Guest Blog from Tricia Laing Speech and Language Therapist at Preston Manor Upper School

Tricia Laing is a Speech and Language Therapist at Preston Manor Upper School in Wembley, a high-performing specialist school with subject specialism in Science and in Maths. The school profile is one of high ethnic minorities, high free school meals and high special educational needs. Since September 2011, the school have been involved in I CAN’s Secondary Talk  programme and were awarded with Enhanced Validation in Summer 2012.

This month, I have the unique opportunity to present at the 2013 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in Chicago, Illinois. I will be sharing my experiences working as a Speech and Language Therapist in the United Kingdom for the last five years with the perspective of training and starting my career in the United States.

I will be presenting a poster titled ‘Successful Integration of Speech-Language Therapy in the Mainstream Secondary Curriculum’, which fits nicely into this year’s convention theme ‘The Magic of Teamwork: Science and Service Delivery’. The ASHA Convention is the premier annual education event for professionals in the speech, language, and hearing field in the United States and will bring together more than 12,000 attendees. My poster highlights three main projects accomplished at the school and explain how these projects can be replicated in any location.

Speech and language therapists (SLTs) who work with secondary students should have a primary aim of delivering curriculum-relevant therapy. This involves knowing what the students are learning in the classroom, identifying effective practice objectives and using resources that support the specific needs of adolescents (Nash, 2009). When young people are taken from the classroom, and the SLT works essentially in isolation of the teachers, intervention is not always universally appropriate. SLTs can work in collaboration with classroom teachers and other school professionals, so that the students’ speech, language and communication needs are met inside the classroom and alongside the educators. There is evidence of impact of some training strategies that build knowledge and capacity in schools, provide communication-supportive classroom environments and deliver interventions (supported by specialists) to meet students’ needs, specifically I CAN’s Secondary Talk (Gross, 2011).

But how to do this?

  • Nurture supportive relationships with school-based colleagues to achieve higher levels of success. Under these conditions, students with language and other communication impairments can benefit in countless ways (Nippold, 2011)
  • Appreciate that SLTs and teachers have different but complementary skills. SLTs have an extensive knowledge of linguistics and language development, both normal and disordered, while teachers have a detailed knowledge of the curriculum and the way the school works
  • Make a case for incorporating speaking, listening and communication skills into the curriculum by meeting with key teachers and senior management. Provide evidence of how speech-language therapy strategies can support all students to achieve within the school-development plan
  • Plan in advance!

The three projects

  • Joint Curriculum Project. Speech and Language Therapy joined forces with Marie Underwood (former Literacy Coordinator) to embed Speaking and Listening skills into Year 7 English curriculum for the 2010 Spring term, with the objectives to support differentiation and inclusion, teach active listening, enrich vocabulary and improve memory for language. It was started with a long-term goal of delivering some feedback to English department, with the hopes to have an impact on future schemes of work. This included weekly joint planning and team teaching, where nothing was added to or taken away from the National Curriculum. The project was successful and extended into the Summer term. Marie reported a greater focus on communication when planning English and Literacy lessons and students’ self-awareness of speaking / listening skills required in lessons increased (most rated speaking / listening situations as easy in pre-assessment and many rated situations as harder in post-assessment).
  • Calendar of Communication Events. To celebrate the 2011 Year of Communication: Logo competition opened to all students; Two training videos created to highlight speech and language difficulties and autism; Year 7 Citizenship lessons developed based on good communication skills; Parents/Carers invited in for workshops; Year 9 ‘Communication in Careers’ morning held.
  • I CAN’s Secondary Talk programme. A team of teachers from various subject areas worked together to complete small research projects in the 2011-2012 academic year: Extending length of verbal response; Building vocabulary; Learning specific skills for speaking, listening and communication alongside the curriculum each day (‘Talk Targets’). Preston Manor was awarded with Enhanced Validation of Secondary Talk programme in Summer 2012. Following on from this, Talk Targets launched as a school-wide initiative with Year 7 pupils in Autumn 2012. Talk Targets incorporate fundamentals from speech-Language therapy and the social-emotional aspects of learning. Students are given three communication skills each half term and are marked on both behaviour and communication across the school day. Talk Targets is now an intervention that is incorporated into the network of Preston Manor.

Tricia Laing, Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist



Ehren, B.J. (2000). Clinical Forum: Roles of speech-language pathologists in inclusionary classrooms. Maintaining a therapeutic focus and sharing responsibility for student success: keys to in-classroom speech-language services. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 219 – 229.

Gross, J. (2011). Two years on: final report of the communication champion for children. Retrieved from

I CAN Children’s Communication Charity. (2012). Secondary Talk programme brochure. Retrieved from

Nash, M. (2009). Supporting students with SLCN within mainstream secondary schools; towards curriculum relevant therapy. Presentation at the National Secondary Speech and Language Therapy SIG. 2009, Manchester, England.

Nippold, M.A. (2011). From the Editor: Language intervention in the classroom: what it looks like. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 42, 393-394.

Nippold, M.A. (2012). From the Editor: Different service delivery models for different communication disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43, 117-120.