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Meet an Advisor - Speech and Language Advisor Nicola

NicolaLatheySLT Community member Posts: 40 Courageous

Nicola Lathey is is one of the top Speech and Language Therapists in the UK. She is a prize-winning and best-selling author and founder and head of The Owl Centre, she is our speech and language advisor here on the community, we thought we would get to know her a little better and find out what warning signs should we look out for in our children’s speech and language. 

woman with shoulder length brown hair smiling to camera against a black background

Can you tell us what you do for a living? 

I am a speech and language therapist.  I run a private practice called The Owl Centre, and I am also the author of 3 parenting books called Small Talk 

How did you get into this? 

I decided to train as a Speech and Language Therapist because I have a younger brother with Down's Syndrome, who needed Speech and Language Therapy support when he was young. I have direct personal experience of the effects which speech and language problems can have on children and on their families. I qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist in 1999, graduating from University College London, and worked for the NHS and abroad from then until 2011 when I set up the first Owl Centre in Oxford. 

What is the toughest thing about your job and the most rewarding? 

 Looking after families who are fanatic with worry about their children and then seeing them improve.  

What do you wish people knew about speech therapy? 

 That there is so much more to speech and language development than talking.  Communication begins from birth, crying, and even people at the end of their lives need help communicating. 

Can you tell us a little about what parents or carers might look out for in the development of a child’s speech and language?  

Children develop at different speeds, but there are a few things to look out for at different ages.  If you are concerned then you should speak to a medical professional. 

 Possible issues to look out for: 

  • By 6 months never reacts to noise. 

  • Doesn´t smile back at someone who smiles at them. 

  • By 9 months doesn´t turn towards a speaker when their name is called. 

  • By 1 year, never tries to get your attention by pointing, making noise, reaching out or eye contact. 

  • By 18 month, your child has not started to babble using lots of different sounds. 

  • He is not saying his first words by 18 months. 

  • Doesn´t respond to simple commands, i.e. "Where's your hat?". 

  • By 2 years, doesn´t seem to understand the names of everyday familiar objects, i.e. "spoon", "cup", "teddy". 

  • Has difficulty following simple instructions, i.e. "show me your hands". 

  • Is not able to say recognisable words. 

  • By 3 years, Chooses to point or show what they want rather than say it. 

  • Doesn´t seem to understand what you said. 

  • Says single words. 

  • You cannot understand what they say. 

  • By the age of 4, Often looks puzzled as if they don´t understand what you said. 

  • Speech is very unclear. 

  • The language they use is jumbled and difficult to understand. 

  • They are aware of their non-fluency / stammering. 

  • By the age of 5, not able to use the right words to express themselves. 

  • Difficulty organising ideas and thoughts in the correct order. 

  • Missing out some words. For example, saying "kicking ball" instead of "Daddy is playing with the ball". 

  • By age 7, Find it hard to learn and understand the meanings of words. 

  • Find it hard to understand language about things in the past or future. 

  • Respond to just part of an instruction, usually the beginning or end. 

  • Use short sentences, often with words missing or in the wrong order. 

  • Is not learning at school, but nobody can explain why. 

  • By the age of 11, They may struggle to join in group conversations. This is because there is too much language. 

  • They may find it hard to make up stories. This will show in their written work as well as talking. 

  • They may find it hard to learn and understand the meanings of words. 

  • They may be struggling to learn at school. 

  • They could find it hard to understand what it is they are supposed to be doing, even though they have been told. 

For more information, head over to The Owl Therapy Centre website.

What do you enjoy the most about being a Community Advisor for the Scope community? 

Helping Scope and their families with their speech therapy related questions has been such a rewarding experience for me. Keep the questions coming, I’m here to help.  


If you have a question about speech or language therapy, then you can ask Nicola and take a look through her Speech and Language Advisor Category here. 

Nicola Lathey
Speech And Language Advisor
Phone: 01242 571883


  • Richard_Scope
    Richard_Scope Posts: 3,636 Scope online community team
    Great to meet you @NicolaLatheySLT!

    Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead

    'Concerned about another member's safety or wellbeing? Flag your concerns with us.'

    Want to tell us about your experience in the community? Talk to our


    and let us know.

  • Ami2301
    Ami2301 Community member Posts: 7,935 Disability Gamechanger
    Lovely to meet you @NicolaLatheySLT ?
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • tonytommo25
    tonytommo25 Community member Posts: 1 Listener
    Is there any hope that my son Liam will ever talk he is 23 and never spoken only utterances of emotion delight , annoyance etc he has down syndrome and had infantile spasms as an infant he's had several health issues over the years but has to his credit remained very spirited and strong , we haven't had much to do with speech therapy apart from a short time when he was a child , for him to convey how he feels even in a small way would be so incredible just recently he has periodic bouts of being unable to weight bear at all its extremely debilitating for him as he can only crawl at these times and so upsetting for him and us as his parents , as Orrys to go on just wanted to give you a small understanding of our much loved son's life , any help would be so appreciated , thank you ??
  • NicolaLatheySLT
    NicolaLatheySLT Community member Posts: 40 Courageous
    Dear Tonytommo25,

    Thanks for your email.  It's so difficult to answer your question because I don't know your son but I would write a letter to your local Speech Therapy dept and ask them to help you map out a programme for him.  Research in the Down's syndrome world suggests that people can still make progress with their speech and language development well into their 20's.  Good luck.  Nicola 
    Nicola Lathey
    Speech And Language Advisor
    Phone: 01242 571883
  • debbiedo49
    debbiedo49 Community member Posts: 2,904 Disability Gamechanger
  • dolfrog
    dolfrog Community member Posts: 441 Pioneering
    You have a good description of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), the listening disability the brain having problems processing waht the ears hear, which some also call Specific Language Impairment (SLI). thyeare very much the same set of issues, just using different terminology the dsifference between Audiology and Speech and Language. 
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