How long have you been with Soundswell?
I started working regularly for Soundswell last September (2017), but have provided input on a more ad hoc basis since 2015.
Tell us about your career so far:
Following graduation I started working for Sandwell NHS.
After three years of working in main stream schools and community clinic with children aged from around 18 months up to 16 years old, I became a Clinical Co-Ordinator leading a small team and becoming one of the lead therapists within the multi-agency assessment process for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders. This has led to a special interest in this area.
In 2006 I stepped out of my comfort zone and became one of the head therapists for the service, working alongside the Professional Advisor and a small team to manage the paediatric therapy service.
In 2012, I left to work independently.
I generally work in mainstream primary and secondary schools helping school staff to support children’s speech and language needs. I also deliver training which I really enjoy; I am a licenced Elklan tutor and I Can Talk Boost tutor. In the past I have also delivered Makaton baby signing training to Children’s Centres.
What is your favourite client group/ type of speech and language difficulty to work with and why:
I really enjoy working with children and young people who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Working with this client group involves many of the aspects of our varied role that I really enjoy such as evaluating the child’s communication environment and looking at ways that this can be adapted to support a child’s understanding of the routine, expectations of others and interpretation of language. Support and advice generally follows a structured approach and will usually involve helping staff to develop a visually supportive environment and adapt their own language and interactions. Training either formally or informally is usually required too and this is another part of my role that I really enjoy.
I have recently attended some training about working with children who have selective mutism and found this incredibly interesting. I think there are many similarities with working with this client group and with children who have autism such as following a very structured approach and how managing the environment is a key priority to successful intervention.
I enjoy working with children who have developmental language disorders. One of the aspects about this client group that I enjoy is thinking about how language targets can be integrated and linked to the curriculum. I am a huge fan of pre-teaching vocabulary linked to curriculum subjects and looking at how children’s understanding of different questions structures and verbal reasoning can be developed in the classroom using the Blank Model of Language Learning.
Like many therapists, when working with little ones, my favourite resources consist of using inset puzzles, post-boxes and feely bags. I also play a really simple hiding game (objects or pictures) where I just hide the items for a child to find and name/ describe giving the child warmer/ colder clues. You would not believe how much children seem to enjoy this, frequently asking for it!!
With older children, I have a portable pack of cards that can be used to play the classic board game ‘Guess Who?’ This is a great activity to use when first meeting a child/ carrying out initial assessment as an ice-breaker, to gain informal observations of the child’s understanding of the rules of the game, understanding of different instructions/ questions, ability to generate questions and social communication skills such as maintaining eye contact, taking turns, initiation, relevance and topic maintenance.
Advice to anyone considering speech and language therapy as a career:
Look for shadowing opportunities with different speech and language therapists – there is such a wide variety of client groups and roles within the profession.
If you decide to train, make the most of your placements, ask to deliver direct therapy – this will stand you in good stead to be able to advise others in the future. It is very difficult to work within a consultancy model if you have not delivered therapy yourself (the majority of roles take this approach).
Consider the wide range of employment opportunities once you graduate – it’s not just the NHS anymore!
During a therapy session a boy was telling me his horse riding and he mentioned that he had ‘anat’ – I interpreted this as a ‘gnat’ and went into an elaborate demonstration of a ‘gnat’ flying around. He gave me the funniest look, tapped his head and with great exaggeration said ‘anat!’ My reply ‘oh of course, a hat!’
Biggest challenge in the job:
Time – I think for everyone! There is always so much more that could be done, if we and/or school staff had more time.
This is what a SENCo said about Nicki this July :-
(I 'm emailing you ) ...to show my gratitude and appreciation for Nicki's professionalism, high level of invaluable knowledge, flexibility in a changing environment and especially the support that I felt I had from her in my role as the new SENCo to the school. In short, she has been really great to work with, not to mention kind and good humoured.
Ultimately, her impact on key pupils and supporting adults was hugely positive and I very much look forward to working with her next year.