A new language development programme has been created for young children in the Western Isles.

Named Get Me Talking, the development comes from Ashley Mackay (Speech and Language Therapist), Careen Laird (Occupational Therapist), Sally Kane (Education Psychologist) and Christina Stewart (Early Years Support Officer).

The programme has been designed to empower parents with skills to support their child’s early language development through fun and easily accessible activities.

Get Me Talking has now been created into a package that any play leader/facilitator of a parent and toddler group can use. The programme can be run in any nursery with stay-and-play sessions or in parent and toddler groups. The three local authority parent and toddler groups in Lewis have trialled the programme already. It doesn't require training of staff or for the attendance of professionals from the services listed above - the package provides all of the information necessary for someone to run the programme successfully. Even parts of the programme could be used in nurseries to encourage parent/child interaction in the early years.

The development of this programme came about to address an increase in referrals to early nursery placements in the Western Isles, due to delayed language development. A team was established to develop ways to support language development for children up to the age of three.

The group of NHS and education professionals agreed that interventions needed to be carried out earlier in a child’s life and that to improve language skills, interventions must be run in partnership with families. As the team explain in their package: “A baby learns about him or herself, other people and the world by being looked at and responded to, spoken to, sung to, read to and played with.

"A baby can learn by looking and playing on their own, but the learning is not as rich as when the child is looking at something or playing with something together with an adult. When a parent shares an experience with a baby or child, they give the experience meaning. They give the child a sense of what he or she should feel and they teach the child language that is associated with the experience.”

The Get Me Talking programme focuses on promoting various key messages and Top Tips that parents and caregivers can use to encourage and promote meaningful and rich interaction and communication with their child.

The programme runs over five weeks and each weekly session lasts approximately 40 minutes. Every week parents/caregivers learn a new key message, such as Face Me, Talk to Me, Play and Explore with Me, and Top Tips for supporting their child’s early language development, which is all carried out through fun activities.

Each week focuses on a different theme and a number of interactive stations are set up to demonstrate activities that can be easily replicated at home, but these can also be changed to suit individual settings. Parents are encouraged to practise the key message and ‘top tips’ at home.

At the end of the programme it is hoped that parents/caregivers will feel more confident when interacting with their child, will engage with their child more and will use more strategies to support their child’s language development. 

Attendees also learn about the importance of messy play, tummy time, reading aloud, as well as guidance on, and the benefits of, limiting screen time. Information sheets on these topics are included in the Get Me Talking package.

If you are interested in the programme please ask your child’s nursery or local parent and toddler group whether they are or will be running the programme.

In the meantime, if you would like advice or support about your child's early language development, the AHP Advice Line, run by the Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy departments, is available every Wednesday from 2-3 pm.

Advice Line every Wednesday, 2-3pm

01851 708282 for Speech and Language Therapy advice or

01851 795685 for Occupational and Physio- Therapy advice