Since the early 1990s I’ve been transforming the lives of children with behaviour difficulties by developing their non-verbal communication skills.
Effective communication is not just about talking. It requires us to pay attention to and process a range of non-verbal signals. These include people’s facial expressions, intonation and gestures as well as clues about context and situation.
I qualified as a Speech & Language Therapist in 1978 and worked in the National Health Service for 18 years. I repeatedly came across children who could speak perfectly well but couldn’t participate appropriately in social interactions.
It became clear to me that there was a direct link between inappropriate behaviour patterns and an inability to communicate effectively with others. This applied even when a diagnosis such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome had been made.
In 1996 I set up Not Just Talking and became a Communication & Behaviour Specialist. From research evidence, I made connections between a failure to develop adequate non-verbal conversational skills in the period before a baby starts to talk and subsequent behavioural difficulties. These can affect the child’s ability to make and keep friends, take part in educational opportunities and contribute to family life.
In preference to a traditional Speech & Language Therapy model (focused on the development of speech and language) or a behaviourist approach (teaching the child particular strategies and then rewarding them for good behaviour), I chose to focus on non-verbal communication development – teaching interpretive and information-giving skills and various other related communication techniques. This produced compelling results.
I specialised in the development of these fundamental skills in pre-talking babies and children and have written a book for parents to help them develop these essential skills before their child reaches school age.
I also developed a unique and highly successful assessment and intervention programme to improve children’s non-verbal skills. I have now retired from this work but Dr Richard Fry has a team who carry the work on in Hampshire, Berkshire and Kent.
I am now retired from working with children but still speak at events and am working towards putting non-verbal communication development on the national agenda.