Kids First feels like a home from home
‘Where Chestee?’ is commonly the first question asked by one of our early years clients at the Kids First Centre in Kenley. Chester (or ‘Chestee’ as he is referred to by this particular child) is the therapy dog who belongs to Emma, the practice manager. He spends his days at the centre, waiting for children to visit, stroke, play, feed, and, as one boy did, sign to him! Chester is just one of the many reasons Kids First feels like a home from home experience for therapists, children and parents alike. The fact that the practice is set in a converted house, with a beautiful garden and a lounge for a waiting room also adds tremendously to this- not what we imagine when we think of the word ‘clinic.’ Kids First is a ‘branch’ of the company Words First Limited, which supplies speech and language therapy services in schools across and near London.
Having worked in primary, secondary and post-16 provisions since qualifying as a speech and language therapist in 2010; making the move to the ‘clinic’ setting, which I hadn’t experienced since a placement in my first year of training, was both exciting and terrifying. A whole new way of working, a younger client base and parents attending intervention sessions were just some of major changes I was going to experience.
However, it turns out, 18 months later; the aspects I was most nervous about are some of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of my role! As a parent of a young child myself; I find building relationships with the parents of our clients incredibly rewarding and have many who will email me with videos or updates of their child’s progress between their sessions; and in some cases, after intervention has finished. Sharing in the experiences, challenges and emotions that children and their parents or carers face and knowing that you are making something of a difference is one of the most rewarding feelings.
Thinking outside the box
‘Thinking outside the box’ is something speech and language therapists are required to do constantly in our role; this career move has really helped me to do this. Whether it’s developing turn taking skills through throwing a ball for Chester; helping children with their ability to understand and follow instructions with a cooking activity in the kitchen (rice crispy cakes always go down well!) or using half a Christmas tree from the loft (yes, really) to create a forest for a ‘Going on A Bear Hunt’ story sack; the team at Kids First are constantly creating and using different ideas to keep therapy ‘fresh’ and engaging.
When I started writing this article, my aim was to focus on a specific area of speech and language therapy such as thinking outside of the box, transferable skills or being able to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’ (me being the dog in this case, as opposed to Chester!). These are all points that I touch on; however, I then realised that actually the reason I felt inspired to write for ‘My Working Life’ is because I love working somewhere that is unique, and as cliché as it sounds, I am completely inspired by the environment, my colleagues and of course the amazing children and parents that come to us. Almost 10 years in the field of speech and language therapy and I continue to thrive on the unpredictability, the challenges and the fun that comes with this role. I think it’s easy to feel cemented in a specific role and whist that can be great and enable us to specialise in a certain area, I have come to learn recently that actually venturing into the unfamiliar can bring out skills and passions we weren’t even aware we had!