CHALLENGE ME! SPEECH AND COMMUNICATION CARDS

Reviewed by Sinead O’Mahony, Clinical Speech and Language Therapist

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Challenge Me! Speech and Communication Cards were developed by Amanda Elliot, a practitioner of conductive education, with the aim of improving the speech and communication skills of children between 3 and 14 years. The cards were devised to offer ideas and inspiration to teachers of conductive education, therapists, parents, teachers, teaching assistants and those involved in the rehabilitation and education of children with speech and communication difficulties.

They are intended as a guideline for tasks and games which aim to improve and develop breathing techniques, tongue control, facial muscles, speech and communication skills. The cards are suggested as suitable for children with mild to severe speech difficulties—whether these are as a result of a neurological condition or a general developmental delay. They are simple in instruction and illustration and for this reason may be most appropriate for children at the younger end of this spectrum or for older children with more severe difficulties The author asserts that the pack is beneficial for children with learning disabilities and can help to focus the child’s attention and change motor skills by improving and developing awareness, breathing techniques, tongue control, lip closure, jaw stability, facial muscles, phonology, articulation, fluency, intonation, biting, chewing and swallowing skills, reduction of oral sensitivity and confidence.

Clear and concise instructions are provided in the accompanying instruction booklet, allowing clinicians and parents to implement activities and provide instructions using the illustrated cards as aids. Although the cards can be helpful for parents to use at home, it would be most beneficial for them to be used under guidance, following discussion with the teacher or therapist as to how the cards could best be incorporated into an intervention plan.

The cards are fun and user-friendly with bright, colourful illustrations. They may be most useful as a support for oro-motor work with young children or for eliciting tongue, lip and jaw movements as part of an oro-motor assessment. In addition they may be beneficial in targeting awareness and reduction of salivation. The cards are an inviting incentive for children to engage in such activities and can be used in conjunction with many different activities to encourage performance and engagement in otherwise tedious and difficult tasks.

Unfortunately, the specific section targeting sounds is insufficient to use for phonological therapy as the cards are at a basic, general level. However, the cards could be useful if incorporated into a more detailed intervention plan. The cards need not be used in a structured format whereby the full pack is implemented with each child. Instead, cards that specifically target the individual child’s frontline reviews needs can be selected and a personalised programme can be devised and implemented using a repetitive, consistent approach. There is currently no evidence to support the recommendation of oro-motor activities, such as the ones illustrated by these cards, in the field of speech and language therapy (Bowen, 2005). Indeed, this is currently an area of great controversy. However, many experienced speech and language therapists report the benefits of such activities and continue to target these areas in intervention with claimed success. The use of Challenge Me! Cards may be a helpful resource for both parents and clinicians wishing to target oro-motor activities with children with learning disabilities as a result of their clear instructions, specific targets and attractive presentation.

CHALLENGE ME! SPEECH AND COMMUNICATION CARDS, by Amanda Elliot. Illustrated by David Kemp. (2009) London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84310-946-4.