Jane Mallinson, Speech and Language Therapist, NHS Lothian

This interview was first published in the September 2009 issue of Enquire within

What is the role of a Speech and Language Therapist?

alt=""A paediatric speech and language therapist has a variety of different roles and these are constantly evolving as we respond to the various national drivers, including the ASL Act. We work with children, their families and with our colleagues in education and social work, always operating as a part of a multidisciplinary team, providing assessment and intervention when appropriate, to children and young people referred to our service. The role has changed since the implementation of the ASL Act, to include an increased training element for colleagues, parents and carers.

What’s involved in a typical day?

It is difficult to describe a typical day, they are all different. Activities may include:

  • Providing speech and language therapy support to children and families in their local clinic – involving assessment, review or 1:1 or group therapy
  • Visiting a school or nursery to update staff on a child’s additional support needs, reporting on assessment results,working through a programme of work or offering strategies to help the child with communication difficulties in the classroom
  • Writing a ‘supporting learning profile’ to identify strengths and to plan a programme of work for the next few weeks and / or to contribute to the Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP)
  • Training a learning assistant in group or individual work to maximize a pupil’s access to the class curriculum
  • Meeting with the speech and language therapy team leaders to progress service management issues, or working jointly with a teacher in class or small group.

What factors made you choose your job?

At the time that I left school I had an interest in the allied health professions and choosing speech and language therapy combined this with my interests in language and communication. I enjoyed my job post qualification and made a positive decision to return to the profession after a break when I had my children.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Making a difference!

It is very rewarding when working with a family has helped them to come to terms with their child’s communication problem, and the child can be seen to make progress. I also find it rewarding to work with the speech and language therapy team leaders to adapt and improve the service that we all provide.Years ago, I did not expect to be in a management role but I do feel that having that role allows me to be a part of developing speech and language therapy at various levels, and I believe that makes a difference.

What is the least rewarding part of the job?

Juggling the finances!

What constraints or barriers do you face in your job?

Time – the job is diverse and varied and managing my diary is a nightmare.

If you could correct one misconception about speech and language therapy/therapists,what would it be?

I would like to correct 2 misconceptions:

  • Firstly, that speech and language therapists deal only with speech problems. People regularly say “I had better watch how I speak” when they hear about my job.
  • And secondly, that the only way to support a child with communication problems is by providing weekly one to one speech and language therapy. In fact, there are many possible models of intervention and all have value. Some children learn best in their classroom, some in groups, some on a 1:1 basis.Most children need to learn through a model of ‘blocks and breaks’. They need regular input for a while and then need a period of consolidation.

What advice would you give to parents, to help them get the best out of their contact with speech and language therapy services?

We are always delighted that parents place a high value on the speech and language therapy service. It is important that parents accept the professional advice that they receive, recognising that we always focus on the best interest of the child. Parents often ask us to provide more therapy in the hope that that will increase progress, and they also seem to feel that speech and language therapy can only be provided by a therapist. When a child and their family is first referred, a qualified speech and language therapist will always assess a child and diagnose the problem.After that, a plan of work will be developed,which is likely to involve work with the speech and language therapist and colleagues from other disciplines who are working with the child. Speech and language therapists are skilled at sharing information to enable our colleagues to implement our strategies, supporting our work.This system, at its best can provide therapy support for a child throughout the school day, every day. It is very important that all the child’s communication partners understand the strategies that are most beneficial to enable the child to communicate as his or her best with everyone, not only with the speech and language therapist.

Jane Mallinson is Lead Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist for Edinburgh, East and Midlothian. For more information, visit the website www.asl.scot.nhs.uk, which was developed by the NHS Lothian ASL team

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