Bristol Gorillas inspire children’s chatter

Monday, 15 August 2011

Families are being encouraged this summer to use a ‘Wow! Gorillas’ hunt as an opportunity to develop their child’s speech and language.
As part of the city’s support for ‘Hello’ - the National Year of Communication - speech and language therapists from North Bristol NHS Trust have developed a guide for parents based around the Gorilla Hunt, to help inspire discussion.
The guide includes talking tips such as using lots of different words; picking up on items being pointed at; chatting about what gorillas like to do and ideas to follow-up when you get home.
In Bristol, by the age of five, most children achieve language skills appropriate for their age, but a minority demonstrate delayed language skills.
Nationally it’s estimated that 50 per cent of children in deprived areas have poor communication skills when starting school.
Poor language predicts poor literacy skills and vocabulary at five years old - and this in turn is a predictor of lower levels of attainment at school leaving age and beyond.
NHS Bristol, Bristol City Council, North Bristol NHS Trust and other partners are supporting the Hello campaign throughout 2011.The campaign is organised nationally by The Communication Trust to increase understanding of how important it is for children and young people to develop good communication skills.  
Speech and Language Therapist for North Bristol NHS Trust, Sarah Rowles, developed the Wow Gorilla guide for parents.
Sarah Rowles and Elaine Watson work as speech and language therapists in Bristol children’s centres.
Speech and Language Therapist for North Bristol NHS Trust, Elaine Watson, said: "It is so important for parents to take an active part in developing their children's communication skills.
"We thought this guide was a great way to share ideas with parents to encourage them to chat with their children during the summer break. 
"The gorilla hunt is really popular with Bristol families and creates opportunities to talk about lots of different things together.
"We are working to raise awareness of ‘Hello’, the National Year of Communication, because more than 1 million children and young people in the UK have difficulty with their communication skills.
"Parents can make a big difference to their child's language by using some of the tips in the guide."
Children from St Anne’s Park Children’s Centre have already been on a Wow Gorilla hunt using the guide.
Centre Manager, Sue Cripps, said: “The children enjoyed doing the gorilla hunt. Talking to other groups to ask which gorillas they had seen opened up conversations.
"We took photos back to the children’s centre and the children shared their experiences with others, telling them what they had seen.
"Parents have been asking when we’ll be going again, as the children have gone home talking about the gorillas.”
Leader on Communication for Bristol Children’s Trust, Rebecca Cross, said: “The Hello campaign is all about raising awareness of how important it is for children and young people to develop good communication skills.
"In the 21st century, the ability to communicate - to say what you want to say and to understand what other people are saying - is fundamental.
Communication is a skill that we learn and develop and is something we can all improve.”
Find out more about the guide here.