By Deborah M. Plummer, is a registered speech and language therapist and imagework practitioner, and author of the new activities book Helping Children to Improve their Communication Skills.

My latest JKP book is firmly based on the premise that ‘how we are’ with children is of equal and sometimes greater importance than what we ‘do’ in terms of specific strategies and techniques. It is a principle that has informed my own clinical work as a speech and language therapist and I believe it to be a vital element of any therapeutic work. The games and activity ideas offered in the book are deliberately basic and easily adapted for use by therapists, students, teachers and parents. No complicated equipment is required – just a willingness to engage in exploring our own therapeutic imaginations and to continue to learn from the children with whom we work. As is often the way, my clients have taught me most about the realities of living with speech and/or language difficulties.

The publication of Helping Children to Improve their Communication Skills coincides with the 2011 National Year of Communication (run by The Communication Trust) – an initiative that is close to my heart. My area of specialism is in stammering, a potentially devastating speech difficulty which can have far-reaching consequences for the emotional well-being of children and adults alike. Sometimes referred to as a ‘hidden’ disability, stammering can develop over time, in different ways and for different reasons. It is estimated that in the UK around 450,000 adults and 109,000 children between the ages of 5-16 stammer.

The recent release of the film “The King’s Speech,” has once again brought stammering into public awareness with its sensitive portrayal of George VI’s struggle to control and cope with his dysfluency. Although the strategies used by speech therapist Lionel Logue may seem a little unconventional compared to current practices, the fundamental principles of a trusting therapeutic relationship and a tailored approach to suit the individual, continue to be important elements of effective therapy for all types of communication difficulty today.

In recent years I have been involved in the training of speech and language therapists at De Montfort University, alongside my main role as lecturer in counselling theory and practice and in the psychological aspects of health and illness. This dual lecturing role is no coincidence. My belief in the profound importance of working within a framework of social, emotional and mental well-being ties in with my enthusiasm for learning more about how our conscious thoughts and unconscious processes are connected with our emotions and behaviours. Ultimately this has led me to pursue a smorgasbord of post graduate training courses in psychology and counselling and to embark on a writing career. However, I know that my learning in this field will continue to be immensely influenced by the actual experiences and insights of children and adults who themselves live with the challenges of communication difficulties.

For more info about Deborah and her work, visit

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

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