This has changed remarkably over the course of this year, due to Covid. I never imagined I would spend all my working days at home during lockdown, busily producing therapy videos and Zoom sessions for children, to continue to meet their speech, language and communication needs.
This last six months has been a steep learning process for me personally, being completely new to YouTube and having to adapt to providing therapy online. Trying to keep sessions interactive has been a challenge and my IT skills have been stretched to provide activities that are still engaging and motivating for the child.
Having to work in this new way has allowed my more creative side to open up, which has been an unexpected benefit of lockdown, from creating Lego Therapy sessions that are rewarding and yet achievable, to Learning to Learn sessions, to facilitate the child’s own ability to learn.
Now that schools are open again, I’m trying to get back to some degree of normality. Returning to school has brought its own challenges, with the need for social distancing, visors and antibacterial wipes in abundance. The schools I work in see me as an addition to their staff, so I need to follow their own policies and procedures for Covid, in addition to our own Company policies, just to ensure that to the best of our ability, everyone stays safe. As one teacher in a secondary mainstream put it; “It’s not just the children who have to adapt”. Children are now in bubbles which has meant massive timetabling rescheduling for teachers and also therapists.
I spend one day a week in a language unit attached to a mainstream secondary. These children spend a mixture of time in small classes run by the Language Unit teachers, and mainstream classes, depending on their needs. In the morning I usually catch up with staff – specialist teachers and teaching assistants, and update myself with school emails. Usually I’m photocopying resources in the library for my session before the day begins. I have a mixture of 1:1 and groups from a range of year groups. I find myself in the Science lab – not my usual room, but it’s the new Covid timetable, and lessons have different start and end times to add to the confusion. I see there’s a whiteboard – that will be good for providing extra visual resources; essential for language impaired children. One of the pupils kindly shows me how to switch on the projector (we don’t have one of these in the speech therapy room). Someone comments that they feel cold; I notice the windows are wide open and it is quite chilly, so I compromise by closing one of the windows (they need to be open if possible to allow adequate circulation and reduce risk of contracting Covid). It’s a case of having to wear many layers, especially as we approach the colder months. Usually it’s me who feels the cold, not the children.
I also support in a Science lesson; it’s hard for the language unit children to access the new topics, if they don’t have the key concepts broken down for them. Today it’s solids, liquids and gases; many new words including evaporation, condensation and sublimation (yes I manage to recall even that last one from my own school Science lessons – luckily for them!). It does help to have a good understanding of the topics being taught. I try to keep a safe distance and sit alongside children rather than facing them.
When school finishes I write up my clinical notes, check emails, file resources etc and write reports if needed. Sometimes I have to liaise with staff if there’s anything that needs following up. Then it’s wiping down tables, chairs and door handles etc, (as I’ve had to do between each session, again to reduce risk of pupils or therapist contracting Covid), before heading home.
I feel that all I have learned is transferable, and I can continue to use these skills as we continue to work through this pandemic, supporting the children with their communication needs as they continue to access their education at this significant time in their life journey.
Written by Clare Chance, Established Speech & Language therapist at Love to Communicate