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Marvellous Mouth and Aístear

Marvellous Mouth Children's Speech and Oral Language Therapy

IRELAND

 Marvellous Mouth and Aístear See also Marvellous Mouth and Siolta

The following information in blue is taken directly from the National Council for Curriculum Assessment pagesBlack italic text describes how Marvellous Mouth components implement these principles and themes.

Aistear is based on 12 principles of early learning and development. These are presented in three groups:

1. The first group concerns children and their lives in early childhood:

■ the child’s uniqueness: Each child has his/her own set of experiences and a unique life-story. He/she is an active learner growing up as a member of a family and community with particular traditions and ways of life.

The Marvellous Mouth programme was designed to encourage children to reveal their best selves by sharing their thoughts, feelings and observations. Once we have an idea about how the child naturally learns we can guide their learning in the most effective way. Clear speech is a necessary tool to interact with others.

■ equality and diversity: Nurturing equality and diversity is important in early childhood. Promoting equality is about creating a fairer society in which everyone can participate equally with the opportunity to fulfil his/her potential.

Diversity is about welcoming and valuing individual and group differences, and understanding and celebrating difference as part of life.

Marvellous Mouth respects the child at all times. Frequent opportunities to express opinions or observations are built into Mouthercise. Social stories provide opportunities to discuss appropriate and inappropriate actions in a non-threatening manner. Marvellous Mouth and Mouthercise are  also designed so every child has an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, to observe others who are more successful and help others who are struggling. Peer support is a powerful medium for learning and development.

■ children as citizens: Children are citizens with rights and responsibilities. They have opinions that are worth listening to, and have the right to be involved in making decisions about matters which affect them. In this way, they have a right to experience democracy. From this experience they learn that, as well as having rights, they also have a responsibility to respect and help others, and to care for their environment.

Marvellous Mouth activities are often collaborative and the goals are qualitative rather than quantitative.

2. The second group concerns children’s connections with others:

■ relationships: Children have a fundamental need to be with other people. They learn and develop through loving and nurturing relationships with adults and other children, and the quality of these interactions impacts on their learning and development.

Children whose speech is unclear, and who cannot be understood by teachers or peers are isolated. Through Mouthercise, because there are predictable activities, songs, rhymes and routines, it is easier to understand and decode attempts to communicate. Context helps comprehension.

■ parents, family and community: Parents are the most important people in children’s lives. The care and education that children receive from their parents and family, especially during their early months and years, greatly influence their overall development. Extended family and community also have important roles to play.

Marvellous Mouth and Mouthercise include materials specifically designed to include parents and extended family in the child’s development of speech and oral language skills. Providing opportunities for children to carry over communication skills between home and school empowers both the children and their parents.

■ the adult’s role:  Early learning takes place through a reciprocal relationship between the adult and the child – sometimes the adult leads the learning and sometimes the child leads. The adult enhances learning through a respectful understanding of the child’s uniqueness. He/she alters the type and amount of support as the child grows in confidence and competence, and achieves new things.

True conversation requires give and take. Turn-taking is a large part of the Marvellous Mouth experience, as is a clear focus on the importance of the adult’s listening and observation skills.

3. The third group concerns how children learn and develop:

■ holistic learning and development: Children learn many different things at the same time. What they learn is connected to where, how and with whom they learn.

Each component of Mouthercise has a series of goals or objectives that allow the children to absorb valuable skills in areas other than speech or oral language while participating in the session. Listening, self-regulation, memory, fine and gross motor skills are all acknowledged and explored in the programme.

■ active learning: Active learning involves children learning by doing things. They use their senses to explore and work with the objects and materials around them and they interact enthusiastically with the adults and other children that they meet. Through these experiences, children develop the dispositions, skills, knowledge, and understanding, attitudes, and values that will help them to grow as confident and competent learners.

Mouthercise was developed to implement the theory that redundant learning (learning something using all the senses) provides a more powerful, solid foundation for mastery and retention. In this way, though clear speech is the primary focus, the activities involve much more than the mouth and the learning involves much more than words.

■ play and hands-on experiences: Much of children’s early learning and development takes place through play and hands-on experiences. Through these, children explore social, physical and imaginary worlds. These experiences help them to manage their feelings, develop as thinkers and language users, develop socially, be creative and imaginative, and lay the foundations for becoming effective communicators and learners.

The developers of Marvellous Mouth (including every child and adult who has participated in the Mouthercise and Snack attach sessions) have shaped the programme to blend into the rest of the child’s daily life and experiences.

■ relevant and meaningful experiences: Relevant and meaningful experiences make learning more enjoyable and positive for children. On-going assessment of what children do, say and make, and reflection on these experiences helps practitioners to plan more developmentally appropriate and meaningful learning experiences for children. This also enables them to improve their practice. Assessment is about building a picture of children’s individual strengths, interests, abilities, and needs and using this to support and plan for their future learning and development.

Within the Marvellous Mouth programme, daily life skills such as washing face and hands, brushing teeth, chewing efficiently are all mastered in context. Over the course of the year, the children as well as the adults will be able to measure the progress in these areas.

■ communication and language: The ability to communicate is at the very heart of early learning and development. Communication helps children learn to think about and make sense of their world. They communicate from birth using many different ways of giving and receiving information. Each of these ways is important in its own right. Learning to communicate in early childhood is shaped by two main factors: children’s own ability and their environment.

Until we hear the word, it does not exist. When the word is matched to an object, action or idea, it provides another point of reference for remembering the object, action or idea. Until we can say the word, we cannot share our experience of the object, action, idea or our desire related to it. Clear speech is a vital component to communicating.

■ the learning environment: The learning environment (inside and outside) influences what and how children learn. An inviting environment encourages and helps children to explore and to take advantage of opportunities for fun, choice, freedom, adventure, and challenge.

Not only inside the classroom, but inside the child, Marvellous Mouth respects and values the internal life of the child and encourages the child to share it through words.