A day in the life a speech and language therapist

Lissa Garvey

Lissa is the speech and language therapist on the assistive technology project at Hill House in Sandbach. She tells us what her daily work involves, from customers learning how to tell jokes to getting the latest technology from the US.

Lissa and Chris at Hill House using an iPad

What is speech and language therapy?

Most people are not sure what a speech and language therapist does. Sometimes people will joke that they need speech therapy themselves, to “speak properly”. As a speech and language therapist, I would say there is no such thing as speaking “properly”. We try to promote “total communication”. This means accepting and valuing all forms of communication.

For people with communication needs that often involves augmentative and alternative communication or AAC for short. This can mean a specialist speech-generating device or an iPad app. It could also be signing, using pictures, objects, body language or behaviours. One person may use any combination of those communication methods. This may change depending on where they are and who they are with.

What does a speech and language therapist do?

 My job is to find out the best communication methods for each person and support them to meet their potential. Because every person is different, every day is different. This is what I did yesterday:

Most days start by checking my emails and catching up with the rest of the team. I work closely with the project manager, occupational therapist, assistive technology champion, service managers and care team. 

Next, I went to see one of our customers. He is learning to tell jokes using his communication device. He loves telling jokes. He could never do this without AAC. It is important to me that communication equipment is not just used in therapy sessions and then turned off and put in a cupboard for the rest of the week. We want all the staff as well as families to engage with these new ways of communicating. Having assistive technology champions from the care team helps to support customers and staff to use the equipment every day.

Afterwards, I visited another customer for some joint assessment with Charisse, our occupational therapist. First, we worked directly with the customer. Then we met with her physiotherapist to gather some more information. Everyone communicates, even the most profoundly disabled people. The more complex a person’s communication needs, the more important it is to do a robust and holistic assessment. This means we can provide the best possible support.

New technology is always being developed

The speech and language therapy world is small, and we talk to each other a lot! I had heard from another speech and language therapist about a communication product in development. I thought it might work for some of our customers.

After speaking to the developer, we asked three of our customers if they would like to be included in the beta trial. This means they get to use the software before it is available to buy and to give feedback. In the afternoon, the customers and the project team had a Zoom meeting with a USA developer. We set up the software on phones and tablets and started using it. Everyone liked using the software. The customers were so excited to be involved in developing it, helping other people with communication needs worldwide!

The end of the day is time for paperwork and looking forward to the next day. I love my job. I feel very lucky to work here.