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critical friends / in brief

Critical Friends pilot

Readers have suggested that Speech & Language Therapy in Practice should pilot a form of supportive peer review. Valerie Dean, Alyson Eggett, Sheila Robson and Claire Smallman are the Special Needs Speech and Language Therapy Team with South Tyneside Primary Care Trust. They offer a retrospective critical friends appraisal of Sitting on both sides of the fence by Kirstie Page (Winter 08, pp.10-12).
As a team, we were interested to read this article on collaboration as we are moving towards more class-based therapeutic intervention within our special schools. The article gave us greater insight into the world of teaching and education and the similarities and differences between their world and ours. It was balanced in its presentation of the priorities and approaches adopted by therapists and teachers, and encouraged us to think about the assumptions we make. In particular, it made us aware that we cannot take shared knowledge as given and the Ten steps to better practice working with teachers made us reconsider how we present information about childrens speech, language and communication needs and how we can relate our recommendations to group-based activities and the curriculum. Several members of our team have just returned from the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists Scientific Conference in London and felt this article was interesting in light of some of the findings presented by Victoria Joffe relating to her work with teaching assistants. She talked enthusiastically about how to work more collaboratively with this important group of staff and the implications for our profession in terms of our changing role and methods of service delivery. One of the challenges we face is the changing nature of the NHS. Whilst recognising the need to think about assessing a childs communicative environment and the barriers to effective communication, building mutually respectful relationships with teaching staff and working with them to modify the environment and the curriculum, we are under increasing pressure to improve activity levels and provide outcome measures. We feel that we need to think carefully about how we measure success and provide evidence of the effectiveness of class-based interventions. Perhaps this is something we can learn from teachers? Are there tools used within educational settings that we can apply to our work? It is worth remembering, however, that we are expected to work collaboratively, not just with teachers, but with other medical professionals, social care workers and parents/carers, all of whom have different priorities again. Although teachers also have this expectation on them, we felt that the article was limited in its consideration of the pressures facing therapists and the legal framework in which we work. For a more complete picture, we would welcome some top tips on what we can do to encourage teachers to see things from our point of view and to accommodate some of our priorities into their world too. Readers could then use this article alongside the top tips to share this helpful insight into our interlinked worlds with teachers and other educational professionals. Generally, we found this a very thought-provoking article. Our only criticism is in relation to the editing, as Kirsties work as a consultant for StoryPhones was included in the body of the article rather than presented separately alongside it. Whilst acknowledging that she is developing this approach to marry together work on listening, language and literacy, we felt that it did not fit with the rest of the article in which the focus was on team working and professional collaboration. Alternatively, perhaps a follow-up article focusing on shared approaches and resources would have been a more appropriate introduction to her work? If you or your team would like to comment on the impact an article has had on you, please contact editor Avril Nicoll for more information, e-mail, or see

In Brief
`In Brief is a new section of Speech & Language Therapy in Practice for 2009 suggested by readers to showcase short, practical ideas. One lucky contributor in each issue will receive 50 in vouchers from Speechmark, a company which publishes a wide range of practical resources for health and education professionals working with people of all ages (visit for more information). Brief items (up to 500 words) may include therapy or assessment tips or a description of a resource you have developed. It may also be a reflection on the best piece of advice I have been given, or the things I wish theyd told me at University. Although what you write will be substantially your own work, please acknowledge any influences. E-mail your entries to
Gillian Hayes is a speech and language therapist at the Centre dAudio Phonologie in Luxembourg. Working single-handedly, and with only 20 minutes allocated to screen each child, she has had to develop simple and efficient methods of informal assessment and parent-and-child group therapy. She offers these tips to readers: Articulation How to sort out lateralised articulation of / ,t , d/: ask the client to say the word <tie> slowly, then with lip rounding, then faster. The resultant approximation to /t / is very workable and tends to spontaneously become /t / before long. Language If a child says one word, repeat it back using two. If he says two words together, repeat them back using three. This can often be the only bit of advice parents remember but, by following it, they manage to do quite a lot of the suggestions in Hanen ( automatically: slowing down, repeating, reducing, talking about childs interest, no pressure of questions. Useful resources Colourful bag to pull toys out of Mr Potato Head ( Early Learning Centre post box ( Black Sheep Press picture sheets (www.blacksheeppress. My own Teddy stories for symbolic play
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