I’d never heard of a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) before it came to leaving school and trying to work out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life! I remember describing it to my parents that I wanted to work with children and discovering that this job even existed. Following work experience with a children’s and adult’s SLT I was convinced that this was what I wanted to do and set off on the journey, completing my studying. Ever since I qualified I’ve always come across the two ends of the spectrum responses when people hear what I do from the classic “oh you can teach me to speak proper” or “that’s elocution isn’t it?” to them positively reporting they know a friend or family member having received speech therapy!
I remember when I first had my children and through those early years chatting with parents and friends about the current challenges we had with our children and being thankful that this was ‘just a phase’, being reassured that they’d soon be moving onto the next phase and a different challenge. That’s still the case now and I realise that never changes as our children grow up. From my experiences as a SLT and as a parent alongside this, I’ve seen there are the inevitable life ‘bumps’ whether they’re literal ones with you making a dash to A & E with your child or discovering your child has a difficulty that isn’t just a phase, that needs intervention and that may even be lifelong.
As my children became toddlers and then pre-school and school aged, often I found in conversation it would crop up that I was a Speech and Language Therapist. I was amazed that so many parents I knew were either concerned with their own child’s speech and language development or knew someone that was. I am often asked what their child should be doing by now for their age or for advice. The process and skills required in speech, language and communication, we all take for granted. It’s always amazing to see parents suddenly become aware of all the tiny steps required for their children to master these hugely complex skills, moving from a baby crying to being able to be a fluent, confident talker within a conversation.
At university my friends would joke at times that I was surely doing a degree in colouring as I was often found colouring resources in readiness for my next placement. Now, my children talk about what I do, seeing me leave in the morning with a big bag of toys or games, and view me as going to work to play games with children!
As part of my role I have developed a real passion for sharing my knowledge through training parents, teachers, early years practitioners and SLTs as well as delivering joint training alongside education colleagues. Having my own children has also shown me just how challenging daily life can be juggling all life’s challenges as well as the daily dashing around with children and work, making sure you do give yourself time as a parent. This insight has really helped me to hone how I work with parents and families looking at how we can incorporate any carry over into the daily routine and to ensure parents are having fun with their child and enjoy this time with them.
My role is a truly privileged position to be in, where you can work so closely with parents and practitioners to discover and shine a light on their own skills in supporting their child/child they’re supporting; to work together with parents to understand their child and identify their strengths to use in therapy to support their speech, language and communication development; to support families through the reality that their child may have long-term difficulties and the loss that goes with this and to come out the other side; to empower parents to seek out the most appropriate support for their child through the education system; to make a real difference in that child’s life so they can be confident communicators and fulfil their potential no matter their difficulty; to ensuring all those around the child have the skills and confidence to support them. At the end of the day to have fun.
Communication, the skill we all take for granted unless we are unable to communicate, is after all a Human Right.