It has been a while since my last ‘Meet the Autism Professional’ Interview. So it is time to put the spotlight on Jessie a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist.
Throughout the process of getting an autism diagnosis we met with lots of different people working with autistic children. After my son’s diagnosis we began the process to get an Education Health and Care Plan. Again meeting lots of different professionals. Often my son would be assessed at Pre-school without me. I found myself wondering who the person is and what they are looking at. Many of the people working with autistic children have job titles that meant very little to me. I had no idea what they actually do. If you don’t know your Educational Psychologist from your SENCO you can check out my Glossary.
It is these professionals that have all provided input to my son’s targets and supports. Many of their reports and suggestions have been very helpful. So for those of you meeting with professionals for the first time. I thought it would be useful to do a series of interviews so we can find out a bit more about the professionals working with our children.
Jessie – Specialist Speech and Language Therapist
My boys were both referred to Speech and Language Therapists by the Health Visitor around 2 years old. We saw the local Speech Therapist who then referred both boys onto the pre-school complex needs team at the local hospital where we worked with Specialist Speech and Language Therapists to work on things like the Picture Exchange Communication System and Intensive Interaction. Jessie a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, has agreed to a few questions to give us a little more insight into her job.
1: Can you tell us about your job and how you support autistic children?
I work as a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. I am part of team which works with preschool children with complex needs. This includes children with Autism and those who are going through the diagnostic process.
2: How and why did you start working with autistic children?
I started this role just over 3 years ago. I had really enjoyed working with children with autism in the past, and when the opportunity came up to do more focused, ongoing work, I jumped at it!
3: What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the variety of my job. I work with a lot of brilliant children and their families, and this means going into people’s homes, into nurseries, and seeing children in outpatient clinics. Each child is very different and so the approach we have to take varies, and I really enjoy this.
4: Who are you employed by?
I am employed by Virgin Care, who provide Children’s Community Services across Wiltshire on behalf of the local NHS and council. These services are, of course, free for local children and young people across the county.
5: What is your role in the Education, Health and Care Plan Process?
When I work with a child who is going through the EHCP process, I am asked to contribute a report detailing their speech, language and communication needs. This might include sections on their attention and listening, their understanding of spoken language, their communication (verbal and non-verbal) and their social communication skills. This also contains outcomes which are reviewed at the annual reviews for the child.
6: What has surprised you most about working with children with autism?
Every time I think I’m getting a handle on how autism can look in preschool children, I come across a new aspect to children with autism. They are engaging, often humourous, fascinating and brilliant to be around and I am constantly surprised and challenged by their skills and unique way of viewing the world.
7: What do you find most challenging within your job?
Sometimes it can be challenging talking to parents about their children’s needs in relation to their autism. Some parents find it a huge relief that a diagnosis may be on the cards, others find it understandably very distressing, and however gently we start these conversations they can still be very hard to have. It is always a journey, and it’s a privilege that in our team we get to work with parents throughout this process.
8: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you enjoy doing in your time off?
I have recently moved house and got married, so in my time off we are doing bits of DIY and gardening. I like going running, and I am also a keen baker (and eater!) hence why I need to run!
9: What would you say to a parent who is waiting for an autism diagnosis?
Seek out other parents who can understand what you are going through. Ask questions- to the professionals and other parents, and keep asking when you have more questions! Do your research- the NAS is a great place to start. But above all, remember, your child is still your child, and they are the same person before and after the date of diagnosis. It doesn’t change them, it just changes the way in which we can support and understand them.
10: What is the most memorable moment from your job working with children with autism?
My most memorable moments often come from intensive interaction. I went to a nursery the other day to see a 3yr old boy with autism, who is new to the setting. When I arrived he was playing alongside other children and near adults, happy in his own little world, flicking a paintbrush into water and splashing it across the floor. He showed no awareness of or interest in the other people in the area. I crouched down next to him, took a paintbrush like him and spent time copying all of his movements, sounds, and actions. We got soaked! After quite a while he started to look across at what I was doing, reaching for my brush. Then, gradually, he started to look up at me for fleeting moments. After a lot of splashing he started to stamp in the puddles on the floor, and I copied. He then started to run around the table, and I followed him. He started laughing as if it was a game of chase. I then stopped to see if he would notice. He stopped running, turned and looked directly at me expectantly, as if to say- come on then! I started chasing him again and he burst out laughing.
These are the moments that make my job worthwhile.
Thank you Jessie for a great interview helping us understand the role of a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist.