I Don’t Fix Broken People

I wasn’t sure where to start with JibberJabber’s new blog. I clicked ‘new post’ and sat at the keyboard, staring at the little black line flashing in a big white screen, and waited for inspiration to strike. I thought I should do something to introduce myself or the work that I do as a Speech and Language Therapist, or say something to make whoever might be reading feel like this is something that could be for them. Because, to me, Speech and Language Therapy is for everybody. Because communication is for everybody, right?

A few minutes later I found myself googling ‘what do Speech Therapists do’. (I promise I do know how to do my job! But I was curious to know what other people might think my job is.) And I’m really glad I did. I read that as a Children’s SLT (that’s less of a mouthful than ‘Speech & Language Therapist’ every time!) I can help children who aren’t picking up language the way they should. And it’s true – I can. I read that if your child can’t say some of their sounds quite right, or stammers, or doesn’t understand how social situations work, or has problems with eating/drinking/swallowing, that you might want to take them for some Speech Therapy. That if your child has learning difficulties, Down’s Syndrome or Autism, or finds it hard to pay attention, or can’t seem to think of the right words to use, or doesn’t understand what you’re saying….you might come see me then too. And after I’d clicked a dozen links and met more or less the same thing time and again, I felt a little deflated. I felt a bit like people were looking to me as a super clinical speech fairy, working distantly and waving my wand to fix things that had gone wrong.

So now I’m here, writing a post I hadn’t really intended to, to let you know that I don’t cure talking troubles. I don’t just make mouths work better or ears listen harder or children sit still for longer (although that could be a handy trick to learn!). I don’t have a magic therapy wand. I don’t watch people over my glasses in silence, looking serious and taking notes. You won’t be scared of me. I’m much more human than that. And I don’t fix broken people.

What I do is…

I work with all children, all parents, all staff, so that at home and at nursery and at school we’re all enjoying the best communication and relationships we can. It doesn’t have to be “broken” yet for me to be useful. I help people to relax and be themselves while they’re with me, I listen to their worries. I answer questions, I help families to understand what their child’s diagnosis actually means, and sometimes I’m also part of the team working to get to that diagnosis. I help grown ups to look beyond labels, and I help them to understand a bit more about how communication and language work, so that when I’m not there they don’t feel so at a loss anymore. I encourage staff, I train them, I coach them, I bring them resources, I give them new ideas that will help every child to be a part of their class and get involved with as much learning (and fun) as possible. I work next to them in their classrooms so that I truly understand what’s happening day in and day out. I teach normally developing babies as well as children with additional needs, how to sign, so that before their mouths are talking, their hands can do it for them. I help grown ups get even better at playing with their little people, I help them to know what to do next, I show them how books and play and day-to-day life are usually the most important parts of any Therapy they’re going to do. I listen so that I can hear what’s most important to you, I help you identify barriers, and I work with you to make a start on pulling them down. I make parents and staff feel powerful (you are powerful!), and confident, and I make sure they feel like they can do this. I see children as small humans rather than my “patients” or something to be fixed. Small humans with personalities, their own special strengths, and each one unique and different to the next. I know how important it is to celebrate even the smallest milestone and achievement, I help children to feel proud of themselves. I help big people and little people understand each other a bit better, so that relationships can blossom. I blow bubbles, I play games, and I laugh a lot because children are honest and pretty matter-of-fact and very, very hilarious.

I’m not sure if that has made what I do any clearer at all. But it feels a little closer to a day in my life as a Therapist than any of the other articles I’ve found so far.

If you’ve got any questions, please please ask away! I don’t bite. Promise 🙂

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