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The Future of AAC in Scotland - presentations available

By Sally Millar on Friday 31st May, 2013 at 2:57pm

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NHS Education for Scotland (NES) recently hosted a dissemination seminar in Edinburgh, to update and share information about the development of the Right to Speak project, whose aim is to improve AAC services in Scotland.

Two people who use AAC, Rachael Monk and Barry Smith, gave illuminating presentations about what AAC means to them. Video of those presentations should be available in due course.

Also at that seminar, Communication Matters launched the recently published Final Report of the AAC Evidence Base project. The results of this UK-wide research project were discussed with particular reference to Scotland.

The original Right to Speak report, and three key presentations from the recent dissemination seminar, including the one relating to the CM AAC Evidence Base Report (with a Scottish perspective) are available for viewing and printing, on the Communication Matters website.


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Using Proloquo2Go text for Story Writing

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 30th May, 2013 at 3:02pm

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I was asked recently by a teacher in a primary school about whether a child using an iPad with Proloqu2Go for communication could use the text she created within the app for story writing and recording her written work.

At the time, the only way to do this was by creating a page for 'stories' and saving spoken phrases from the 'Recents' view onto buttons to retell a story later on.

That has now changed with the release of Proloquo2Go version 3.0, which you can update to FREE if you have already bought the app. As well as some new Australian voices, expressive voice capabilities (words like wow, yummy, oh no! said with feeling by the synthetic voices) and scanning for switch users, the new version enables you to copy text from the message window into other apps.

This means you can use your spoken text output in a text message, email, on Facebook or Twitter or within a story writing app (any app that accepts text basically) e.g. Clicker apps, Book Creator, notebook etc

Let me show you how it works.

First the child types in what they want to say in their story using Proloquo2Go e.g. It is a sunny day

Then the child (if possible) or a helper selects the copy button:

They then open the app into which they want to copy the text e.g. My Story (lovely little story app £1.49)

and hold down their finger in the area where the text is to go and then press paste:

et Voila, the text appears!

The child can then either use the app's simple drawing tools to do a picture to go with their text or use photos from the camera roll or take a new photo straight onto the story page:

You can't record the voice output from Proloquo2Go into the app, so if you want the story page spoken out too, someone will need to record it.

However, this is great for AAC users who want to do some creative story writing and record their written work as the story will be saved within the MyStory app and can also be emailed to the teacher to read, save, print out and mark.

Also nice to take home to show parents or carers.

Happy story writing! 



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CALL's CPD Programme for 2013 - 2014

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 22nd May, 2013 at 4:09pm

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The CALL Scotland CPD Programme for 2013 - 2014 has now been formally launched and is on its way to schools throughout Scotland. We generally send it to Learning Support in the case of secondary schools and to the Head Teacher for primaries and special schools. Let us know if you would like to receive your own paper copy. Details of the courses we are offering are available on the CALL web site. Booking is now open.

Communication and Technology

CALL Scotland courses cover a broad range of topics relating to ICT to support pupils with additional support needs. Courses are aimed mainly at teachers, therapists and other professionals working with these learners, but parents are also welcome to attend if a topic is of particular interest to them. Get in touch with us for information on our ‘Parent-Rate’.


As a result of high demand for our ‘hands-on’ iPad courses, this year we are running more and have also added an Introduction to iPads course to our programme. If you are new to iPads, we encourage you to attend this course before one of the more advanced ones. Topics for these courses include Picture and Symbol/Text Apps to Support Communication, and the use of iPads to support learners with dyslexia or with a visual impairment. These courses have a limited number of places and fill up fast, so book early!

SQA Digital Exams

Over 1,300 candidates from 173 schools/centres used digital papers for SQA exams in 2012. SQA have announced that from August, using human readers and scribes will not be regarded as 'reasonable adjustments' for National Literacy Units. CALL’s courses on Creating and Implementing Digital Exams will be especially relevant for the coming session as digital papers increasingly become the most appropriate format for many learners with reading and writing difficulties and physical disabilities.


Many of the courses have a significant ‘hands-on’ component, giving an ample opportunity to explore programs and devices with lots of support readily available from CALL staff. We have our own sets of laptops and iPads for training courses.

For Parents

The programme includes two events specifically aimed at parents. The Information Day in November (Date to be confirmed) is a ‘parent/carer-only event, giving a chance to ask questions and to find out more about technology without having to keep an eye on the children. We also have a more child-centred event, The Family Fun Day (Date also to be confirmed), which we organise in conjunction with Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland. Here, parents and children can try equipment and take part in various activities together. Further details will be announced in the near future. To be sure of getting information about these, sign up for our regular email newsletter.


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ICT for struggling readers and writers: let’s get on with it!

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 22nd May, 2013 at 3:19pm

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I had a call yesterday from a parent who was concerned about her 10 year old son who is dyslexic and dyspraxic. He has been receiving good support from the school staff, particularly with regard to his reading - his mum said that his reading age had been 1.5 years behind but that followed intensive work with staff, using Toe-by-Toe and other techniques, he was now reading at the same level as his peers.

However, she was concerned about his handwriting, which because of his dyspraxia, is difficult to read. He doesn’t like writing at all, finds it very hard to read his own writing, and is getting upset about it. The parent had raised the possibility of her son using ICT instead of handwriting with staff, and said that the school were not very enthusiastic.

Now, I don’t know the details and without meeting the pupil I wouldn’t be able to say whether he should  or should not use ICT instead of or as well as handwriting. But it does make me worried and so I thought I’d offer a few thoughts around this issue. Here’s what I think.

If someone in Primary 5 is dyspraxic and consequently has slow and illegible handwriting then it’s time to stop causing them grief and time to start helping them to access the curriculum. Forcing a pupil to continue writing by hand when there are easier, faster and more effective methods is not good practice. It risks disengagement, prevents them from accessing educational opportunities and creates low self-esteem. It’s not successful, not confident, not responsible, not effective and not what schools should be doing.

Here’s an example of a (different) pupil’s handwriting – he was in Primary 7 at the time:

Here’s a sample of his writing using a simple word processor (an AlphaSmart). Much easier to read, although the spelling is a bit of an issue.

befor you go you haf to make a traye. First get a peace of fishing line about 1  metre long.  Then get a reasnedul sised hook after you have got one big enuf and sharp enuf laiy it to your trais and then get a flote. put the end of the trais that does not have the hook thro the hole at the top of the flot then tiay a not.

And here’s a sample of his writing with a word predictor (Co:Writer). Readable and much better spelling:

First get a piece of fishing line about 1 metre long. Then get a reasonable sized hook.  After you have got one big enough and sharp enough tie it to your trace

No contest, really, is there?

It’s personal

ICT, in the form of a personal netbook, laptop, tablet or iPad is vital for pupils who have difficulties with reading or writing. It’s like an electronic jotter. You need to have a device on your desk, available at all time. Getting up from your desk to go to the back of the room to use the class computer is no good: you wouldn’t expect someone to get up and go to the back of the class every time they needed to use a pencil and write in a jotter, so why accept this with ICT?

It’s a skill that needs taught

We teach handwriting. We also need to teach keyboarding (ideally, touch typing, if possible) and ICT skills. We teach handwriting skills to develop speed, fluidity and automaticity – so that ideally, your thoughts flow direct from brain to page without having to think about the formation of letters. So too with keyboarding – the main reason for learning to touch typing, in my view, is not speed, but to develop the same automaticity.

Despite the notion of ‘digital learners’ young people are not born with innate ability to use a word processor or a word predictor. They have to be taught. By their teachers. This needs staff who know the technology, and time set aside for teaching.

Use it most or all of the time

It’s tempting to think that you only want to use the ICT for ‘extended’ writing, but there can be a few problems with this. It’s too easy to leave the device on the side and not have it ready and inevitably the battery goes flat and you get out of the habit and before you know where you are, the pupil is in S4 and about to use a scribe in his exams. Avoid this: make ICT the default tool, not the exceptional tool.

To do this we need to think digital: use ICT yourself to create resources and give the same resources to the pupil so they can access them on the device. Get digital versions of textbooks from the Books for All Database. Use digital reading books. Scan paper worksheets and other materials into the computer so that the pupil can complete them on the device. (Lots of programs can do this, from the free Foxit Reader, to for example Acrobat Pro, FineReader and more specialist software like ClaroRead, Read and Write Gold or Kurzweil.)

Let’s stop making life hard for ourselves and our learners.

Take a look at this video for some inspiration.


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New TeeJay and Nelson Thornes Digital Maths books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 17th May, 2013 at 5:20pm

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We have some more new maths textbooks on the Books for All Database.

TeeJay Maths Curriculum for Excellence titles

We are very grateful to TeeJay Publishers who have kindly provided PDFs of their six new Curriculum for Excellence textbooks: Books 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b. These cover Curriculum for Excellence First, Second and Third levels. We have added bookmarks to aid navigation, matched the page numbers to the paper books, and 'reader-enabled' the files so that learners can use the drawing, audio recording and highlighting tools in Adobe Reader to access the books. We have not yet added answer boxes, but learners can type answers in using the Adobe Reader 'Typewriter' tool. You can read and access the books on your iPad using the free Adobe Reader app, or preferably PDFaloud or iAnnotate. Click here to see these new books in the database.  

Thanks also to Caroline Jamieson in Moray for contributing a Large Print copy of the Curriculum for Excellence Book 1b. Caroline has created the first 10 chapters and is working on the rest. See it here

Nelson Thornes New Maths in Action

Marie Lawson in Shetland has uploaded an 18 point Large Print version of New Maths in Action S1/1, to add to the 24 point Large Print copy of the S1/2 book that's already there. 

We have also uploaded scanned PDF copies of New Maths in Action S1/3, S1/B and S2/3. These are really most suitable for learners with physical disabilities who need digital versions of books because they have difficulty handling the paper copies. The files are PDFs that have been created by scanning the paper copies, and while we have converted them to readable text, we don't have the resources to check every word and so there may be some text recognition errors. The books can be zoomed and magnified, and the text read out using text-to-speech, so they should be reasonably accessible to pupils with dyslexia or reading difficulties, or mild visual impairment. Again, the books are reader-enabled so that learners can type, draw, highlight and otherwise annotate the files.

Click here to see these new books.



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Read the same story again and again!

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 15th May, 2013 at 3:53pm

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Repeated exposure to the same story book is better for child language development than lots of different stories.

Interesting new research findings from the University of Sussex about how children learn and retain new words. I remember researching this and advocating repeated use of the same few stories back in 1994 - in the days of the CALL SAIL Kit (Special Access to Interactive Literacy) project. (Cheering to know that was good advice!) CALL still sells Story Packs - 3 book pack + CD of overlays in symbols

Also reminds me to commend to readers the excellent work of the North Carolina Center for Literacy and Disability Studies

And the great Tarheel Reader site, where you can get access to loads of free switch accessible books (mosty with simple one line per page text), with a speech output option (switch it on via the cogwheel 'Settings' icon)


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Proloquo2Go - if you want it, buy it NOW

By Sally Millar on Thursday 9th May, 2013 at 8:04pm

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Don't Wait - Buy it now!

If you haven't bought the Rolls-Royce AAC App Proloquo2Go (P2Go) yet, NOW is the time to buy it!


Because Version 3 has just come out  and it IS a major upgrade,  - switch access at last! DropBox! (and already, Version 2 was INFINITELY better than Version 1)

Because the price has stayed at £129.99 for the past four years or so, but the price is going to go up by c. 15% on 17th May (to something like £150 ? not sure exactly) Read why.

Yes, it's a lot dearer than most AAC apps. But it's good.


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Resources for People with Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 9th May, 2013 at 7:02pm

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It was great to see so many people at the Dyslexia Scotland South East Scotland meeting last night, where I was giving a talk on Low Cost Software and iPad Apps to support people with dyslexia. Unfortunately, I wasn't expecting quite so many people so I ran out of copies of the handout, listing the programs and apps I was (somewhat ambitiously!) trying to show during the evening. If you didn't manage to get a copy (or want another one), here it is.

I was asked about useful sources of information on developments in technology for learners with dyslexia and other support needs, particularly with regard to the iPad. These days, the internet is full of useful resources and it is easy to get bogged down with information, but there are some key resources:

  • The CALL Scotland Blog is a very good starting point, though we don't always have time to keep track of every interesting new development.
  • I did a handout listing iPad resources for a Parents' information Day back in November, and have been adding to it since. You can download it from here.
  • I'm a big fan of the Pinterest resource created by Lauren Enders

I'll try to add to this list next week.

I was also asked about dyslexia-related apps for Android devices. Paul Hamilton has an excellent blog where he talks about apps specifically for Android devices. His wider blog has information on other apps.


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ConnectABILITY - great resource!

By Sally Millar on Monday 6th May, 2013 at 11:51am

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Have you seen this terrific resource? (I can't believe I didn't know about it before - many thanks to Ian Bean - whose website is ALSO a great resource - for drawing attention to it.)

ConnectABILITY is a virtual community focused on lifelong learning and support for children, youth, adults and seniors with an intellectual disability, their families, caregivers and support networks. Users are able to connect, support each other, share, research and advocate via easy-to-use web tools.

A star attraction of the website - maybe for parents, especially - is the free Visuals Engine software, which provides basic templates for making visual support materials easily (1, 2, 4, 6, 12, or 16 to a page). You can use the photos provided, or upload your own photos and pictures. Or - and here's the thing - you can use the picture bank provided, which contains MJ PCS (Boardmaker) symbols  (not ALL of them, a subset of 400 odd). Having made your page, you can save it as a .pdf and print it, then cut up and use the pictures.

The extensive ConnectABILITY website also provides:

  • Pages – A custom group of content all based on a subject (Safety)
  • Articles – Stories, tip sheets, fact sheets on a specific subject
  • Workshops – Audio/visual presentation on a subject, between 10 and 15 minutes in length
  • Interactive – Games and activities to play on the computer 
  • Podcasts – Audio recordings of presentations
  • Links – Links to other useful resources on the internet

All the written materials and Workshops are highly readable and well illustrated. For example, you could download and read the excellent Tip Sheet Using Visuals and then be offered suggestions of other related Tip Sheets, and guided to a short online Workshop  with key information and further links.


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By Sally Millar on Thursday 2nd May, 2013 at 7:07pm

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I've worked in CALL for 30 years - yes,  I know, how scary is that! - and I have only once or twice ever before seen this super-rare sight- three CALL guys in a suit. (Well, in three different suits, to be precise....) - on their way to a posh party at Edinburgh Castle, with Dyslexia Scotland, and Alex Salmond.


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Kindle now has text-to-speech on iPad, iPod, iPhone

By Stuart Aitken on Thursday 2nd May, 2013 at 4:41pm

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May Day brought a nice surprise for Kindle readers who use the app on their iOS. Now Kindle books can be read using text-to-speech on an iPad, iPhone or iPod. Before this update it’s always been a bit frustrating for readers of Kindle books to find that there was no way to listen to their collection on an iPad. Blind and visually impaired people who already had purchased Kindle books found that if they downloaded their Kindle books to an iPad it wasn’t possible to use the built-in features offered by VoiceOver. It wasn’t even possible to use the Speak Selection feature to select a word or chunk of text to have it read out. Now it is possible to use VoiceOver (not Speak Selection though).

Kindle Reader uses VoiceOver so if you want to use Kindle’s text-to-speech functions VoiceOver needs to be installed and running. To do this go to:

 Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > On.

VoiceOver is designed to allow blind and visually impaired people to access iOS So when it is running you activate apps in a slightly different way than the standard iOS approach. Mostly this involves a double tap instead of single tap (which makes sense, after all a blind or visually impaired person will want to check the right app is selected (single tap), before activating that app (double tap). Thereafter, use of text-to-speech is pretty straightforward and quite powerful.

  • In Kindle Library with VoiceOver on, tap once on a book to have full spoken information about each title, author and whether the book is installed. Double tap to open the book and start reading from where you left off.
  • Use a two finger swipe down to start continuous reading from top of page.
  • Use a single two finger tap while reading to pause. Two finger tap once again to resume.
  • Single finger tap selects a line of text and reads under the finger. (Like Speak Selection only it gives context too.) Single finger tap anywhere to read that line. Two finger tap to return to library.
  • Suppose you are in single line reading at a time (e.g. for meaning), and you want to return to continuous reading. Simply do a two finger swipe down to resume continuous reading.
  • Three finger swipe right to left to move to next page, or left to right to go to previous page.

All of these options are clearly spoken out.

What does it allow you to read?

Kindle titles will work. However, Word documents, PDF documents will not offer text-to-speech (many other apps do offer this functionality).

The big advantage is in being able to read your Kindle formatted books using text-to-speech.

Can you use other voices?

While t is not at all obvious how to do it is still possible to change the voice used in text-to-speech with the Kindle. The secret is to think about how you would give access to this facility to a blind or visually impaired person. You would do it from within VoiceOver. Here’s how to do it using the Language Rotor.

Setup is atwo stage process. First, you set up the languages you want to make available from within VoiceOver. Second with Voiceover activated, select the languages from the rotor you previously set up.

Turn on voices to be selected from in Language Rotor. 

General > Settings > Accessibility > Language Rotor (below Rotor)

Tap to select each of the languages you want to use as options – e.g. US English, British English, Irish English.

Tap VoiceOver (at top of screen) to come out of Language Rotor.

Now you will want to select the chosen language or dialect. You do this with VoiceOver On.

  • Turn on VoiceOver as before General > Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > On
  • Launch Kindle with VoiceOver On.
  • Tap and rotate two fingers on the screen clockwise to turn on Rotor and the command available is spoken. (e.g. Characters, Words, Line etc.)
  • Repeat the movement until it says Language – you’re ready now.
  • Do a one finger slide down, it will speak out the first voice you selected as an option. Repeat the rotor action until you reach the dialect or voice that you want. That is now selected. 
Now a two-finger swipe down will speak out in your preferred voice.

Now Apple if we could only have the Scottish Voices available from within the Languages available not just in the apps but across the whole system. That would be great!


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By Sally Millar on Monday 29th April, 2013 at 1:05pm

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As the summer approaches at a startling speed   - well, time-wise, if not weather-wise- the issue of transition looms large for many pupils, schools and families. Hopefully, plans will have started well in advance.

Going Places: Transition Scheme Supporting Children with Additional Needs into Secondary School (book and CD) is a resource that comes highly recommended, which sets out how schools can plan and prepare for transition into mainstream Secondary, for children with ASN.

Going Places (£36.99) is written by Carolyn Gelenter and Nadine Prescott, and is published by Speechmark. It is available from WH Smith (cheapest), Amazon and other bookshops.


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Apps for getting text from an image

By Allan Wilson on Friday 19th April, 2013 at 4:44pm

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Image of advertisement from Times Educational SupplementI was asked earlier this week for advice on an app that would allow somebody to take a photograph of some text with an iPad and then convert the image into editable text that could be read back. This is equivalent to scanning a paper document and processing the image with an optical character recognition (OCR) program to create a text file, which can then be read back using text-to-speech software on a computer.

Prizmo or TextGrabber + Translator?

Normally I recommend Prizmo (£6.99) for a task like this as it generally produces pretty decent results, provided that the lighting is good and the iPad is kept steady, but I read a recommendation for TextGrabber + Translator (£0.69) a couple of days ago so I decided to compare them.

They were both originally designed for the iPhone, but work perfectly well on the iPad 3. When you search for them in the App Store you have to look among the iPhone, rather than the iPad apps. When you first open either of them, they'll only occupy a small part of the screen (equivalent to an iPhone display), but you can enlarge this by tapping on a small circular button marked 2X at the bottom right of the display.

I used both apps to take a picture of a page featuring an advertisement from today's Times Educational Supplement Scotland. and then used the OCR software within each app to convert the text on the page into editable text on the iPad. Prizmo only attempted to convert the black text, rather than white text on a coloured background. There were a couple of mistakes in the main body of the text, but it did surprisingly well when it attempted the very small Terms and Conditions text at the bottom of the page - there were a few mistakes, but the text was recognisable, which I found astonishing given the size of the original text. TextGrabber managed to cope with white text on a coloured background and was perfect in the main body of the text, but the small Terms and Conditions text was unrecognisable.

Reading Text Out Loud

When it came to speaking the text out, Prizmo uses its own text-to-speech system, allowing the text to be read out by pretty decent voices (for which you have to pay separately, typically £1.99 per voice). TextGrabber uses the built-in Apple Speak Selection system so the voice options are a little more restricted. This has to be turned on in the Accessibility Settings - Tap on the Settings icon, select General and scroll down to Accessibility to make sure that Speak Selection is turned on. You should then be given an option to Speak any text you select.

Translating Text

Prizmo and ScreenGrabber + Translate can translate from English into a wide range of foreign languages, which can then be read back in the appropriate language if you have a  suitable voice installed. The translations are not perfect, but good enough to get an idea of what the text is about.

Text scanned and translated by TextGrabber + TranslaterI think I would now lean towards TextGrabber - it is cheaper, slightly less complicated, and the OCR (conversion from an image into text) seems to be slightly more accurate.

There are, of course, other apps that can be used to do this.


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Free exhibition: ICT and Inclusion 2013

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 16th April, 2013 at 4:49pm

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CALL Scotland has been organising the FREE annual ICT and Inclusion road-show since 2001. It provides people with an opportunity to see and compare the latest software and technology to support students with additional support needs from most of the leading UK companies.

Location and dates for the exhibitions are:

  • CALL Scotland, Edinburgh - 18 June 2013
  • Thistle Hotel, Glasgow - 19 June 2013

Suppliers will describe their key products in timetabled sessions and there will also be short presentations by staff from CALL Scotland.

The exhibitions will be open from 9.00 am until 4.00 pm.

Free Lunch! A free buffet lunch is provided at each of the three venues. It is therefore important that people register for the exhibition in advance so we have an idea of numbers before the day. Please indicate when you book a place if you wish to stay for lunch.

To find out more and to book online, go to the ICT and Inclusion web page or telephone CALL Scotland on 0131 651 6235 to book a place.


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An Open Letter to the Parent of a Child with Speech Delays

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th April, 2013 at 3:54pm

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Once again, the piercingly true words of a parent - therapists and teachers take note!

Dana Nieder, parent of Maya, urging parents and professionals not to 'wait and see' but to plunge in, as soon as possible, to the world of full strength AAC .

There is no time to waste - and there is nowhere for professionals to hide, these days, when the internet can provide such vast resources of information.

It's great that a parent is writing this stuff, because maybe other parents  - and let's be honest, there are many who are frustratingly reluctant to consider any alternative to speech, and just don't 'get' the importance of developing underlying language, and interactive communication skills - will accept it better from another parent than from a professional.

We all want the best for the child, but communication and language are complex functions and skills and there is no quick and easy solution. Both parents and professionals are needed to put all this together. And it's not just about speech and language therapists, who may see the child for a few hours over several months, but for school staff who see him/her for several hours every weekday........


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