Case study

Speech and language therapist — Katie Wilkins

Katie enjoys seeing a variety of clients with a range of needs from children with learning disabilities to adults who have suffered a brain injury

What degree did you study?

My first degree was a BA in English Language and Linguistics at the University of York, graduating in 2017.

How did you get into speech and language therapy?

In the final year of my BA I decided that I wanted to help others with my knowledge of language. My father had a stroke when I was young, so I knew that speech and language therapy has a huge impact on people's lives. I applied for and got onto an MSc to become an accredited speech and language therapist - I started in 2018 and graduated in 2020.

How relevant is your degree?

Very. Speech and language therapy, which actually covers speech, language, communication and swallowing disorders, requires an in-depth knowledge of linguistics.

Phonetics and phonology, semantics, syntax, grammar, morphology, neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics all feature heavily and aid assessment and intervention planning of/for speech, language and communication difficulties in children and adults.

A thorough understanding of language development and various aspects of psychology are also required in the role.

What's a typical working day like?

In my current role in the private sector a single day could include a mixture of private clinic clients ranging from 3.5 to 79 years old. They could cover children with complex needs/profound and multiple learning disabilities, mainstream secondary school children, and adults with acquired brain injuries. In the NHS I would perhaps see a slightly less diverse range, dependent on setting/role.

I assess and support a range of needs, including but not limited to:

  • swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
  • developmental speech and/or language difficulties
  • acquired speech, language and communication disorders
  • social communication difficulties in neurodiverse populations (e.g. autism spectrum condition)
  • situational mutism (aka selective mutism).

Alongside my clinical duties, I spend a surprising amount of time writing clinical notes and management plans, alongside training others to implement evidence-based strategies and therapeutic interventions. I also usually spend some time writing comprehensive reports to support legally binding documents such as education and health care plans (EHCPs).

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working closely with patients allows me to make individualised intervention plans that work towards functional, personally relevant goals. Everyone is different, so everyone gets different therapeutic input - it can be a lot of work, but it makes the progress and outcomes so much more meaningful.

What are the challenges?

It can be difficult to manage patient expectations and remain compassionate yet objective. Keeping up a level of emotional resilience can be tough, especially when working with people experiencing traumatic times in their lives (such as the acquired brain injury population - e.g. stroke, brain tumour removal).

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be continuing my career in the speech and language therapy profession, taking on more responsibility and making service-level changes to support implementation of efficient and evidence-based interventions.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Don't worry if you don't know what job to do straight away. I know plenty of speech and language therapists who were mature students, becoming therapists after years in different careers (e.g. law, teachers).
  • If you decide speech and language therapy could be for you, get some voluntary experience and/or shadowing with local teams - it'll give you a much better feel for the job and whether it's right for you.
  • Support your job/postgraduate applications and interviews with extracurricular information. Interviewers like to see how your personality fits with their team/values, as well as your technical skill set. Also remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

Where can you access further information?

If you are interested in speech and language therapy as a career and would like to know more, I would recommend browsing the website of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).

Find out more

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