Frequently Asked Questions

What is S.M.I.LE?

S.M.I.L.E. stands for speech, milestones, interaction, language and expression. It is a fun, play based group for children aged 18-30 months who need that little bit of extra help with their early speech and language development.

Your child can be referred into S.M.I.L.E. by your Health Visitor or Family Support Services so please speak to either of these if you have any concerns and think this group could help you and your child. The referral will then be considered and you will be invited to attend an assessment session.

The sessions are delivered once a week for 6 weeks, run by Speech and Language Assistant Practitioners, supported by Speech and Language Therapists. They help and support your child through fun, play based activities which include singing rhymes, turn-taking and attention and listening games for you to then try at home.


What happens at the group?

Every S.M.I.L.E. group will follow the same routine. You are responsible for your child during the session and you will be invited to sit and help your child to join in all activities. The Speech and Language Assistant Practitioners are available both during and after each session to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

For further tips and advice on play, download our Play guidance here.


I have been discharged from SLT but am still worried - what should I do?
Make sure you have followed all the advice your Speech/Language Therapist has given you. If this does not seem to be working get in touch with your therapist to discuss your concerns- the SLT will either advise you further or set up more appointments. It is also useful to ask your child's nursery/school if the speech and language is affecting your child's development.


I don't want to take my child out of school for a speech/Language Therapy appointment in case it affects his learning. What should I do?Speech and Language skills are crucial for children to learn. It is really important that if your child has a speech or language difficulty that you get all the support you need. Schools should not mind children going out for essential speech and language appointments as long as you let them know. Key staff from school are welcome to accompany you to the appointments.

Therapy works best if you and your child's setting practise the activities regularly so it is really important for school to be involved.  

Your Therapist will discuss with you which times and dates are available to help you choose a mutually convenient appointment.


My 3 year old has suddenly started stammering  - what should I do?

Stammering or stuttering is when a child's speech is not fluent. It may be repetitions of words, blocks on certain sounds or words and hesitations. It often occurs when children are learning language and are trying to plan what they are going to say. It is quite common in children between 2 and a half to 5 years whilst language is still developing rapidly. For many children they become fluent over time as they become proficient with language. You can help this by:

  • Slowing your own talking can help your child to relax and this will in turn slow his talking which will increase fluency.

I'm pregnant – why should I breastfeed and not bottle feed?

Your milk is best for your baby and is the healthier choice for you both. Studies show that breastfeeding your baby will benefit them in many ways and will continue into childhood and beyond. For the greatest benefits it is advised to feed your baby breast milk and nothing else for the first 6 months of life however, any period of breastfeeding, however short, will benefit both yourself and your baby.

Benefits of breastfeeding include:

  • Less likely to have illnesses including gastro-intestinal infections, chest infections, ear infections and eczema.

  • Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

  • Breast milk is also available at the right temperature.

  • There are no bottles or teats to sterilise.

  • It's free!


For further information, visit the following websites:

NHS - Why Breastfeeding?

Baby Centre - Breastfeeding

I'm frightened my child will suck his thumb if I don't give him a dummy.

Thumb sucking is a common behaviour in young children. Before babies are born they will suck their thumbs in the womb. Most babies will begin to suck their thumbs in the first few weeks of being born. Thumb sucking is a way of self-soothing and they may suck their thumb or fingers for many reasons including hunger, tiredness, scared or it could be a habit. Thumb sucking will not cause long term damage to milk teeth however as their adult teeth grow prolonged thumb sucking may cause teeth to become pushed out of shape.

Children may begin to stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2 and 3 years with most children stopping by the age of 5 years. As your child gets older you may wish them to stop sucking their thumb. You can encourage them to stop sucking their thumbs in a variety of ways including:

  • Encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb using a sticker chart

  • Using a thumb guard

  • Wear gloves

Whichever method you choose do not make an issue of it as most children will stop in their own time.

For further information visit the following websites:

Web MD - Breaking Thumb Sucking Habit

NHS - Good Habits

My baby is 2 months old and won't stop crying – what can we do?

A crying baby is their way of communicating a need to you. The quicker you respond to their cries the more secure your child will feel. Babies do not cry to annoy you. The pitch of babies cry is that so it stresses you and so you will respond to them. There are many reasons why a baby cries including:

  • Hunger

  • Tiredness

  • Nappy change

  • Discomfort – too hot/cold

  • Anxiety and need reassurance

Some babies cry more often than others and are more difficult to console. There are ways in which you can manage your babies crying. These methods include:


  • Stay calm and react quickly to your baby's cry – you can pass your stress emotions onto your child but reacting quickly to their cries will prevent them from becoming more upset.

  • As your baby gets older you will begin to understand and read your baby's cues. This will help you to understand the difference between a 'hunger' cry and a 'tired' cry.

  • Sing/talk to your baby – your soothing tones will help to calm your child.

  • Try rocking your baby gently - the gentle movements will help to soothe your child.

  • Skin to skin contact – holding your baby close to you will help them to feel secure.

For further information visit the following websites:

Baby Centre - 7 Reasons Babies Cry and How to Soothe Them

NHS - Soothing A Crying Baby

NCT - Coping with a Crying Baby

My doctor says my child has glue ear what does that mean?

Glue ear is when the middle ear becomes filled with fluid. This means that it will reduce your child hearing and it can affect one or both ears. Sounds become muffled (similar to placing your fingers in your ears). There are many symptoms of glue ear including

  • Your child may be appearing to ignore you.

  • Children have to concentrate hard on listening and so they may become easily tired or distracted which can result in behavioural difficulties.

  • Have difficulty in understanding people who are far away and may only understand people who are close and face to face.

  • Children may difficulties with communication and learning. It will be hard for child to learn and understand things if they are unable to hear clearly. This will usually be resolved once normal hearing is restored.

Glue ear will usually be monitored for 3 months by the GP and no treatment will be given. If there is still fluid in the ear after 3 months they may be continued to be monitored as most cases of glue ear will clear up within 12 months. Further treatment may be required if there the hearing loss is severe or it is having negative impact on your child's learning. There are usually two types of treatment for glue ear hearing aids and grommets (they are inserted into your child's ear and will help the fluid to drain away).


There are some factors which increase the risk of glue ear with your child:

  • Living in a smoky environment

  • Bottle fed babies

  • If your child has lots of colds it can increase the chances of glue ear

If you have any concerns about your child's hearing speak to your Health Visitor or GP.

For further information please visit the following websites:

NDCS - Glue Ear

NHS - Glue Ear

iCAN - Glue Ear FactSheet

I've been told to stop my son from sitting in a 'W' position, what does this mean?

How your child sits will help them to develop their balance skills. A 'W' position refers to children who sit with their bottoms on the floor and their legs either side of them making a 'W' shape.  This creates a stable sitting base which means that their core muscles are not being used and so they are not learning to develop balance skills. With prolonged sitting in this position could result in ligament and joint displacement.

Why should I talk to my baby when they can't answer me?

A baby's brain grows at tremendous speed. 75% of all brain development happens in the first 3 years, 90% of which happens in the first 12 months. Talking to your baby will stimulate your baby's brain. The first coos and gurgles are your baby's first steps towards a conversation and by gazing into their eyes and responding to these gurgles will help promote good language skills. You don't have to be an expert just talk to your baby about everything that you do and see. The more often that babies hear words being repeated the more confident they will become.


For further information please visit the Words For Life website.

I feel really silly singing to my child but have been told I should do, why is this?

Singing songs to your children is a great way for them to learn. They will love to hear the repetitive words being sang over and over. The more times a child can hear something the better. As your baby gets older they will begin to enjoy joining in with actions of favourite nursery rhymes.


For further information please visit the Words For Life website.

My child is 2 and uses both their left and right hand, does this matter?

Whether a child is left or right handed is usually developed between the ages of 4 and 6 years old, however they will begin to show a preference between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. If your child does not begin to show a preference for one hand do not force the issue, instead observe their everyday activities and note whether one hand is being used more than the other. Provide lots of opportunities for child to develop their hand skills. These activities may include drawing/writing, brushing their hair or teeth, eating or puzzles.


Click here for further information.


My 2 year old is not talking what shall I do?

First of all don't worry, some children take longer to develop their speech and language skills than others.

  • Spend time each day with your child playing with their toys; ideally have other toys tidied away so they are not distracted and turn off tv's and other electronic devices so it is quiet.

  • Make a range of noises e.g. brumm, moo, crash during play and name objects for your child.

  • Respond to your child's attempts to communicate and repeat back words or sounds clearly.

  • Keep language simple so your child can focus on the important words.

  • Sing lots of nursery rhymes and encourage your child to join in, include action rhymes.

  • Talk about what you are doing even if it is an everyday job, e.g washing up.

  • Use lots of repeated language.

  • When communicating with your child make sure they can see your face, get down on the carpet with them if they are playing, or kneel down so you are at their level.

  • Offer children choices between two items, hold them up for your child to see as you name them. If your child uses pointing, repeat the word as you give it to them.

  • Go to groups where your child can play with other children.

If you are still concerned then contact your Health Visitor who will be able to refer to Speech and Language Therapy if needed.

I'd like to know more about speech and language development – where can I find information?


Your Health Visitor should be able to go through with you the stages of speech and language development, so it is always worth talking to them; if your child is at school you can discuss this with the school nurse or class teacher.


Alternatively the Talking Point website has the general developmental stages broken down in to age ranges; this will give you a good overview and can be used as a guide.

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