Updated: Feb 13
I strongly believe that as human beings, communication and the ability to eat and drink are fundamental human rights. Communication allows us to express our needs, bond with others, and to share our stories.
Picture this. A young lady on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who finds conversations in a busy coffee shop overwhelming. She finds it challenging to understand the difference in facial expressions when her friends are laughing at her joke, rather than laughing at her. She also does not find it straightforward to understand that other people have different thoughts from her and that she needs to use her words to share her thoughts and feelings.
Picture this too. Someone your parents or grandparents’ age, who has lost their ability to order or to drink their favourite drink at the pub due to a devastating stroke and resulting in aphasia and dysphagia (swallowing difficulties). The frustration of wanting to say “I’ll have the house wine, please” but the words coming out as a mumble. Or that every sip of the drink becomes a hazard where the drink can go into their lungs and risk chest infection.
These are just some examples of the challenges that I can support individuals to overcome.
As a speech and language therapist (ST), I am in this unique position to help individuals and those around them learn/ relearn how to communicate more effectively on a daily basis, and to establish relationships with others. I also have the opportunity to support those to regain the ability to eat and drink safely around mealtimes.
I love what I do. I want to shout from the rooftops of the world how great this job is and to enable more people who share this passion for communication and swallowing difficulties to join the ST community.
What has your journey been like to become a ST?
Affirming - I have been very lucky that every experience I took on confirmed my interest in pursuing this as a career. For example, studying psycholinguistics during my Bachelors allowed me to understand more about how humans acquire language as children, how humans can lose language due to medical conditions… It fascinated me. It formally introduced me to the profession of speech and language therapy. This led me to seek work experience with STs to gain more insights on the profession. Every experience taught me how impactful speech and language therapy can be for people with communication difficulties, and what a varied and rewarding speech and language therapy is as a career.
Supported - I have also been very privileged to have met so many supportive individuals, who taught me the way to communicate, and to support communication with service users. During this journey I’ve also realised that I have only continued to develop my reflective and communication skills, such as learning to be able to explain about the “why” and “how”, and what I can offer if I get the opportunity to become a ST. My journey into ST hasn’t been all that smooth, but all of these experiences have been great learning experiences. This is also why I would like to be there and support the other aspiring STs on their journeys.
What excites you most about speech and language therapy?
The first thing that comes to mind is that everyday is different! However, the following things also continue to excite me about my job everyday:
Education: supporting families and school staff to communicate and support children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)
Empowering: supporting children to understand the world around them and to be able to establish relationships with others around them, and to express themselves confidently and effectively
Reasoning/critical analysis: Problem solving challenges relating to communication, providing advice and alternative ways to resolve these problems
Team working: Speech and language therapy really is just one field among many that support what humans do. Being a member of the allied health profession means that you will have many opportunities to learn from specialists from other fields, and share your knowledge. This leads me to my next point.
Lifelong learning: a blessing and a curse. The field is continually developing, and there is always more to learn and improve to make sure that the service and advice you’re providing is evidence-based. I think the feelings of imposter syndrome are very common. But when you reflect on it, and recognise how much you have grown and learnt over time, it’s a great feeling.
Why did you want to create STLinks?
I love what I do and think more people should join us! I recall when I first wanted to get experience and find out more about the profession, I didn’t know where to start or where to find more information. I gradually found STs along the way who helped me a lot. I wish to create that community of SLTs who wish to share their passion, insights and experience, so that we can support the community with the following:
Pursuing ST as a career.
SLT2Bs in preparing themselves for their NQT chapter.
Nurture reflective practice, ability to give and receive constructive feedback and to grow from it.
Access a strong support network and be able to reflect and learn together.
What are you most excited about STLinks?
Building a Community - I’m looking forward to building a community of people interested in communication and swallowing disorders, who are also keen to support one another to keep learning and achieve our potential on our professional journeys.
Mentoring - I’m excited to provide support and mentorship to students who aspire to be STs and to help them with their journeys.
Providing supportive experiences - One important thing I’ve developed over the years is being able to reflect on my experiences and learn from them. This also helped me with managing my own mental health wellbeing too. I wish to help nurture positive and nurturing reflective practice for my community.
What do you wish you knew before/during/after ST?
As an aspiring ST: I wish I was a bit more confident and knew that we all have something to provide as a ST, and that being an introvert or a little bit awkward is okay. You will pick up professionalism skills along the way.
As a student ST: Ask more questions. Ask about how services work. Figure out a way to support your own mental well-being during the course. Find your support system. Getting through the ST degree can be a stressful, socially draining (speaking as an introvert) and emotionally challenging experience. We are in a much better position to take care of our clients when we are taking good care of ourselves.
As a NQT: Start a ‘glow and grow’ notebook as early as possible! It helps to remind you of the positives as you get through the challenging NQT times. Record things as small as ‘I managed to do x today’.
Who inspires you? And why?
I think I have learnt something from my colleagues, peers at uni, my formal lecturers/ tutors and therapists around the world. These range from learning about communication and swallowing difficulties, what it means to be a communication expert, learning about myself, and the clinical/ practical side of the job/ how to apply theory to practice. One of them in particular have really inspired me to push myself and have started on the ST Links journey with me:
Claudia Kate. She’s friggin hard working. She is an Info guru, expert in asking questions, and applying theory/research into practice. Her motto, a “petite girl with a big heart” describes her to a T.
How has coming from a multicultural background been beneficial to being an ST?
Multicultural awareness - As an immigrant to the UK from Hong Kong, I have always been ‘in-between’ cultures. This has enabled me to be aware of multicultural backgrounds, and the importance of incorporating the clients’ cultures when planning holistic management plans.
Linguistic awareness - Having started learning English systematically at school as a second language, I have found understanding linguistics a relatively easy task. Of course, linguistics in speech and language therapy is more ‘applied’ than theoretical, and I tip my hats off to my colleagues who come from a linguistics background!
Understanding language barriers - my experiences of adapting life in the UK and switching my dominant language to English allows me to understand the challenges my clients and their families can face. For example, when language becomes a barrier when they access services (e.g. parents who are more confident in their home language finding it hard to understand therapy programmes and services delivered in English).
Do reach out to us if you have any other questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading,
18th Aug 2020