The Story behind Words First

As a fluent adult reader, can you remember how YOU learned to read? Chances are, you can’t – it just ‘happened’. You are one of the lucky ones.

Success in school hinges on two key areas of communication:

  1. Language – understanding and using spoken language
  2. A child’s ability to learn to read and write that language

For most children it just ‘happens’ to them, they don’t really have to do very much to pick up the literacy code. Children with good spoken language will usually absorb the key to literacy without much effort, it’s a beautiful example of how our brains can rewire for our chosen purposes.

However, what about those children to whom it does not ‘just happen’? Who’s there to assist those children? When I started my career back in 2002 I made a fantastic mistake – one I’m very glad I DID make. I worked with children who had spoken and written language difficulties and could see that they needed help in both areas. So, as a speech and language therapist as well as a fluent reader I thought I would just be able to ‘teach them how to read and spell’. Well, MASSIVE fail! I couldn’t, I really had no idea how to teach reading and spelling and realized that this area of communication was, to put it mildly, complicated. I was daunted by my lack of understanding but felt driven to unpick the strands that link spoken and written language.

I researched spoken and written language for years, completed 2 Master’s Degrees in these areas, attended more lectures, courses and talks than I can mention, grabbed every opportunity to learn from the best and most importantly, listened to the needs of students and staff in schools. I wanted to create a user-friendly, accessible yet research-driven model for linking spoken and written language that could be used to help all children with these difficulties.

The Reading and Language Circuit Model™ was borne out of that desire to help as many children as possible experiencing difficulties in both areas of communication. It is the framework of the Words First Approach™ and has grown to include our own unique resources, materials and programmes. The model is now the focus of my PhD and is being adopted (alongside traditional speech and language therapy) across all of our schools. My dream is to make a positive and lasting contribution to the field of speech and language therapy by changing the way speech and language therapy is taught so that ALL therapists have the skills to mix the two disciplines. For now, I’ll focus on completing my PhD, providing an outstanding service to our schools, supporting parents and families through Kids First and of course raising my two beautiful little girls.

I hope you enjoy reading more about Words First. I am always interested in hearing feedback so please don’t hesitate to send it my way.

“When I started Words First, I did so to make a positive difference to children experiencing language and literacy difficulties in mainstream schools in London. I had no idea that 7 years later, Words First would be made up of 32 speech and language therapists implementing the Words First Approach alongside traditional speech and language therapy, across 62 mainstream schools and 4 special needs schools supporting thousands of children! Our speech and language therapists believe in the Words First Approach and play an instrumental role in shaping its future. I am privileged to work with many outstanding people who care so deeply about the staff, pupils and parents in their schools”

Enjoy browsing the Words First website and please feel free to send Amanda any suggestions or feedback.