Category Archives: Events

Reflecting on past CPD to design a new conference


Therapy Ideas Live

I was selected for the HCPC Continuing Professional Development audit, so I’ve been reflecting on how we apply what we learn to our therapy. As I put together my CPD “portfolio” I noticed some common features of the CPD that I’d found most useful. I’ve used these common features to make my new conference an effective learning experience.  Continue reading

I’m organising a conference about using person-centred techniques in speech therapy

therapy ideas live conference

I’m organising the Therapy Ideas Live Conference on 2 November 2015 in London. Speech and language therapists will practise person-centred techniques that help clients to meet their needs.

When I started working independently I looked for ways to continue developing my skills. Continue reading

Start a Speech and Language Therapy Blog Today – Conference Workshop

Blog trello

A couple of weeks back, at the ASLTIP conference,  I led a session about how to start a speech and language therapy blog. I knew I didn’t want to stand and talk for an hour, so I included activities as we went along, which I hoped would leave attendees ready to write their first blog post when they got home. Continue reading

Language processing in sign language


The Wellcome Trust hosts a series of lunchtime discussions with local scientists. Last week Dr Mairéad MacSweeney was talking about her work in the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, at UCL. The Wellcome Trust recorded a podcast of the discussion, so check it out when it’s published.

Mairéad explained that she uses brain imaging techniques, with people born severely or profoundly deaf who use sign language, to investigate language processing. In deaf native signers (deaf children born to deaf, signing parents) children move through the same developmental milestones as children learning spoken language, and show similar brain activation. Mairéad explained that (in native speakers) the brain treats language as language.

I was interested to hear that in some parts of the country parents of deaf babies are being advised not to use sign language as this will stop babies learning to speak when they go on to get a cochlear implant. Mairéad suggested that research into the plasticity of the brain doesn’t support this idea. Instead, as with children exposed to more than one spoken language, children simply need good quality early language stimulation. They can then use this first language as a base to build another language on top of.

Mairéad told us that deaf children find it particularly hard to learn to read, she quoted a figure: at 16 years old the average reading age of a deaf teenager (with normal non-verbal IQ) is 11 years. Researchers have found that lip reading skills predict reading ability, so Mairéad’s team is developing a computer game to teach young children lip reading, and investigating the impact on reading. If teaching lip reading supports reading, it could be used with other children who struggle to learn to read, such as those with dyslexia.

I asked Mairéad why lip reading predicts reading skills. She explained that lip reading supports identifying phonemes and developing phonological representations. I wondered about children with autism, some who learn to read early. These children aren’t known to face watch, and therefore probably aren’t lip reading. Interesting!

It was a lovely way to spend a lunchtime, keep an eye out for any other relevant talks and go along. 

Photo by Image Editor

Raising Awareness of Language Learning Impairments at The House of Commons

RALLi group shot

A few weeks back I found myself listening to inspiring speakers at The House of Commons. These speakers weren’t politicians or the academics who’d invited me, they were children, young people and adults with language impairments. The event was celebrating 2 years of the RALLI campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of what language learning impairments are, how to identify them and how to support people who have them. Continue reading

Webinar: Introduction to Speech and Language Therapy

Attend an Introduction to Speech and Language Therapy Webinar

Tuesday 12 August at 06:00 PM BST (view in your timezone), £45

Are you considering a career in speech and language therapy? Participate in this 90 minute webinar to learn about client needs, therapy techniques and skills. Find out if SLT suits you and complement any shadowing opportunities. This will help you to apply for SLT courses.

Through case studies you’ll learn:

  • what needs clients have and several therapy approaches that work
  • what core skills therapists need (and how to identify your existing skills that are relevant)
  • how to approach therapists to arrange observation sessions (and other ways to get practical experience)
  • how to find resources (books, blogs, videos) to learn more about speech and language therapy and prepare your application form.

You’ll also have a chance to ask questions and afterwards you’ll receive a video recording of the webinar.

Buy a ticket to the Introduction to Speech and Language Therapy webinar.

Can I Shadow you? Pre-course clinical experience

Shadow photo

Since setting up in independent practice I’ve had almost weekly emails from people who want to train as speech and language therapists. They explain they need to gain relevant work experience and ask if they can come and shadow me during therapy sessions with my clients.  Continue reading

Speech therapists can learn about collaboration, facilitation and leadership skills from other disciplines

Rhiannan impro workshop dareconf

At a recent study day (Child Talk What Works consensus event) I heard Dawn Smith, Healthcare Professionals Advisor, talk about commissioning SLT services. She suggested we tell stories about the impact our services have, with compelling headlines and concise evidence. She talked about the importance of making “effective relationships … across increasingly complex systems” and said that the services thriving under the new commissioning arrangements have “transformational leaders.” It was an interesting talk. Continue reading

Ageing with autism and managing expectations in therapy


On Wednesday evening I attended the National Autistic Society’s Ageing and Autism launch event. Francesca Happé talked about the huge gaps in the research, and outlined the things we don’t know about what happens when people with autism age. As autism was first used as a diagnostic label in 1943, the children diagnosed then are now approaching their 60s and 70s.

Saskia Baron’s brother Timothy, was one of these children. In 1961 he was diagnosed with “Childhood Psychosis” which later became known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is now 57 years old. Saskia talked movingly about growing up with a sibling with autism, and her worries about Timothy’s future. She described how difficult it is for Timothy to let people know when he is unhappy or in pain. More positively, she talked about how she’s observed that Timothy is still able to learn new skills. Saskia agrees that early intervention is important, however, she feels it’s not justified to remove therapeutic resources in late childhood or early adulthood, as the door to learning is still open.

My clients with autism are between 3 and 6 years old, they’ll be approaching old age in 60 years! Saskia’s presentation made me think about two things, how can I support the siblings of my clients? And how can I teach my clients ways to express their pain?

This week I also had a wonderful conversation with Keena Cummins. I’m using her VERVE technique with several families and was thinking about how to manage parents’ expectations. All the children have been making great progress due to the efforts of their skilled and perceptive parents, yet these parents often express frustration that their children aren’t using more words. Keena suggested I’m clear about what I want parents to focus on:

 “During these therapy sessions I want you to focus on his playing, I’ll worry about his talking. I want you to think about how you’re supporting him to play, explore the toys, and try out his ideas. We’ll be thinking about his words later.”

This makes sense to me, I’ll try it out this week.

Want to make changes at work but keep getting stuck? The Dare Conference can help.


The Dare conference is an exciting new event about learning how to make change, and I’m part of the team behind it. The presentations cover a range of themes that will help attendees learn skills and techniques for getting better outcomes. It’s aimed at digital professionals, I’m going to explain why the ideas are also valuable for people who work in health care (or social care, or charities, or anywhere with other people!)

At the conference people will be talking about:

  • learning from mistakes,
  • dealing with uncertainty,
  • redefining success,
  • responding to negative feedback,
  • being honest,
  • and failing to launch new projects.

When I think back to my time in the NHS, these were all huge issues for my team. Let me give you an example.

When a friend returned to work after her year off on maternity leave, she asked where we were up to in terms of the projects she’d been working on before she left. I was horrified to realise that in a year we hadn’t launched a single project. We’d got stuck – our bosses told us not to tell families about upcoming changes, we were making the same mistakes again and again, and judging our service by meaningless metrics, like number of client contacts. I’d spent my time in unproductive meetings where people responded: “no, but…” to other people’s ideas. No one was taking responsibility for change, including me.

There was also a blame culture. We didn’t respond to individual pieces of negative feedback in a thoughtful or sensitive way, so these escalated into formal complaints. Which led to everyone looking for someone else to blame instead of trying to figure out what we could learn from the situation.

If you’re facing these challenges today come to the Dare conference and learn how to get unstuck. The speakers at the Dare conference aren’t superheroes who have all the answers; they’re going to share their struggles and what they learnt along the way. I think these lessons don’t only apply to folk working in the digital community. We all need to learn how to really listen, to build on each other’s ideas and make changes, in order for our teams to be successful.

The Dare conference is taking place at the South Bank Centre in London on the 23 – 25 September. Check out who’ll be speaking and all the details here.

Are you trying to make a difference in people’s lives but experiencing barriers to making changes? This conference is for you. If you’re a health professional use the discount code ‘therapyideas’ to buy a ticket for £299 +VAT.

Help us spread the word about this event; send the conference details to everyone you think might benefit from support to make change. Tweet about it, or post a message on Facebook or LinkedIn. I hope to see you there!