Get Me Talking: supporting children’s language development in the Outer Hebrides

Ashley Mackay

Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist

Western Isles Hospital

Here in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland we have noticed that the numbers of kids in the 0-3 age bracket, who need help with language development, has been increasing. To combat this more children have been referred for an early nursery placement and we felt the need to do something to stop this worrying trend.  So, how were we going to make a difference?  How were we going to implement a change that could stop this?  Since a child’s early learning happens through interaction with parents and caregivers we decided to create a programme that promotes good quality interaction between parents or caregivers and their young children.  Eighteen months later, with the support of the Scottish Government Children and Young Peoples Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC), we (an Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Education Psychologist and Early Years Support Officer) created it and it became known as the Get Me Talking programme. 

It didn’t take us long to decide what the Get Me Talking programme would look like.  We wanted to empower parents with skills to support their child’s early language development through fun and easily accessible activities.  The most popular activities included messy play, much to parents’ delight!  After several tweaks and numerous trials we have now created package that any play leader or facilitator of a parent and toddler group can use.  The package describes in detail how to run this five week programme where parents learn about different key messages and ‘top tips’ for supporting their child’s early language development.  At the end of the programme parents should feel more confident when interacting with their child, should engage with their child more and should use more strategies to support their child’s language development!  We have received many positive comments from parents who have participated in the programme: “I realise now the effect of what I do has on my child!” “This is the most fun he has had in ages! 

Since March 2018 our team has learnt a lot about collecting and recording data, how to decide what to ‘measure’, creating driver diagrams, the terms ‘scale’ and ‘spread’, but for us one of the most challenging but important thing we learnt to do was to create an aim that was SMART- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.   Fast forward to December 2019: we are now preparing to launch the Get Me Talking programme and are working together with our Early Years colleagues to spread the word and encourage all parent and toddler groups around the Western Isles to use the package in their settings- we have almost reached our long term goal!  Not only is this package being offered to groups, but some colleagues are going to use it with individual families too.

Throughout our Language Meets Literacy journey we have, as a team, realised how important it is to work together- our Get Me Talking programme would not have been a success without true collaboration, particularly with the families and group leaders that have taken part in our programme so far.  As a team we have made lasting friendships, and for some of us the word ‘data’ no longer seems a threat!  Who knew that collecting data and making run charts can actually be quite fun?

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