting with Children in order to share my honest opinion… I have decided that this will now be donated to a local Speech And Language Therapist in our area.

The John Crane Memory Game, So Much More Than Just A Toy

3 Nov

If you read yesterdays post you will know that Paul, daddy of two girls and owner of “When I was a kid”  & ‘John Crane ltd’ are on a mission to uncover which of their toys are the most beneficial to a child, especially those on the autism spectrum or those with special needs. 

The idea is to make sure the toys are the best they can be and in a way that’s beneficial to all children, not just your “typical child” but also those who have developmental delays within a spectrum of areas, difficulties with sensory processing, occupational health, communication, etc.

I also wrote how I was sent a large catalogue displaying the current John Crane ltd toy range, which was just huge, yet extremely pleasurable to look through. There were some great toys, making it quite difficult to select just six off the them to which I would provide some feed back on. Well, as you may have guessed already, they liked what I had to say and that’s why today I’m going to share some of that feed back I gave on one of their products with you guys. 

  My first selection was ‘Memory’ part of the John Crane ltd GoGo range

 Below is the product description from the online toy shop ‘When I was a kid’

 Who didn’t love “Picking Pairs” as a child? I know I did, my dad and I would play for hours with a pack of cards – all 52 of them laid out on the floor. Heaven knows how we memorised them and picked the pairs!


One of our suppliers, John Crane toys has seen the fun of this traditional game and also the educational benefits too and come up with an up to date and colourful wooden version – called The Memory Game!

Little green and orange ‘mushroom’ shaped pieces fit into the tray and are easily lifted by little fingers whilst a number of cards fit below – offering loads of memory challenges on differing themes – such as insects, transport, food etc…

Memory games help with all sorts of skills in younger children, even early reading skills are enhanced!

 First Impressions 

I was instantly drawn to this impressive well made wooden game as soon as I saw it in the catalogue. I love educational toys especially those that benefit all children, while providing them with a fun activity in the process. 

As mentioned above, Memory is a game that has been played for many years and is normally done so with a few decks of playing cards. 

Well, this has the exact same concept as a game of pairs but instead its been transformed into a beautiful wooden game with insert-able brightly coloured cards that have images on either side providing lots of visual stimulation. Each card has a theme there’s animals, fruits, clothing, transport and more. 

The wooden board has two slots, one where cards are stored and the other for when in playing mode (where you slot your desired card) The pictures are then hidden with the help of the wooden lids.

 Playing time per game

Playing time per game, depends on your child and the amount of players (I would recommend no more than two or your game may be over to quickly). 

If your used to the rule, “For every pair you find, you get another turn” I would recommend you don’t use this mode of play! Remember, playing with a deck of cards results in a larger number of pairs needing to be found, which is why “When I was a kid” have introduced the toy in its toddler section. 

 Why I chose this game as one of my autism friendly six! 

 Many Children with autism or aspergers syndrome have exceptional long-term memory, especially when it comes to the child’s particular “Special interest” which is often true for the child with Aspergers. This could be anything from names, dates, specific periods of time, facts about space, or like little man, “Bus numbers and destinations”  However working memory (which is more commonly known as our short-term memory) can often be a weakness, which is why many children on the autism spectrum struggle to follow simple sets of instructions, especially if it involves doing things in sequence. Yes, its easy to become annoyed with a child when they seem to lack the basic skills required to follow basic sets of instructions, more so if the child is yet to gain a diagnosis. For me, it was the difficulty I had when trying to understand why my child was able to remember vast amounts of information that related to, “Buses” but couldn’t carry out the smallest of tasks, like sending him to brush his teeth or put on his shoes, having only just reached the top of the stairs he would have forgotten what it was he was meant to be doing?

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What is Working memory?

Working memory is a process that most of us engage in without even releasing it. An example would be your boss giving you a set of instructions on a project that needed completing. We listen, process and store the information we’ve been given! We may jot down notes later but still need to recall the information in our heads and do so in the appropriate order.

If you’re a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, there is a pretty good chance that your child’s teacher has reported that your child has poor attention or refuses to listen to any instructions being given. This is an all too common assumption, when in actually fact the child is listening extremely hard but the amount of information being given in such a short time frame leads to the child’s confusion, they become muddled within their own heads simply because they didn’t have time to process the information. 

The above can then lead to a host of other difficulties for the child, like challenging behaviour and low self-esteem. The child could even be branded as naughty, another all to common scenario. 

It’s for reasons like those above, that children with autism work well with visuals. Its well documented how children on the autism spectrum are better at carrying out day-to-day task with the help of visual prompts. Maybe… think about it as a set of instructions you follow when putting  together a flat pack! This is how the child uses visuals. 

The John Crane ‘Memory’ game is the perfect tool to aid this area of weakness. Children with autism will have great fun memorising where each picture is on the board, they will learn the skills of patience and turn taking as well as the concept of competition, all while improving they’re working memory. 

Little man loves this game, but has now studied all the cards over a few weeks and now beats me far to easy (see this is where his talents come into play as once he wants to store information over a longer period of time he will set about doing it and does so very well) what’s great though, he still wants to play everyday. At 11 years old his working memory is still poor but improving all the time. Speech and language therapy as well as certain games we play and task I engage him in, such as asking him to remember things on a shopping list, are just a number of things I believe has brought about these improvements.

As much as Little loves this game, I would recommend to the younger child with and without autism, maybe a larger board with more pairs to match would be better suited to the older child.

  Recommendations

Personally I’d recommend  Memory for children between the ages of 2-7 (note the recommend age is 36 months) However I would also recommend this to a child that bit older, who is seen to have greater developmental delays whether this is a child with autism or another form of disability

 Parental perspective, given by a mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome 

 This is both a toy and a great resource for a child with special needs. It would be a great if ‘John Crane’ were to bring out additional packs of cards. These could then be sold in addition to the game, meaning parents could buy additional packs of cards as and when they like. This would therefore provide the child with more off a challenge, and they would never become bored, while also giving them that aspect of forming a collection (which they love to do). 

I consider ‘Memory’ to be a valuable resource & toy that could be used in the home, at school or nursery, even during a speech and language session! 

 Overall Quality  

 As always, ‘John Crane ltd’ have brought us a beautifully crafted wooden toy that is hand finished to perfection. This is a toy that I’m sure Paul is pleased to have featured on his site. 

Memory is likely to withstand the test of time and could be passed down generations with a little love and care. 

 Where to buy

 So, there you have it! A perfect toy for a child with or without autism, that displays a friendly price tag of a reasonable £32.99

 Whether it’s your child’s working memory you seek to improve, or just the chance to have fun playing with a fun but educational toy, then I can’t see where you could go wrong when buying Memory!  

 Visit, ‘When I was a kid’ the online friendly independent toy shop, who provide its customers with fantastic customer service and an excellent delivery service (get it the next working day or within 2 working days via the fast track service) 

Just click HERE to get yours

Why not like ‘When I was a kid’ on facebook or check out the ‘John Crane’ blog    

 

The Silly Soft

29 Sep

 I was quite excited when I was contacted by the guys at Gander Kids and asked to test a Silly soft. I had never heard of anything quite like it. However I was up for discovering what it was all about.

 The Silly Soft, made by P’kolino is a real smart toy, not only is it designed in three pieces that enables your child to puzzle together a big brightly coloured friend, it’s also multifunctional! 

 The ‘Silly soft’ can become a cosy toddler chair, table, foot-rest and more, the possibilities are endless.

 The Silly soft is aimed at children age 1-3 years. It comes in a range of  funky designs and in five different colours (orange, red, green, blue and purple).

 We were sent the orange Silly soft via speedy next day delivery.

 The Silly soft was well boxed, but easy to unpack, no horrid plastic twisty things to get through! (God I hate them things, a mothers worse nightmare)!

 It was much smaller than I first expected! However this was only because I had the image of a huge chair stuck in my head, I needed to remember this was aimed at toddlers, so, actually it was the perfect size!

 Harley was having a nap and when he woke he got mega excited when I announced, ‘mummy had a surprise downstairs’ bless him!

The outer packaging has a clear plastic window to allow you to view the toy in the box, Little H started clapping and then jumping around shouting, “Rab-bit, rab-bit” mimicking the sound of a frog. 

 Despite the colour Harley recognised that it was indeed designed to resemble a frog and he was now pretty keen to get it out of its box.

I took the three parts out the box, they were very spongy maybe made of some kind of foam that was covered in a fleece like material making them super soft, most tactile and light. Harley was able to pick each piece up with ease. He instantly got to work, puzzling where the pieces went to create his froggy friend, at just 21 months he did this with ease which left me rather impressed.

He had a huge amount of fun, throwing the pieces around the room then diving on them.

He sat on it and indulged in a little Cbeebies, jumped on it, throw it, danced on it, played on it, and finally slept on it! 

It would seem that Little H  rather likes his P’kolino Silly soft, don’t you think?

This is a toy/come seating area that’s extremely child friendly, it’s soft, comfortable, funky, bright and fun! Basically it’s all the things a toddler wants from a toy.

Oh, and don’t worry about Silly soft becoming a “Dirty Silly Soft” the covers are removable for washing ( please do check the labels care instructions).

I cannot give this lower than a 5 star *****  It put a huge smile on my toddlers face, is great for the development of gross motor skills, plus it’s different and we, at A boy with Asperger’s love different)

 The P’kolino retails at £39.99 and is available at Gander kids

As easy as child’s play

27 Sep

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Play, A god given right for all children!

 Its importance is critical to the development of every child regardless of, Class, age, race, gender or ability!

 With every game of peek a boo, every story told and building block added to a carefully constructed tower, your child learns something new & exciting.

 A child may not speak or be able to hear, he may not walk, they may be even confined to a wheelchair, nonetheless this doesn’t mean the child will benefit from play any-less, regardless of a child’s disability, they should be encouraged in play, and will enjoy it like any other child.

 As a mother to three children, I really love playing and interacting with my children, whether its make-believe, a board game or something else all together! Though yes, I do admit it’s not always easy to find the time, yet its something I consider important so try to make it a priority (something we engage in a few times a week minimum).

 As most regular readers will know, my eldest son has Aspergers syndrome which forms part of the autism spectrum. At almost 11 years old, Little man was my first-born, when I was at the tender age of 18. I noticed pretty early on in little mans life that his play style was somewhat different from what I considered to be typical play for a child his age.

 My daughter didn’t come into our lives for a further two and a bit years, meaning I had plenty of one on one time with my developing baby. Games such as Peek a Boo or sing alongs didn’t give of that WOW factor for Little man, instead they sent him into a howling frenzy. 

 Regardless of the above I persisted in my quest, a road of discovery, encouraging my child to engage in interactive play. I knew he got enjoyment from playing alone, I didn’t discourage, though I didn’t reframe from interactive play either! I’m convinced this has been of some benefit to my child now his older. 

 Play helps feed a child’s imagination helping it grow, it allows a child to use creativity while helping them to connect to their surroundings and adapt play to their environment. I believe that play can help a child learn certain roles and requirements while aiding the development of dexterity, physical, cognitive strength.

When your child is on the autism spectrum, play may not be what you typically expect it to be!

 Yes, I learnt the hard way, don’t we all? 

 I learnt that my child didn’t actually require all the latest toys that the boy next door was playing with. My expectations both before and after Little man was born were unrealistic, I had naively assumed that all children played the same way! Play was play, nothing more, nothing less, It all amounted to the same thing! God I had a shock awaiting me and a hell of a lot to learn.

I had no intention on lying to my friends and family when I announced that Little man loved Bob the builder only to end up with a house full of Bob merchandise come Christmas! In some respects I think I half convinced myself it was the case, well he had at least glanced in the direction of the tool kit I had brought him!  It wasn’t just Bob the builder, I was a mother moving with the times & quite honestly the latest craze that I quite often learnt about from the gloating neighbour who would quite often proudly inform me about the latest Spiderman bike her son was now whizzing around on! The next week Little man would have that very same bike, though it remained in the cupboard by the front door only ever seeing the light of day once, twice if you include the day I awkwardly tried to get it home on the bus. This was one of hundreds of toys that were both a waste of time and yes money!

 Looking back as I write this I get a glimpse of how bloody crazy I was! Yes, total denial sweep through me.

 It was only once I had taken a few steps back and observed the situation that both myself and especially little man began to benefit.

 I note… No, Little man did not like playing with Cars (though he quite does today) he did however love spinning the wheels over and over again! I decided that actually that was OK.

 I note… No, Little man did not love Bob the builder (though I only wish I had kept all that merchandise as my youngest is Bob gaga) though he did love Thomas the tank. I decided again, that was fine!

  I discovered that between the ages of 2 and 7 Little man only ever really played with train sets and transport mats despite his bedroom now looking like the Disney store!

 Finally I excepted this!

 I stopped focusing on that Little boy next door, therefore letting go of that, “My child should be playing with that toy” scenario! I focused on the Little man instead and what I saw was no longer what I felt I needed to see through my own stereotypical rigidness, I now saw Little man for the child he actually was! I successfully learnt my first very valuable lesson about play! 

 “Play is unique there is no right or wrong way of doing it”! 

 By stepping into Little man’s world while taking small steps to engage with him in this child lead play I noticed he slowly became more interactive, wanting me to take an interest in his games. 

 Yes, all along I just needed to go with the flow (so to speak) I needed to embrace and celebrate his interest, a massive milestone

 Oh, and did I mention that big credit should be given to my wonderful daughter? Siblings can actually be a massive source of learning  for the child on the spectrum, Alice-Sara certainly was!

 Alice-Sara was that child who played like I also assumed all children did! She played the way I always expected the Little guy would!

 Through sheer willingness and determination his younger sibling did something wonderful without really knowing it! She introduced her older brother to role-play! She taught him the value of this type of play and helped him develop the tools needed to engage in it!

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 It is this aspect of play that I firmly believe is the true instrument needed for a child with Aspergers to progress.

 I don’t know if Alice-Sara just longed for this type of interactive play from her older brother, but as a small child she fought to get it, and she did!

 OK, it isn’t perfect, as much as he is able to engage in such play it is still largely ritualistic and he can become overly controlling often using his younger sibling as a play object, yet his come a long way!

 However ritualistic and Un-spontaneous his play maybe, his sister has successfully taught him how to play schools (a game he still plays today, though it always involves a school “bus”) he also loves playing shop keepers and hospitals (if his the ambulance driver of course)! 

This variety of play offers so much to the child on the spectrum. The child will learn important social interaction skills, and a number of other important life skills they will acquire in life. 

 I’ve seen my Little man go from the child who really did prefer the box as opposed to the toy that came in it at Christmas (mainly due to what I was giving him) to a child who now enjoys play so much more and through he still does it alone, he is much more willing to play with his peers even if they don’t always oblige to him joining in. 

 Yes, he still has them “odd” items on his Birthday and Christmas wish list; Batteries padlocks, neon electric fly zapping lights; and 20 cans of DR pepper to name a few; yet he also loves, computers, lego, model buses and trains, bikes, scooters, board games and magic tricks. 

 Recently I saw a worrying statement 

“As easy as child’s play don’t apply to children with autism”

 That is bum fluff!”

 “Just because it isn’t typical doesn’t mean it isn’t magical!” 

I learnt that the hard way, I hope you don’t!

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