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How Can You Become a Speech and Language Therapist?

09 July 2024

We spoke to Helen, one of our Senior Speech and Language Therapists to find out about her career journey and why being a SaLT at WG is so great!

Can you share a bit about your educational background and what drew you to pursue a career in Speech & Language Therapy?

I completed my undergraduate degree at De Montfort University which was a three and half year degree in Human Communications - Speech and Language Therapy. Prior to doing the degree I went to Camp America and worked in a summer camp in New York. During this trip I looked after a young man who had cerebral palsy and he communicated by using his eyes, lifting up for yes and down for no, I had the best week.  Working with someone with extremely limited but at the same time effective communication methods, developed an interest for me in alternative methods of communication. This encouraged me to continue my studies to become a Speech and Language Therapist.   


How have your early career experiences shaped your approach to Speech & Language Therapy?

From an early stage I knew I wanted to be a paediatric speech and language therapist, I like being practical, working with young people and alongside parents so I knew paediatrics was the right area for me.  Before going to university, I worked as a student support assistant for students with communication difficulties which I enjoyed so knew the school environment is where I wanted to work.


What inspired you to join the Witherslack Group? Can you highlight any specific factors that attracted you?

One of the many things that inspired me to join WG is their team around the child approach.  Working within a multi-disciplinary team of different professions (OT’s, Psychologists, Therapists and assistants) ensures that the child’s needs are identified and supported.  We are an embedded clinical service within the educational settings enabling work in both health and education.


Can you share a project or initiative that you found particularly challenging but ultimately rewarding?

We have just completed a project at Avon Park School where we have been working with two of our non-speaking students with Tobii Dynavox. Through their loaning services we were able to trial the device with the students to ensure that it was the correct device for them. 

Support and modelling of the device was provided to education staff to ensure that the students had access to the device at all times.  Both young people made progress.  By the end of the eight weeks, they were using the device to request and comment, which was really pleasing to see. 


How has your role evolved since you first started? Are there specific skills or certifications you’ve pursued to enhance your practice?

I started my career at WG as a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist and within six months I was promoted to a Senior Speech and Language Therapist.  I was selected to attend WG’s Aspire Management programme.  Aspire is a programme that supports developing leading and managing people.  On completion of the programme, I was awarded the ILM level 4 award in leadership and management.   The completion of the programme has supported me in my line management responsibilities.  I have also had the opportunity to further my specialist clinical knowledge, recently completing the Autism Diagnostic Interview revised (ADIr) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2 (ADOS2).   


What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment or contribution in the field of Speech & Language Therapy?

I think one of my greatest accomplishments is facilitating Speech and Language Therapy student placements within Witherslack Group for De Montfort University students. It’s great working with students, they bring new ideas and encourage reflection on your own working practice. Students that join us on placement become one of our team. We have recently employed two De Montfort students within the Midlands speech therapy team which has been great to continue the network with De Montfort University. 


Can you discuss a time when you had to adapt your therapy approach to meet the needs of a specific child or young person?

I find that having flexibility, as well as the ability to create practical therapy activities and being able to have fun are helpful in adapting therapy approaches. Worksheets and picture cards are not engaging for many of our young people so adaption to a practical way of delivering that target is needed.  For example, I recently worked with a student whose target was to expressively use verbs, so we created video’s and took photos of staff and young people carrying out the actions rather than using picture cards.


If you could go back and give advice to your younger self starting in this field, what would it be?

That you can work within specialist settings for your first job.  Companies like WG have support, mentorship and supervision in place for newly qualified practitioners.  I was put off working independently when I graduated as felt I wouldn’t get the support I needed.


Is there a message or piece of wisdom you would like to share with your colleagues, aspiring Speech & Language Therapists, or anyone considering a career in the sector?

Just do it! I love my job and I’m very proud to be a Speech and Language Therapist.


Finally, what is one huge small victory you have had during your time here at WG?

I think contributing to the set-up of Hazel’s class which is a communication focus at Avon Park School has been a huge small victory for me. Both myself and the education staff have worked hard through training and modelling to create a communication friendly environment.  We have embedded interventions such as Attention Autism and Colourful Semantics across the curriculum.  The students have had access to low tech and high tech AAC and as a result they have made pleasing progress with their communication.  It makes me smile to see the students engage, communicate in activities and have fun and I am proud to have been part of that.


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