What's my job... Speech and language therapist

18th November 2005 at 00:00
I work in a speech and language class in a mainstream primary. Ten seven to 12-year-olds with severe language impairment and related learning difficulties are brought to the class by taxi for up to four days a week.

Our team in the class share goals, skills and insights and understand each other's perspective. We've a good success rate - and I'm sure the team approach is at its core.

Having a communication impairment really increases the risks of a child struggling to learn, to make friends and to develop self-esteem.

Unfortunately most of these conditions are not "curable", so support and inclusion strategies are essential. The teachers' role is absolutely crucial - they're the ones who are with the child on a day-to-day basis. I also support children in their local schools.

Sometimes this work is frustrating because you feel you can't have enough impact to really change things. When it does work it gives you a real buzz because you know that the teacher will be able to change things for lots of other children in the future. I feel my knowledge of the curriculum and how it is taught helps me relate to teachers, to find common ground that allows me to weave communication strategies into the teacher's methods.

I've been working with a teacher to support a nine-year- old girl. She is bright, sociable and keen to learn but has significant difficulties making sense of language and expressing herself. She can't read very well yet either, so she panics. We've put visual supports in the class about classroom routines, activities, timetables and topic work and everything's labelled with symbols. Group work is adapted for her because she can't cope with people talking at once. She is encouraged to ask when she hasn't understood. Not only does this mean she is much more secure and happy, but several other children have benefited from having these supports as part of the normal classroom environment. This is inclusion at its best!

Jennifer Reid is speech and language therapist at Crossgates primary school, Fife, Scotland. She was talking to Carolyn O'Grady

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