Written by Student Nannies
In the latest of our Career College interviews we speak to an entrepreneurial Speech Therapist.
Nicola Lathey, 41, Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist and Founder of The Owl Centre for Children’s Therapy
Also author of Small Talk
1.Tell us a bit about your job, what the average day looks like and what’s involved…
Speech and Language Therapy is a great job. I feel very lucky to be an SLT!
Each day is entirely different. I see a range of children from from those who can’t say particular sounds; to those who haven’t got any words at all; to those who stammer or who have difficulty creating a smooth voice. My specialism is children on the Autistic Spectrum so I work a lot an achieving a better social awareness and better social use of language.
2. How did you get your first job in this industry and what tips would you give to students for routes in?
I had an insight into what a speech therapist does because I have a brother who has Down’s Syndrome and he has needed speech therapy pretty much all his life. Getting work experience is essential and choosing the right subjects for A level helps – I did Biology, Psychology and Textiles (knowing the first two would be enough!). After finishing my degree, I decided to live with my parents in order to help pay off my student loans, so I returned to West Wales, went to the local Speech Therapy department, asked if there were any job vacancies, there weren’t, but they created a post for me anyway. How lucky I was to get my foot on the ladder by that means.
3. What one piece of advice would you give to someone/a student wishing to forge a career in Speech Therapy?
As above, you must get masses of work experience with children who have special needs.
4. Who was the one person who had the most influence on your career to date?
Probably my own family. They have helped me to understand what a parent of a child with additional needs requires most and how to be respectful of the bigger picture. To provide a second answer, I am a published author and achieving this raised my profile as a speech therapist a great deal. Had it not been for a friend of mine believing in me and constantly ‘bigging me up’ I don’t think I’d be where I am today.
5. Considering all the people you’ve met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success?
Good listening skills
6. What do you wish you’d known (but didn’t) when you first contemplated this career as a student?
How difficult the course would be! It’s a tough, full-on 4 year slog.
7. What is the best bit of career advice you ever received?
Stop applying for management jobs – you love being a speech therapist so set up your own business so you can do what you want to do day in, day out! In other words, don’t feel fixed to the conveyer belt you’re on, there’s always scope to think laterally.
8. What is your career highlight to date?
Appearing on BBC breakfast in 2013 and speaking alongside Lord Winston of ‘Child of Our Time’ at the Birmingham Baby Show.
9. What are the best and worst things about your job?
I HATE WRITING REPORTS
I love my children. I really want each and every one of my patients to be the best that they can be.
10. What do you think the industry will look like in the next ten years and what skills do you think graduates will need to stay ahead of the game?
10 years from now – difficult to tell…. The NHS will probably have gone to a more consultative model and private practices will deliver hands-on therapy. The private market will definitely be more established with fewer ‘one man bands’ and more private companies like ours, The Owl Centre, employing a larger workforce. Computer technology will definitely be more prevalent but luckily speech therapists will always need to work face to face with people.
University College London 1995-1999
Pembrokeshire NHS – 1999 – 2002
Diploma from Sheffield University Eating and
Drinking Difficulties – 2000
Darwin Australia Early Intervention team – 2002
Oxfordshire NHS – 2003 – 2012
Opened The Owl Centre for Children’s Therapy – 2011
Published Small Talk through Macmillan – 2013
Appeared on BBC Breakfast – 2013
Appeared at The Baby Show with Lord Winston – 2014
Appeared at The Baby Show with Dr Pixie – 2015
Expanded The Owl Centre to 16 counties – 2016