What is Speech and Language Therapy?

What is Speech and Language Therapy?

You know that classic moment, when someone turns to you and says “So, what do you do then?”

Sometimes I’m tempted to answer with something un-work-related, like “I climb trees” or “I read books” or “I sing songs”. (Perhaps working with children helps me appreciate that we are more than the work that we do.) But, of course I know that they really want to know about my vocation, so I reply “I’m a Speech and Language Therapist”.

Often I’m met with a delighted smile: “Oh, that must be fascinating work!” or “That must be so rewarding.” Yes and yes; it absolutely is!

Just occasionally I’m met with a bemused expression: “So, is that like helping people with autism?” (Sidenote: it’s a testament to the success of awareness-raising campaigns that this is now the common response rather than: “Oh, is that like elocution lessons?” which is what I used to be asked ten years ago.) I reply: “Yes and also so much more!”

So, inspired by many conversations and attempts to explain a profession that involves a huge variety of work, I put together this super-quick video rundown of Speech and Language Therapy: what it involves and who it helps.

I wonder: what would you add to this explanation? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Find out what to expect at a Speech and Language Therapy appointment.

What Makes Speech and Language Therapy Successful?

What Makes Speech and Language Therapy Successful?

When I was about nine years old I had piano lessons. I went to visit a lady in a lovely old house down a long gravel drive. She would greet me at the door and usher my mum to her cosy waiting room before then leading me through to her music room to play for half an hour on her grand piano.

I always had a nice time working through my big red ‘beginners’ book and my mum no doubt enjoyed the rare opportunity to sit in peace with a magazine and a cup of tea. After half an hour my teacher would bundle me and my mum out the door and we’d say cheerio until next week. It was all very lovely and truthfully not very effective. I never practised between my visits and I never really had a sense of learning or improving at anything.

When you seek Speech and Language Therapy for your child you may picture it looking a little bit like my old piano lessons: weekly 1:1 between therapist and child and a bit of peace and quiet for you. I am sorry to say that, whilst this can make some difference, it is absolutely not where the magic happens! Therapy that really makes a difference in a child’s life involves a lot more.

Shared goals

It’s important to talk together about your hopes for your child and the challenges you face. By agreeing together your goals for therapy, you can carry your practice beyond a weekly SaLT visit, spot everyday opportunities to practise together and notice when your child is trying out their new skill.

Shared conversations

No child is an island. Whether it’s mum or dad, the nursery key person or the class teacher, talking together ensures that we all can provide the right support in a cohesive way.

Shared work

An hour a week practising a new skill is simply not enough to make a lasting change. Yes, time is limited and our weeks run away from us. But if you can find regular time to practise between SaLT visits and to bake that into your weekly routine, you will enable your child to make much faster progress. Which leads me to my next point…

The right timing

Sometimes life is simply too busy. Sometimes there are other priorities or events going on that mean you’re not able to make the most of SaLT support. I want therapy to really make a difference for your family. So I often ask parents to think about the best time to begin a block of therapy sessions and make sure it complements the rest of your busy schedule.

Good fun

Far from a last minute extra, ensuring that sessions are fun is actually a crucial part of effective therapy. We learn and remember information best when it’s attached to good feelings. So, having some laughter in therapy sessions and being flexible in how we approach our targets can ensure more lasting change.

What I really want to tell you is that therapy is absolutely a team effort. Yes, you can ask a therapist to work 1:1 with your child and you can have that cup of tea in the waiting room. But, when you invest your time and attention, then you can really make the most of Speech and Language Therapy.

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Earlier this year I attended a Social Thinking conference.  I left feeling fired up about the potential of this approach to develop social understanding.  In fact, I wrote all about it here.  Since then, I’ve been applying the principles to my everyday work with children from three to thirteen.   It has been an exciting shift from merely teaching social skills to helping children develop their social understanding.  So I was delighted when Social Thinking contacted me about reviewing their latest resource: “Social Thinking and Me”.

The resource consists of two books: a pack of Thinksheets and a Kids’ Guidebook.  The Thinksheets book includes a useful introduction to the key principles of Social Thinking.  It’s this focus on establishing a common language that I find most powerful about the approach. Understanding ideas across different situations is often a challenge for people with social communication difficulties, so this shared language enables families to reinforce key concepts throughout everyday situations and take understanding beyond the therapy session.  As the authors points out, “Adults provide the often-needed structure and real-life examples that keep learning alive for students.”

The Thinksheets hold a wealth of activities for adults to work through with children.  It was a conscious decision to call these ‘thinksheets’, in order to emphasise that these are intended to be done with an adult, rather than independently by a child.

The independent part of the process comes with the Kids’ Guidebook, intended to give children the opportunity to revisit ideas in their own time, at their own pace.  A number of my children have commented on how they like ‘quiet time’ to think through ideas, so this format is ideal.

The Kids’ Guidebook lays out the Social Thinking Vocabulary through detailed explanations, picture examples and one-page summaries.  This combination of formats makes it accessible for a variety of children.  I’ve noticed that those with low literacy levels are interested in exploring the cartoons, providing a great opportunity to discuss ideas together.

I’m currently using this resource in 1:1 home sessions and in schools.  I’ve found it a flexible tool as I can dip in to the relevant chapters for each individual therapy programme.  The layout makes it possible to use as a more structured programme for intervention, giving potential to be used by a variety of adults who support children in this area.

If you live in the UK, I can happily recommend ‘Thinking Books’ online shop. I like to buy books from smaller retailers, particularly as they so often have a passion for their topic. The team at Thinking Books are no exception!