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Winter growth


travelled to The Eden Project in Cornwall recently (, and was impressed with the sheer audacity of the materialisation of the dream: to transform an old, china clay mine to a dramatic tribute to Nature in all her glory. Although it is still in development, the evolution of the idea is a perfect example of a work in progress. It reminded me that, before anything becomes material, it has to be thought of or imagined. Dreams really can come true if we are prepared to use our imagination, but also our intelligence and then our backbone. While Nature is generally a source of inspiration for me, I always dread the arrival of the winter season, and wish it away. But, as we bid farewell to what has been a spectacular autumn, I can’t help noticing the grandeur and splendour of winter; the amazing architecture of a denuded tree, the seeming stillness of the solid soil and the spectacular light show that the night sky offers when the temperature drops. Perhaps it is time for me to see winter differently? Speech and language therapists help people to see things differently, as former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham expressed so eloquently in a House of Lords debate on the future of youth justice (heard on the Radio 4 Today programme, 28 October, 2006). He said, “In all the years I’ve been looking at prisons and the treatment of offenders, I have never found anything so capable of doing so much, for so many people, at so little cost, as the work that speech and language therapists can carry out.” Lord Ramsbotham explained that, following the introduction of speech and language therapy at one institution, “It was fascinating to me that – immediately - the governors of the prison, the education staff, the healthcare staff and the discipline officers realised that they had been given a tool without price which they had never had before. And this was reflected most clearly to me in the discussion I had with a hardbitten prison officer … who said that, until the therapist appeared, he reckoned that he and his colleagues had been damaging many young people, because they had not understood how to communicate with them, and they were putting everything down to bad behaviour which they were punishing - which was not the right answer. Now he knew where to get help.”

Life coach Jo Middlemiss has always dreaded winter but, this year, through a spot of self-coaching, she is going to be inspired by it. So, what’s your Goal, your Reality and your Options – and what Will you do about it?
the point is that, as Nature knows, it is never too late to make changes and to do a spot of reinventing. Sandra is a therapist who wishes to specialise with children with severe learning difficulties. However, she has taken up an appointment in a field that is not her specialty because it has a slight financial advantage. She also has a great and creative talent which is not used because the job she has taken on is busy, stressful and unsatisfying. What should she do? For Sandra, all the fears are rearing their heads: • Fear of failure • Fear of starting again • Fear of not being good enough, or of not knowing enough. Fay is wondering if she has the nerve to be an independent practitioner. She could develop a practice, working according to her own timescale and quite complicated family set-up, but again fear is rearing its ugly head: • Fear of change • Fear of the unknown • Fear of giving up the old familiar ways. Ruth works in an inner city area where there are many immigrant families. She has a long held Teaching English as Second Language qualification, which she has rarely used. She sees this as a way to supplement her speech and language therapy work, but can’t get an entry into this world. She has also done some staff training as part of her professional development. She really enjoyed this opportunity and received enough positive feedback to know that she had delivered it effectively. Where can she go with this new discovery? What is the next step, and how can a spot of coaching help? Jo Middlemiss is a qualified Life Coach with a background in education and relationship counselling, tel. 01356 648329, Jo offers readers a complimentary half-hour telephone coaching session (for the cost only of your call). You may want to phone Jo if you are going through a major change (such as coping with being a student, starting a first job, promotion or returning to work after a career break), or if you find yourself in circumstances which make it difficult for you to do your job in the way you want to. While all Jo’s work informs ‘Winning Ways’, your contact is confidential, and no personal or identifying details will be given. without being too intrusive. The vehicle I used was the TGROW method (attributed to Sir John Whitmore). I offer it to you now as a way of self-coaching. (This is entirely possible; people always have more resources than they know.) • T stands for Topic or theme. • G stands for the Goal. What is it you really want? • R stands for Reality. With all the honesty that you can muster, state how things are at this precise moment. • O stands for Options and Opportunities. This is the chance to brainstorm and really look at what could be possible if time, money and YOU were not in the way. • W stands for Way forward or Way ahead - or I Will. This is the action to be taken in the light of all the thinking that has been done. To work through the GROW model, smart questions are helpful. There are many, but I will highlight a few effective ones for each stage.

Seeing things differently
Of course, while we are busy facilitating change in other people, it is easy to forget that we too benefit from help to see things differently. Following my ‘Grey(ish) power’ article, in the Autumn 06 edition of this magazine, many readers picked up the phone for some coaching. My callers were all of a certain age, but the recurring theme was, ‘There must be more to life than this.’ As usual, the stories I tell are a bit of an amalgam - but

Recently I was asked to run an ‘Introduction to Coaching’ workshop for a range of health professionals including doctors and receptionists. The idea was to show, over the course of two hours, that it really is possible to do a little coaching




GOAL • What would you like to achieve? • What would you like to be different? • What outcome would you like from this coaching / thinking session? REALITY • What is happening at the moment? • How do you know that this is true? • What other factors are relevant? • Is anything else relevant? • What obstacles would need to be overcome on the way? • What resources do you already have? • What other resources will you need? OPTIONS • What could you do to change the situation? • What alternatives are there to the present situation? • Who might be able to help? • What options do you like the best? • What are the pros and cons of these options? • How committed are you, on a scale of 1 to 10, to your favourite option? WAY FORWARD • What are the next steps? • Precisely when will you take them? • What might get in your way? • What support do you need? • How will you get this support? • How committed are you to taking these steps? (Scale of 1 to 10) • What prevents your commitment from being a 10 if it is not? I work on the principle that there is no such thing as a problem without a solution. Looking honestly at the situation in an unemotional way really does help solutions to emerge. On reading Caroline Myss’s most recent book (2005), I came across a quote from M Scott Peck’s book ‘The Road Less Travelled’: “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are at our most uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in these moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” (p.205) This really does sum up what we need to grasp hold of so that we can make the changes we need to make, if we want our lives to bring us satisfaction and fulfilment. There is something in our modern life that wants to argue with the normal way of things. In our climate of non-stop economic growth, it rarely gets to be truly dark, and the slow-down that the winter season offers us is not really convenient. But doesn’t Mother Nature deserve a break, just like the rest of us? So, this year, I’m doing something different, and making a winter resolution to GROW. This winter is going to be honoured and enjoyed - and I am going to allow it to inspire me.

Returning to practice
The Health Professions Council has produced a guide for professionals who have not been practising, are considering a break from practice or are intending to supervise or employ someone returning to practice. Downloadable from

Let s sign
The Let’s Sign series of British Sign Language teaching and learning resources is available from a new online shopping site. The site also includes interactive ebooks, a signing merit chart and sticker set and free download sheets.

Education Maintenance Allowance
The charity Contact a Family has published a new factsheet on the Education Maintenance Allowance. This looks at how to get a weekly payment for a child if they stay on at school, college or training after compulsory schooling.

Exploring Elizabeth I
The National Portrait Gallery’s Learning & Access Department has worked with pupils at I CAN’s Meath School, all of whom have severe and complex communication disabilities, to produce a resource for teachers of pupils with special educational needs. The venture has been funded by the Vodafone UK Foundation. The National Portrait Gallery’s Education department also hosts one-day workshops for pupils with special educational needs, tel. 020 7312 2483 for information. ‘Exploring Elizabeth I’, see

Developing voice
The Vocal Process website includes two free downloads written by Jenevora Williams which may be relevant to therapists working with children and adolescents with voice problems.

Parkinson s questionnaire
A questionnaire to help medical professionals identify – and therefore treat - non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is available from the Parkinson’s Disease Society. Such symptoms include sleep problems, depression, fatigue, blurred vision and sweating. The questionnaire also asks about dribbling and swallowing.

Dementia film
Ex Memoria is a 15 minute film about one woman’s experience of dementia. A copy is available free of charge to anyone working in dementia education, training or practice by sending a sturdy stamped addressed envelope (big enough to accommodate a DVD case 14x19cm) to Bradford Dementia Group, School of Health Studies, University of Bradford, 25 Trinity Road, Bradford, BD5 0BB.

Encephalitis explained
Gilley the Giraffe…who changed is written by a mother for the siblings of her child recovering from encephalitis. £8.50 to professionals, see

Communication Disability Profile
The Communication Disability Profile, by Kate Swinburn with Sally Byng, is a new tool to enable people with aphasia to express their views and experiences of what life with aphasia is like for them. £125 from Connect,

Lidcombe story
The Australian Stuttering Research Centre has released ‘Tom’s Story’, a DVD about the Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention to “convey a feel for what the treatment is really like”. It looks at the programme from three perspectives: the therapist, the child’s mother and researcher Mark Onslow. Tom’s Story costs AUD 35, details on au/asrc.

Multi-sensory stories
Bag Books is a not-for-profit organisation that creates, produces and distributes multi-sensory stories for children, young people and adults who cannot access regular printed books.

Big Talk Triple Play
The company Enabling Devices has combined its Big Talk and Press Your Luck products into a communicator called the Big Talk Triple Play. It has four levels and three message capabilities: single message, sequential and random.

Something s not Right...
A parent-led project has resulted in the production of a DVD and web-based video which provides information about autism in an accessible way. (NB This will be reviewed in a future issue of Speech & Language Therapy in Practice.) “Something’s not Right…the clues that might mean autism” is downloadable free from

Middlemiss, J. (2006) ‘Grey(ish) power’, Speech & Language Therapy in Practice Autumn, pp. 22-23. Myss, C. (2005) Invisible Acts of Power. London: Simon & Schuster. SLTP

Patients Talking
A new website invites people who use NHS services to write a confidential diary and find support through sharing their medical experiences. Patients Talking,

Autism update
Contact a Family has updated its directory entry for autism spectrum disorders.