Mandy Gutwin tells us about a ‘typical day’ in the Special Educational Needs Service
I work for the local authority as part of the Special Educational Needs Service (SENS), providing support for children with speech language and communication needs (SLCNs) within educational settings in Luton. For this article I was asked to describe a typical day working as a Speech and Language Advisor. However, this was not such an easy task. After some deliberation and a few false starts, I had a realisation. There IS no typical day.
Working in nurseries, primary and secondary settings I liaise with teaching staff and parents, observe the child and carry out one to one assessments if appropriate. A comprehensive report is then provided including recommendations. Due to the range of settings, I need to be flexible in the way I work and require a wide range of skills and knowledge in many clinical areas including language delay/disorder, autistic spectrum disorder and global developmental delay. Whatever the diagnosis, the child’s difficulties will impact on their ability to learn and to develop communication.
I have been able to develop my special interest in the anxiety disorder, selective mutism which renders children unable to speak in certain situations while speaking confidently in others. In addition to carrying out assessments to diagnose this condition and meetings with parents and staff to provide recommendations, I run termly selective mutism training and a support group (SMARTI). At these sessions practical strategies are shared and visiting speakers have attended, including Maggie Johnson who co-wrote the Selective Mutism Resource Manual.
Developing and delivering training is an important part of my role in supporting staff to develop the communication skills of those with SLCN’s. In addition to the selective mutism training, I am also involved with several of the Flying Start initiatives including Pregnancy Club and Communication Ambassadors. The latest training I am involved in is the Targeted Communication Development promoting more specialist intervention for children with SLCNs.
Empowering children, staff and parents to manage and support communication difficulties is a big part of my role. As part of this, I am constantly researching the most effective strategies, programmes and resources to recommend, which involves online research, attending speech and language conferences and carrying out formal research.
I am currently investigating the effectiveness of an online programme and app ‘Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame’ to increase resilience in young children, which is associated with increased self confidence and reductions in anxiety.
I work as part of an amazing team with Early Years, Autism and Learning Support Advisors who have many years of experience. The support and expertise gained from liaising with them is invaluable. There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference to people’s lives whether it be helping to develop children’s communication, reducing the anxiety of those around them or empowering others to make a difference. As a result, my days are full and challenging in a positive way! Mandy Gutwin, SLCN Advisor Special Educational Needs Service (SENS)