An Insight into Speech and Language Therapy
Hannah Jackson has been working as a Speech and Language Therapist for 6 months. She tells us about her training and working life - and why she loves this rewarding job.
5th March 2015
What do I actually do?
The role of a Speech and Language Therapist is very varied. Although the title suggests a very specific job, there is a lot of flexibility in the area of work. There is the option to work with early years, all the way up to the elderly. The majority of the jobs are in children’s services, such as clinics and school services, as well as adult services, working in areas such as stroke rehabilitation.
I chose to work with children after being very lucky to have had some wonderful placements in paediatrics as a student. I provide assessments, guidance to staff members, therapy sessions / programmes and reports detailing the strengths and needs of the child (including future recommendations). I also review speech and language targets every term and set new ones, as well as make referrals to other relevant services (Social Services, occupational therapy etc).
My current caseload consists of children with conditions such as Down Syndrome, autism, stammering, speech delay, selective mutism, language impairment, chromosomal disorders, global delay and learning difficulties (from mild to moderate).
Who do I work with?
As a paediatric mainstream Speech and Language Therapist, I work with a range of professionals such as: teachers, teaching assistants, learning support assistants, special education needs coordinators (SENCos), occupational therapists, educational psychologists, clinical psychologists, interpreters and social workers.
The Assessment Process
The children I work with present at various levels. One child may have delayed speech but good comprehension of language, others I work with may sound like a typical child, but have significant language comprehension difficulties.
So how does one decide on diagnosis? This is a complex process! I work for the NHS and there are clear guidelines as to what steps should be taken to gather acceptable information for a diagnosis. This information gathering process often includes: a teacher questionnaire, a case history from parents (covering medical information / background and any concerns with understanding and expressive language, as well as any social difficulties), an observation, a direct assessment session with the child and discussions with relevant others e.g. teachers.
How do you become a Speech and Language Therapist?
A degree qualification is needed to register with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). Until registration has come through from the HCPC, you are unable to practise as a Speech and Language Therapist (there may be options to volunteer and work as an assistant whilst waiting for registration). The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) provides useful support and information. As a student, you can join and update your membership to the RCSLT when you are a practising Speech and Language Therapist.
There are a number of accredited Speech and Language Therapy courses listed on the UCAS website. I studied at City University and would recommend this as a fantastic place of study. The support I received whilst studying was incredible and staff go out of their way to help you achieve your best. This is a demanding course and you will need to be truly dedicated.
I did the undergraduate 4 year degree; there are also postgraduate courses which run over 2 years. It is a highly competitive course and previous work experience / shadowing / volunteering are all considered a must to be a successful applicant. I would advise attending open days and contacting staff at Universities for further information on how to make a successful application.
What does the course cover?
The course is intense and covers a range of subjects. Areas studied include: phonetics, audiology, linguistics, psychology, anatomy and physiology, neurology and in depth analysis of various assessments, evidence based practice relating to therapy alongside detailed investigation of various conditions. This will vary slightly at different Universities.
There is also a heavy focus on clinical placements, where you will work alongside a qualified Speech and Language Therapist to gain experience. Supervision is given by both your Speech and Language Therapist and by the University. This again can vary on different placements. You usually have an opportunity to work on paediatric and adult placements to give a mix of experience before qualifying.
Why I love my job
It sounds clichéd, but it has to be said: this is one of the most rewarding jobs going. Don't get me wrong, there are times when it can be very frustrating - progress is often slow - but, when progress is made, I promise it is the best feeling!
I am 6 months into my first job and I’d be lying if I didn't say it’s been challenging, but I would also say that it's been 100% worth it!