Baby Signing

April 21, 2008

Over the last few years there has been a lot of interest surrounding Baby Signing.  This is the practice of teaching your baby signs before it can talk.  This means that you can communicate with your child from a much earlier time.


There is plenty of research on the positive benefits of signing with your baby.  Baby signing is a form of pre-verbal communication.  It has been documented that babies understand language before they can speak and signing taps in to this.

Research done at the University of Durham has found that the most important factor in a child’s development is how well a mother can interpret her baby’s mood.  Therefore baby signing may be able to help a mother interpret her baby’s mood.  There is also evidence to show that signing promotes excellent interaction between parent and child which is vital for communication.  Signing can reduce frustration in babies and can enhance bonding.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has supported research evidence that shows that the use of gesture helps babies focus on what they hear.  They do however voice concern that signing does not replace verbal interaction between a baby and its parents.


If you are interested in joining a baby signing class we have qualified tutors who are able to offer this service within Essex and Suffolk.  Please email us at for more information and to register your interest.

There are many ways you can find a speech and language therapist.  If you are looking for an NHS speech therapist get in touch with your local hospital.  They should be able to put you through to the correct department.  For children either get in touch with your health visitor or, for older children, try your local Primary Care Trust.  

For both children and adults you could also check your local NHS Primary Care Trust website.  Information about speech and language therapy services should be listed. If you are sure that a referral is required to the speech and language therapy department this usually has to be done through your GP.  The GP is a good point of contact for onward referrals.  Be aware that most speech and language therapy departments in the NHS now have waiting lists. 

If you would like private speech and language therapy we are currently able to offer therapy in Essex and Suffolk.  However we are now building a database of therapists in other areas so if you live outside our catchment area please get in touch and we may be able to help you. 

Our email is 

If you are a speech and language therapist looking to do private work please email us to join our database. 

The families and/or carers of people who require speech and language therapy are always after resources.  Whenever someone asks for resources or worksheets to do at home the therapist knows that the family and the client are motivated for therapy.  In fact other therapists are always sharing resources and trying to find new games, workbooks or ideas to make speech and language therapy more relevant and exciting. There are many websites that provide examples of games to play for speech therapy in children.  Over the coming weeks we will set up a list of useful websites that you can access.  

If you are a parent or therapist who has come across resources that have benefited your child please post a comment or email us at  This will help us build up a valuable resource for therapists and clients alike.

Interestingly there are fewer resources on the web for adult speech and language therapy.  Again if you have any suggestions please contact us as above.

If you are a company who sells speech and language therapy resources and would like to get in touch about your product please email us at 

We will compile as much information as possible to help give ideas and point you in the direction of resources.  These can then be used for both private and NHS speech and language therapy. 

As you may know it is increasingly difficult for new graduates to find a job as an allied health professional within he NHS.  Latest figures show that 80% of new grads can not find jobs.  Within speech and language therapy this figure is growing year on year.  Some universities are now recommending that trained therapists take on jobs as speech and language therapy assistants, to gain experience.  However, SLT departments within the NHS are reluctant to take on graduates as assistants as they are not likely to stay in the job long term.  

So why is there a crisis in jobs for newly qualified speech and language therapists?

The problem has occurred due to massive cutbacks in NHS spending.  The government decided that too much money had been pumped into the NHS and wanted Trusts to come out of debt.  Instead of making redundancies many posts were frozen, meaning that when people left they were not replaced.  This has led to speech and language therapy departments being unable to recruit new therapists.
Currently there are not enough trained speech and language therapists to meet the needs of the population.  Consequently the NHS ‘sponsors’ students to train as speech and language therapists.  However, despite the cutbacks and lack of jobs, places on courses have not reduced.  This means that year on year more newly qualified therapists are coming through and being unable to gain employment.  It is now commonplace that new grads are having to wait 12 months or more to find there first job. 

 What can you do to find a job as a newly qualified SLT?

There are many ways you can try to find a job.  Firstly don’t limit yourself to working in one area of the country.  This will increase your chance of finding employment.  Secondly, send your CV out to as many places as possible.  Take on as much voluntary work as you can to make your CV stand out from others.

Thirdly, make an excellent impression whilst you are on placement.  This way if a job comes up in the department you stand a good chance of a least getting an interview.  Next, try not to specialise too early.  Even though you might want to work with adults perhaps take a Paediatric job to get a foot into the department. If you can not find a job consider working abroad to gain experience.  You will gain far more experience working as a therapist than an assistant.  It will also look good on your CV and expose you to different models of therapy provision.  Personally I would avoid working as an SLT assistant as you may find it too frustrating not being able to do what you are trained to. 

Newly qualified speech therapists and private therapy

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists recommends that you are qualified for a minimum of two years before taking on private speech and language therapy.  This is to make sure that you have a good level of experience before working autonomously. However, with the crisis in recruitment for newly qualified therapists they may be forced to revise this recommendation.  As long as a new grad can access regular supervision from a specialist speech and language therapist and the client is aware that the therapist is newly qualified, therapy can still be effective and not put the therapists or the client at risk.


With growing numbers of children having speech and language difficulties, NHS speech therapists can struggle to meet the demand.  Often they can only visit schools once a term and act more as consultants, leaving programmes of work, rather than doing individual therapy. 

With permission from Education and a child’s carer, private speech and language therapists are able to offer therapy within the school or nursery setting.  This is often more convenient than parents having to take their children out of school to attend appointments.  Where therapy occurs in school regular contact is made with parents to update them of the progress made and also to give homework. 

If you work within a school or nursery, or are a parent of a child with speech and language difficulties, please contact us at for information regarding private speech therapy. 

What do you have to do to become a speech and language therapist?  Firstly it’s recommended to find out more about what the profession involves.  You can do this by looking on this website to find information.  The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists also provides advice on what the job involves.  A link to the Royal College website can be found on the right hand side of this page. Most universities now ask that you are able to provide evidence of having done some relevant voluntary work.  Speech and language therapists work in a variety of settings so there are plenty of people you can contact.  These include hospitals, schools, nurseries, nursing homes and voluntary groups.  Charities such as the Stroke Association and Headway are always on the look out for volunteers.  Headway works with people who have suffered traumatic brain injury whilst the Stroke Association helps people who have suffered strokes and their families.  For children Sure Start may be able to offer voluntary placements.Other avenues to explore are your local NHS trusts.  Often they are able to offer work shadowing placements.  Phone your local hospital or NHS clinic and ask to be put through to the speech and language therapy department. Private speech and language therapists do not normally offer placements for students. 

A stroke occurs when there is a clot in the bloodstream in the brain or following a bleed in the brain.  Both result in brain damage that can cause speech and language difficulties.  Hemiparesis is also a common after effect of stroke.  Some people undergo a change in personality.  See the Stroke Associatio’n’s website for up to date information on stroke and how to make lifestyle changes to cut down your chances of having one. The severity of speech and language difficulties following a stroke depends on the area of the brain affected.  If the stroke is in the left side of the brain speech and language difficulties are likely.  Paresis of the right side of the body will usually occur as well.    

What type of speech and language difficulties to expect after a stroke

Spoken language (expressive) and understanding of language can be expected following a stroke.  Spoken language problems can occur with or without understanding problems.  A common misconception is that people who have had strokes understand everything that is said to them but just can not talk.  This is not the case.  In the early days after a stroke people are often able to mask their lack of understanding by copying facial expressions of the people speaking or by using situational understanding.  Situational understanding can be explained using the following example:

A person who has just had a stroke is asked if they would like a cup of tea.  The person responds in a positive way.  Everyone thinks that the person has understood the question.  However the person asking the questions was holding a cup of tea at the time and offering it the stroke survivor.  The stroke survivor did not need to understand anything just take the cup. 


That is just one example of many…..When speaking to someone with language difficulties try to use gesture and pictures to help them understand.  Try not to give too much information at any one time, using short sentences and emphasising the key words.  Also give the person plenty of time to respond. 


Spoken language problems can range from dysarthria, where speech is slurred due to facial muscle weakness to only being able to use jargon.  Dysarthria is treated by doing exercises for the facial, tongue and lip muscles to strengthen them.  This improves the clarity of speech.


For problems like dyspraxia the person will be given exercises by the speech therapist to retrain the motor programme so that words are produced correctly.  If the person has word finding difficulties techniques such as using the first sound of a word, the written first letter, or the meaning of the word can be used to help access the word.


If there are problems with sentence structure the speech and language therapist will carry out assessment to find out where the problem is and then provide a programme of work specifically for this.


There are other speech and language problems that can occur following a stroke and we will be adding information over the coming weeks.  The Stroke Association has a lot of information on it and is very useful.


Following  a stroke speech and language intervention can be extremely useful.  It can either come in the form of a swallow assessment and/or assessment of communication skills.  After discharge from hospital most people will require on going support.  Most NHS speech and language therapy departments have long waiting list and are only able to offer weekly appointments.  Current research shows that intensive speech and language intervention is of most benefit to try and recover function.  It should be noted that in some cases people will not recover to how they were before the stroke.  In these cases the speech and language therapist will help manage the problem as opposed to cure it.


If you would like private speech and language therapy please contact us at