Guest Blog With SLT

Guest blog from Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Carol Reffin who tells us about her work with young people with mental health needs

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Carol Reffin talks about her role working in a multi-professional team with young people with mental health needs. She says:

‘Speech and Language Therapy in Mental Health can be challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding and allows SLT to add value to children’s and young peoples’ lives’

I work as a Speech and Language Therapist at St Andrew’s in Northamptonshire. Our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service is the largest facility of its kind in the UK for young people between the ages of 12 and 18 on admission. It looks after complex young people with a developmental disability who have significant psychiatric, emotional and / or behavioural needs.

We have recently moved into the brand new adolescent building – FitzRoy House and it’s amazing!!

The young people have recently moved into new wards and are busy unpacking their belongings and settling into their new environment. They have been excited about their new bedrooms and are really looking forward to making their ward a proper home. FitzRoy House provides specialist care for up to 110 young people and offers:

  • A multi modal approach to care and treatment for young people, with art and music suites, a sensory therapy room, outdoor animal care courtyards and fitness rooms, together with therapy kitchens and a light workshop. An indoor sports hall and outside multi-use games area provides space for team games.
  • A TEACCH classroom that has been specially designed to provide a supportive environment for students with autistic spectrum disorders.

As part of the speech and language therapy team we assess the young peoples’ speech, language and communication needs and then offer the following interventions:

  • One to one sessions.
  • Social skills groups, including Chat and Chill, Social sharks and Let’s get together.
  • We get involved in joint goal setting for community visits and trips, including local charity work, e.g. age span which helps the elderly with gardening projects and ‘Tools for self reliance’- recycling tools for third world countries.
  • We work collaboratively with occupational therapy and psychology staff in delivering Café club, All About Us – focusing on growing up, as well as community leisure sessions.
  • Functional therapy including jointly delivered meal cook sessions with Occupational therapy. The young person cooks breakfast, lunch or dinner with OT staff and the SLT helps with the sequencing of the meal and provides visual support. This culminates in a group eating their meal together,  as well as animal care and pets as therapy.
  • Active involvement with themed activity weeks and the spiritual journey group. The young people also have the opportunity to take part in fabulous music events including African drumming, Section 17 band and visits from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

We are careful to provide a safe environment that is secure but provides a balance between intrusiveness and openness; creating trust between the young people and professionals.

FitzRoy House aims to be a setting that allows the young people to continue to have access to the same opportunities that their friends and families might have in the community.  The young people  continue with their schooling, college and even university, and have the opportunity to go home on leave, to visit the local shops and theatre, and to participate in a range of creative therapies and activities such as horse riding, horticulture and woodwork. Developing young people’s communication skills really helps them to make the most of these opportunities.

The team of professionals working with them are dedicated to providing support. It is about providing therapies and guidance through a dedicated team of healthcare specialists and teachers, and giving young people care and treatment to aid their recovery.

As SLT’s we are privileged to work with a team of other professionals in preparing the young people for the next step in their life, whether that’s at home or in supported living, and that’s a wonderful goal to work towards. The young people at St Andrew’s have described the story of their recovery as part of a touching short film that offers insight into mental health, ‘In Our Own Words’. This was created with the aim of giving the young people a voice and can be viewed on YouTube here. It demonstrates that for those young people struggling with mental illness, being at St Andrews is a step towards recovery and its possible to have fun along the way.