Q&A: Sophie Slade, adults’ speech and language therapist

24 Aug 2017 Max Hickling
Sophie Slade, speech and language therapist

What does your role involve?
We see adults with neurological conditions in their own homes. This means they have damage to the brain, spinal column or nerves,
caused by an illness or injury. The speech and language therapists working in the Specialist Community Neurology team see people with difficulties they have as a result of their neurological condition. For example, they may have difficulties with producing clear speech or understanding and using language, or they may have problems with swallowing.

What happens on an average day?
There is no such thing, working in the community!  Some examples of work I’m doing with patients at the moment include: chewing therapy, to strengthen muscles used in swallowing for someone who had a stroke; supporting a person with motor neurone disease and deteriorating swallow safety to make decisions about whether or not they want an artificial feeding tube; ensuring that people with motor neurone disease still have a means of communication when their speech deteriorates, like setting them up with a communication aid; and helping a person with Parkinson’s to increase the volume of their speech when it becomes quiet, using breathing and speech exercises.

Why do you love it?
Because it’s so varied – every person is different, so every day is different! I also enjoy seeing people in their own environments – it helps to get to know the person better, and gives you a great insight into whether or not the suggestions you make to someone are going to work for them.

Because a lot of our patients have complex conditions, you get to know them very well. It’s lovely to see people improve but also rewarding to support someone whose abilities are changing due to a progressive condition.

How do you work with other clinicians?
We do joint visits with physiotherapy to look at positioning and cough effectiveness in relation to swallow safety, or with occupational therapy to look at cognitive communication difficulties.
Working within a multidisciplinary team means that it’s really easy to problem solve. I feel very lucky to be part of such an amazing team.

What qualities do you need to be a speech and language therapist
in neurology?
You should be patient, compassionate and creative, and enjoy a challenge and solving problems. Above all – have a sense of humour!

About Specialist Community Neurology

Anyone over the age of 18 who is registered with a GP can refer themselves to access this service. It is appropriate for anyone with a neurological impairment, including peripheral neuropathies and spinal conditions.

Visit briscomhealth.org.uk/our-services/specialist-community-neurology for more information about referrals.