I graduated with a dual degree in speech therapy and audiology and subsequently completed my masters in speech pathology – all at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Since then, I’ve worked across both fields of speech and language therapy and audiology in South Africa before moving to the UK when I chose to continue my career as a speech and language therapist (SLT). I gained 20 years’ experience within the NHS, education, and independent sectors. I chair the RCSLT Clinical Excellence Network in specific learning difficulties and am on the board of governors at a local school.
When it comes to adults with learning disabilities, speech and language therapy is all about co-production. Working with the person, their family, and work environment, SLTs create routines and strategies that support a person’s executive function – a skillset that underlies their capacity to plan ahead, meet goals, display self-control, follow multiple step directions, and stay focused despite distractions.
For children and young people with learning disabilities, generally we support them via their schools and parents. By educating and changing the communication style of the adults surrounding the child or young person, SLTs are best able to make accommodations and adjustments for those with additional needs. When working with children, I love being part of the bigger team that helps both the child and family broaden their communication tools.
Rewards come daily – from a child achieving the smallest hand gesture or indicating a need, to a young person delivering a lengthy narrative using all the strategies and techniques we’ve been working on together. A big reward is the gratitude of family and support staff who value the positive changes in their child/pupil’s communication as well as the overall impact speech and language therapy can have on people’s daily lives.
The advent of social media has allowed many of my clients to seek me out and I love being able to follow the next part of their journeys knowing I had a part to play in shaping their futures.
It would be wonderful to see more SLTs of colour and ongoing support for them to achieve middle and senior management roles. I’d like to see anti-racism training become compulsory in workplaces and rolled out annually, leading to more white allies stepping up to go out of their way to include colleagues of colour in small, meaningful steps.