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I have a child at playgroup who is almost 3 years old and is still not combining words. His vocabulary is very poor and his speech is difficult to understand. His mother is very concerned - should she be? Also he is very disruptive at playgroup, often being very physical with the other children and hurting them. Having watched him carefully I think he is attention seeking. I have my own ideas about how to proceed but would welcome advice from others.


Beau :)

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Hi Beau -


Have you got any concerns about his hearing? Have you tried running any little experiments to see what he responds to auditorily?


And can you get eye contact easily with him?


Does his behaviour change when he is getting one to one attention?


What behaviour makes you think he is attention seeking?


How long has he been at the nursery?


Regards, Steve.

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I work in a Special School and wonder if these suggestions may be of any use.


Does He actually understand his world, the language used. He may respond to signing, not as a replacement for speech, but as a means of communicating until speech comes. Makaton is excellent and really easy to pick up too. This does not attatch any stigma to the child. Many of our children use it and reject it when they can speak.



His disruption may not be attention seeking. May be it's frustration at not being able to communicate


If he is attention seeking, why?


Is he imaginative in his play?

Does he show a wish to communicate?

Is he sociable?


This is the Triad of Impairment, used to help diagnose Autism. He may not be Autistic at all, but some tactics used to help Autistic children are effective in many other situations.


Hoipe this is of some help....Keep us posted



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Such a lot of questions! I'll try to answer them all as best I can.




I have spoken to his Mum about whether she has any concerns about his hearing but she doesn't think there is a problem there. However, he often ignores me when I am talking to him and I usually have to get right down in front of him to get him to pay attention. He always tries to avoid eye contact. He has a very short attention span and so it is difficult to spend time with him one on one. He will sit for a short time and then run off.


I have watched him carefully in the last couple of weeks and he seems to be looking to see if he is being watched and then will purposely do something disruptive. He has a 9mnth old brother who he is very rough with and I wondered if this could be part of the problem.


He has been coming to playgroup since November and has shown little improvement in that time both in his speech and his behaviour. I know that his Mum is getting to the end of her tether with him at home and I feel I ought to be able to do something to improve the situation.





Thank you for your input too.


One of the things he does naturally is to use gestures in the place of words. Unfortunately I don't know what all these gestures mean so it is often difficult to understand what he is trying to say! At times he has approached other children in the setting and tried to join in but they tend to ignore him unless I step in to support him.


He enjoys playing with cars, tractors and farm animals, although most of this play is spent looking at the items rather than actually 'playing' with them. Unfortunately he seems to take the most pleasure in upsetting the other children and their games. :o


Where can I find out more about Makaton? I have read about this elsewhere too.



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Hi Beau,

www.makaton.org looks like a good place to start. Do you have an inclusion team working within the EYDCP or LEA? They may run courses on Makaton in your area.

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Hi Beau


Makaton - there is a video presented by Dave Benson Philips with lots of nursery rhyms all the children enjoy actions to songs the makaton site mentioned above will tell you the title you can order it from whsmiths


the local speach theropist can be a mine of information with all aspects of communication not just speach but also the way the child is understanding and different ways to make yourself understood to the child.


monitor the times of his problem behaviour during the day see if a pattern emerges


what is he like after snack time? we have had two children in the last 12 months with challanging behavioural/ comunication problems both showed a big improvement once the parents changed their diets to "no e numbers" this may seem irrelivant but its worth a try and theres nothing to loose and I have worked with autistic and behavioural problems and seen the difference so many times over the years. after a week there may be a small change after a month it will be obvious if there is a link between his food and his behaviour.


The two children in our setting - the one child who is being assessed for autism changed from being withdrawn, no eye-contact extreme tantrums and restless in activities (he is still obviously showing autistic behaviour)but now he is calmer, more co-operative and makes eyecontact he has also more recently started to speak and keeps calling all the helpers "mum"

the other child would run around the group constanly taunting snatching toys and we where struggling but again the no e numbers slowed the irratic behaviour he would sit and focuse on activities and we could reason with him when he started to play up.

its not a magic cure but its definately worth suggesting to mum to try it (if she hasnt already?)

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Thanks for all the useful info on Makaton. This is certainly something I will be looking into.


His Mum came into playgroup yesterday with the good news that following on from our discussions last week she returned to the Health Visitor and managed to persuade her to refer him to a Speech Therapist. The Health Visitor had previously told her that they wouldn't do anything until he started school, which I found incredible. When it comes to my children I have always been a great believer in speaking out loudly on their behalf. My son has had various problems over the years and action has only been taken when I've pushed for it to happen. I don't think its any consolation for a child to be told that something could've been done to help them years ago if someone had had the courage to speak out earlier. I would much rather kick up a fuss only to be told that theres nothing wrong than to sit back and worry without doing anything.


Sorry, got a bit carried away there! <_<



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Hi Beau -

You're quite right to get carried away! An early diagnosis of special needs can make all the difference, and a late or indifferent one can turn a temporary hitch into a permanent problem.


Let us know how the speech therapist gets on with your little boy - I'd be interested in trying to put together an article on the identification and resolution of problems in a nursery setting if I get time.


Regards, Steve.

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