The life of a fully qualified SLT

The life of a fully qualified SLT

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Gemma Biles SLT

For anyone looking for SLT support in the South West, UK region please visit my blog "Gemma Biles SLT" for information regarding my Private SLT practice. 

Feel free to contact me on with a referral for yourself or a family member regarding speech, language and communication needs.

9 months later...

After completing my last blog post I did not expect it to be so long till my next one...

I have been swept up in the wonderful world of SLT and over the past 9 months have been head down concentrating on completing my Newly Qualified Practitioner competencies.  And I am pleased to say, 7 months in I managed it! Celebration time all round.. I can now use "certMRCSLT" after my name and along with "Ba (hons)" and "MSc" I am overjoyed at the little letters that just about manage to convey the blood sweat and tears that went into achieving them.

A resource I made for the classrooms to support time concepts
I have been lucky enough to work with a wonderful bunch of children and young adults, engaging in 1:1 direct therapy on a daily basis, and indirectly working with adapting the environment and supporting Teachers and Teaching Assistants.  A job in education has been a step I never expected on my path, with the view of SLT being NHS based.  But I have learnt much more about the education system by being in it than I would have in a NHS setting, I have been able to apply this knowledge to make my work more effective, and being on site to be called on at the drop of a hat is a huge benefit to these children's day to day school life.

I've learnt a lot about management also, with an assistant to manage, as well as being the lead SLT in the school - it's been a big jump in the deep end that's for sure! I've created school development plans as well as individual therapy plans, and contributed to pupil voice through the school council. I've liaised far and wide to ensure the pupils are supported in all their transitions, into the school from Early Years and supported leaving the school at 19+.

On a typical day I get to engage in 5 half n hour slots of direct therapy, I create resources, or plan resources with my assistant.  I attend a meeting or two, usually in regards to a specific pupil, but often as a general school discussion and update.  I write reports, contact parents and wider MDT professionals.  I pop my head into classes and observe as much as I can between seeing pupils, and on occasion I take communication groups with the older end of the school working on social skills.  If I am particularly lucky I get to go out of school for training - of which I have undertaken a lot this year so far. From 8.45am till home time I am never without something to do, and even from the challenging behaviour to the hugs the children make it worth it every moment.

Just one of the resources I have made for the staff room
For any SLT students reading this, the first year of a job is a whirlwind. Believe people when they say it's going to be hard. But also believe them when they say it's going to be worth it!! Enjoy every second, even the hard bits - because they make you stronger. A job as an SLT has always been my dream, and dreams do come true - and they're fabulous when they do!

If anyone has any questions about my job role, life as an NQT or anything else - please leave a comment!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The end of an era...

Today I finished my final lecture, ever - a time for excitement and happiness as well as goodbyes and sadness! Recently my cohort had a "end of year party", and whilst this may seem a little premature for most people on my course as the final deadline of 2nd September still seems a million miles away, it's certainly become the time of goodbyes, and final thoughts and so I thought it might be nice to blog about this.
SLT Students at the University of Essex
For me, I have a job and I know where I am going (moving myself down to Somerset may not have been in my 5 year plan but I can safely say I am very excited about the future!), whereas for others this may be a time of finishing university and going into the unknown.  But despite knowing where I will be in just under 4 weeks, this doesn't mean the panic of finishing my course isn't there. 
There are so many feelings, including being excited that university is over, and feeling glad that the constant stream of coursework, placement, deadlines and university demands will be over - and I know that throughout the 2 year masters we have all wished this day to come when the deadlines will be no longer!
However, none of us quite expected the fear of leaving university behind.  It's become somewhat of a comfortable habit to be stressed, to be busy and to have the security net of wonderful lecturers to guide us when it gets tough.  We know who we are as SLT Students, we have some idea of how we are clinically thanks to placement, but we don't know or yet identify ourselves as SLTs, and maybe that is the fear. 
Then come the other things  - How will I still keep on top of evidence base and CPD without the net of university supporting that? Who will become my peers that will support us in times of panic in the real world? and, What challenges will be ahead of us now?
Maybe that panic of "am I going to be able to do this?" never truly leaves us.  Maybe the comfort of university, becomes the comfort of our workplace, and just maybe learning for ourselves won't be the worst thing - at least we will be able to tailor our own learning to our passions.
So it is at this point that my blog becomes less about my experiences as a SLT student, and more about my experiences as NQP in my first band 5 post - and I can certainly say that fear and panic aside, I cannot wait for this journey to commence!
Good luck to my cohort and the journeys that you will all now take, and to any SLT Students reading this, enjoy your time at University - it'll surprise you to know that you'll be sad when it's time to say goodbye!
My fabulous MSc cohort

Saturday, 3 August 2013

What’s acquired brain injury?

Heard the term acquired brain injury or ABI but don’t quite know what it means? If so read on…
According to draft NHS Figures around 40,000 children sustain an acquired brain injury (ABI) every year as a result of an accident or illness.
Just as each child is unique, so is the way they respond to a brain injury. Whilst there are two main types of brain injury: ‘traumatic’ caused by a blow to the head such as a road traffic accident or fall, and ‘non traumatic’ caused by illness such as meningitis, a brain tumour or stroke, there is an enormous range of difficulties a child might face – from minor problems with memory, or speech to serious, long-term, physical and learning disabilities.

Some children on the outside may appear ‘normal’ having made a full physical recovery but they can have considerable difficulties with cognitive, communication, emotional and behavioural skills. Some of the effects may not be noticeable until years after the injury was sustained as the brain continues to develop into early adulthood. It is because the changes and difficulties surrounding ABI are hard to spot that it is sometimes called ‘the hidden disability’.
Difficulties experienced by a child after an ABI vary and depend on: their age when they sustained their injury, the area of the brain that has been damaged, and the severity of the injury. As different areas of the brain work together, if one part is damaged, it is likely to affect the function of other parts of the brain too.
Unfortunately there is no single ‘cure’ or treatment for ABI, and some children will never fully return to the way they were before their injury. Progress may also not always be rapid. But there are opportunities for children to get back some of the skills they’ve lost, through different therapies and support, and that’s where The Children’s Trust can help. The Children's Trust is the UK’s leading charity for children with acquired brain injury, multiple disabilities and complex health needs. Based in Tadworth, Surrey, the Trust’s services include brain injury rehabilitation and community-based support, working with hundreds of children and young people from across the UK.
If you would like to find out more about The Children’s Trust visit If you’d like to know more about brain injury please visit the Brain Injury Hub, The Children’s Trust’s information website
- written by Michelle Baillie
 All writing and photos accredited to The Children's Trust, Tadworth. Not for reduplication.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Inspiring the young

Recently the SLT Society were asked to host a stall at "Children's University Family Learning Festival".  It was intended for Children between 7-14 years of age and their parents to learn about the University, what courses it offers and inspire career choices.  In fact, the turn out for the day even included much younger children and it was an opportunity to talk to both children and their parents.
 The SLT Society hosted a big stall, containing both communication and dysphagia aspects of the vocation.  For the Communication aspect, we had AAC - including Go Talk's, Big Buttons, Symbols and PECS.  We also had many posters about the impact of communication difficulties and the range of which SLTs work in, and many leaflets from the HELLO campaign.  Then there was a communication game for children and their parents to get involved in, the children were asked to say a sentence to their sibling, parent, or friend without speaking.  This brought on some giggles.  Some children even got involved in filling in a speech bubble with what they thought communication was and some extremely pictorial images of communication difficulties and how people communicate were drawn!
"What Is Communication?" A 6 year old's definition.

However, the dysphagia aspect of the stall got the most attention - though what 7 year old isn't tempted by chocolate mouse or digestive biscuits! We had a taste test, "which is the easiest to eat" game, and put out sliced banana, chocolate mouse and digestive biscuits.  Nearly all of the children were able to identify that the mouse was easiest! Then we discussed with them why we as SLTs were interested in eating, drinking and swallowing, and had lots of plastic models to demonstrate swallowing techniques.  We even had Videofluroscopy videos to teach the children and their parents how we investigate swallowing and show them where their food and drink goes! Then we had thickener, and created thickened water to stages 1, 2 and 3 consistency.  Many of the children wanted to try the thickened fluids, and big spoonful's of stage 3 were spooned into their mouths before contorted faces were pulled!

Overall, the children and their parents learnt a lot, many were intrigued in the job role and stated that they didn't know what SLTs did until the day, and many parents even recalled their children having SLT input.  It was also a great learning experience for us SLT Students, who developed our ability to talk about communication and dysphagia completely jargon free, a lesson in how to train people in our complex role in a simpler fashion.  We all learnt lots, enjoyed our time, and promoted the wonderful profession!
The highlight of the day was when one mother stated "I hope one of my children becomes a speech therapist after today" - Mission Complete!

Friday, 14 June 2013

PODD: An Update!

Recently I was contacted and asked to distribute information about an upcoming PODD training session.  I have had some interest from viewers of my blog re:PODD since I wrote a blog post on my experience of it at the London Autism SIG, so I thought I would share the information about the next training day.
If anyone does go on the course, or if anyone reads this that is already booked on the course, I would love to hear about it, receive a review of the training, and hear the stories of you all implementing it across SLT.
For all Speech & Language Therapists and those working with children/young people with Autisitc Spectrum Disorder:
Eagle House School, Mitcham, is running an Introductory Workshop to the PODD Communication System; 20-21st June (£250 for 2 days, includes lunch).  It is being run by Haylee Parfett, who is visiting from Australia.  (she was at Eagle House school for about 2 years, then she left, but she is coming back to do this training)As you know - PODD is a fantastic system being used across Eagle House Primary and Secondary schools with some amazing results - non verbal children learning to communicate using full length autonomous and functional sentences using the PODD (picture symbol) books.

There are still some spaces left - contact the Charlotte or Noora in the School Business Office on 084555 074 2972 if you or anyone you know would be interested! We have a flier with further details which we could send you by email. contact

We appreciate that this is very short notice - but we wanted to let people know about the last few spaces left.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

How do we keep on top of it all?!

Lately I've been distant from the blogging scene and the Twitter scene, and I wish I could say it was through no fault of my own, but things have just gotten very hectic!
Any qualified SLT knows what the last few months of their degree are like.. Writing the research proposal, being on a block placement, applying for jobs and then preparing for interviews offered (not that I am complaining about the interview part!) and keeping on top of other coursework/timetable demands.  Turns out my quote that I wrote in my guest blog on Smart Talkers for Libby was true... I am well and truly a Swan. So calm and graceful in the face of it all, yet paddling like mad underneath. Whilst I am able to keep a balance of all my coursework, research proposal, placement and job applications... I am disappointed that my blog and twitter have come 2nd best to all of this, and the reason why I'm disappointed is that it is my contact with other SLTs for some much needed empathy, and also my wide source of evidence base.  I recently looked through past tweets from some of my favourite SLT tweeters, and found I had missed so many news articles and recent research. 
This has really changed my view on how I promote Twitter and Blogging to SLTs, as many of you know that I like to promote SLTs using it.  However, when demands are high on a daily basis I wonder how easy it is.  Even I who love Twitter and Blogging have neglected it. 
So I have decided that at least once a week during this busy time I will log on to twitter, for 30 minutes maximum and search #slpeeps and #slt2b and #slp2b hashtags, identify any key links to news, blogs, or research. That will be my put-a-side dedicated online CPD time and I will make sure I squeeze this in, even if it's whilst I eat breakfast...
Keeping on top of your CPD in the face of life's demands.
How do you keep up with your CPD? How do you keep up with your online CPD networks? I would love to hear how others do it! Because in this busy climate, how do you really keep on top of it all?