I work for the NHS Speech and Language Therapy service in Luton and see pre-school children in the clinic and in nursery school settings.
A large component of my work involves assessing new referrals to our service in order to ensure that children and their families are not waiting too long for that crucial initial advice, which will support the child’s language development from the very start.
Children and young people access our service for many different reasons and these might include difficulty with play and social interaction, using words and putting them together in the right order in their sentences or in producing particular speech sounds. Some children also experience difficulty speaking fluently. Whatever the reason, these difficulties interfere with communication and impact upon the child’s wellbeing and access to education.
A typical day for me would involve seeing two or three children in the morning for individual appointments and then perhaps a visit to a nursery school to observe how a child might communicate in a more natural setting.
It won’t surprise you to hear that some children decide not to say a word the moment they walk through the clinic doors! When this happens we sometimes ask parents and carers to make a video recording of how their child communicates when they are more relaxed. Where possible we would also visit them at nursery. An increasing amount of my time is also spent providing training to parents and other professionals involved in the child’s care.
Less exciting, but nonetheless essential, is the considerable amount of time dedicated to administrative tasks such as case note writing and providing written reports about the children we see. A national survey of Speech and Language Therapists carried out in 2012 by City University revealed the following: “A typical clinician spends less than a quarter of their time giving direct therapy…”. Suffice to say, we spend a lot of time using the computer and managing waiting lists.
However, it is true to say that every day is very different in the life of a Speech and Language Therapist. Every child’s presentation is unique and the treatment they receive reflects this. It is important to say here that successful outcomes depend upon everyone involved in the child’s life playing a part and supporting communication throughout the entire day. I’m sure there is a joke in here somewhere about how many Speech and Language Therapists it takes to change a lightbulb… However, there are not enough of us to change every light bulb out there unless we work very closely together with others!