Practitioners Frequently Asked Questions

What is S.M.I.L.E.?

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 concerns about a child's development, when should I refer them for Speech and Language Therapy?

You can ask for your child to be referred for speech and language therapy by your health visitor, GP or via the early years setting they attend. There is no set age for a referral, but

if you are concerned that a child has very little speech before the age of 3 then you can try a number of activities with them first to see if this helps them. If not, by the age of 3 then a referral may be required. Children can be referred to the Tiny Talkers session that runs within Children's Centres or to a speech therapist.

How do I assess an EAL/bi-lingual child?

Children should be assessed in the their own language first, before attempting to do it in English. You should ask parents for their input too. If they are unable to communicate in English then an interpreter should be asked for or another family member who can translate. You need to be able to assess their development in their home language before you can ascertain if they have a delay or not.


How do I support an EAL/bi-lingual child/family?

You need to have key vocabulary in the child's home language readily available to refer to. Lots of symbols and pictures could be displayed around the setting for children to use to recognise things. Dual language books are very useful. The parents are a good source of information to ask for key words as they can model how they are pronounced.

Bilingual children can be support be by continuing to talk to then even if they do not respond, continued talking will ensure that they are exposed to the new language and will help them to feel part of the group. Whenever possible plan for children to be included in smaller groups which include children who are fluent English speakers. Encourage non-verbal responses and ask open ended questions which require a spoken answer. Use the child's first language as much as possible. The first language of the children is always important and staff should endeavour to learn to count and sing some songs in those languages. Minimal efforts should always be praised. Children are sometimes unwilling to respond or interact if adults are present. Structure the activities in a way that they are interactive which encourage child to child conversations.


How can I support parents with their child's development?

Every early years setting should be completing a summative assessment to show the progress of the children in their care. This can be shared with parents and they can input into this by highlighting off any missing statements. There are a few other documents that can be given to parents to take home to refer to such as 'what to expect when, a parent's guide' which can be found at: Diaries can be used for parents to document and share things learnt outside of the setting. Next steps can be explained so that parents can work on these at home.  Some settings also have wow moments which encourage all to share. If parents do not have the time at the end of the day to discuss their child's development, you need to find a way to address this and find time or another way to share information. A lot of settings have online systems allowing parents to log on at their own convenience. Providers can suggest activities for parents to try at home.  


Do I need parental consent to seek professional advice?

Yes, before you can seek professional support about a child's development, you must get written permission off parents. The only time that you can proceed without parental consent is if you have any safeguarding concerns and you feel that the child would be at more risk if you did nothing. 


Can I attend a child's speech and language therapy appointment?

If parents are happy for you to attend the sessions with them and their child this would be encouraged. This will enable you to hear what strategies are in place and you can support these within the setting. If you not able to attend, parents may share this information with you.


How can I support a child's speech and language programme?

Ask parents if they are happy to share the child's targets with you. Work together to achieve these through activities and one to one sessions in the setting. If they do not wish to share you could ask if they give permission for you to contact the speech therapist to go through them. If not, all that you can do is continue to work with the child's on their area of development.


Where can I find a speech and language therapy referral form?

All early years providers have access to support form the Early Years Intervention Team. They can send you the required paperwork to make a referral. Settings should have a SEND file which has master copies of all forms. You can contact the Stoke Speaks Out team or your Advisor / Development Officer for more information.


Where can I get further training?

There is a range of training available through the early years team. Contact your Development Officer or advisor for more information. The training leaflets are sent to all providers via email when they are produced.  If you follow this link it will take you to the training page.

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