Q&A with a Language Professional is a new series of interviews dedicated to showcasing the wonderfully diverse career paths we linguists and language professionals might take and what language means to us all. Same set of questions – yet very different answers indeed!
This time, the questions are answered by Sarah Lyons, speech and language therapist, founder of the award-winning S L Therapy London. See what her take is on language, work, success, passion and the everyday challenges working as a fellow language professional.
What does ‘language’ mean to you?
Sarah: Language means a mode of communication for people to express themselves and make themselves understood.
What is your journey about?
Sarah: Ensuring every child can achieve their communicative potential.
Where did you start from, and where are you now?
Sarah: My brother has Down’s Syndrome and as a child I would wonder who this lady was who came to play games with him! When I learnt she was a speech therapist I was fascinated by the role. So after studying English Literature and Language at Leeds University BA Hons, I pursued a career in Speech and Language therapy. I completed my Bsc Hons at Birmingham City University in 2010 and my first job was in Surrey for the NHS.
It was a great start to my career. At that time, therapy services were able to deliver regular consistent therapy for clients.
I then moved into London in 2012 for my next role at an NHS Trust. Two years into that role , the amount of therapy I was providing to clients had dramatically dwindled. As the clue was in my title – Therapist: I left for a role where I could deliver therapy!
I moved on to become Head of Therapies at an independent complex needs school, where I built a strong multidisciplinary team of occupational therapists, music therapists, speech and language therapists and drama therapists and designed an effective therapeutic model for our students.
The focus was on functional and effective therapy – we spent time and ‘worked’ with the students in the kitchen during science lessons, out in the community, in the residential setting after school during tea time, wherever worked best for the student – we were there!
I had always held an independent caseload of clients and in January 2017 I took the plunge and left to set up my own company – S L Therapy London.
When I started – I was on my own with a handful of clients but within 18 months had grown to 5 therapists, 1 PA and opened 2 clinics! It was and still is such an exciting time for me and S L Therapy London, the therapists are fantastically experienced at what they do and feedback from schools and parents is phenomally positive!
We now work with children aged 0-18 years with a range of communication, emotional / behavioural and eating difficulties. We have 3 clinics in London – Harley Street, Battersea and Twickenham. Our beilef is that therapy should be fun yet effective! We strive to ensure every child reaches their communication potential!
Tell us about your successes and career highlights.
Sarah: In bullet points, I’d say these:
- Winning the award – London Prestige Award Winner – CHILDREN’S SPEECH THERAPY SERVICE OF THE YEAR 2019-20
- Building a team from 1- 6 in less than 3 years
- Opening 3 clinics in less than 3 years
- Working with so many children and succeeding in ensuing they reach their communicative potential!
What does an average day look like in your life?
Sarah: Every day is different which is why I love my job and running the company. I work with children with Selective Mutism and I also specialise in medico-legal work so a day could be a trip to Cornwall from London for an assessment or a visit to school or to a restaurant with a family to help their child develop their communication skills. The joy of my work is being able to provide functional and effective therapy for the children we work with.
Have you ever thought of changing directions, and if so, why?
Sarah: Yes – down a more legal route as I really enjoy that aspect of my job.
Can you identify anything that might be challenging in the future for your particular profession?
Sarah: Yes – more cuts to children’s services which will mean decrease in support at the most vital years.
Do you see artificial intelligence as an opportunity or more like a threat in your industry?
Sarah: A fantastic opportunity – especially with our AAC users. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a range of strategies and tools to help people who struggle with speech.
Where are you heading? What is the rest of the journey like as you see it now?
Sarah: In the next 5 years I hope the company will have grown – more therapists with keen ideas and exciting approaches! My goal is also to develop my practice of legal work and empowering families with knowledge. I’m also keen to franchise the business across the UK and to expand internationally.
Any books / movies / exhibitions / events / art that you would recommend us language professionals to read / watch / visit?
Sarah: This list is comprehensive for those interested in speech language pathology.
Do you have a favourite quote, or a life mantra you live by?
Go with your gut instinct
How can we find you in the online space? Website, LinkedIn, or email perhaps?
Sarah: Yes, our website is www.sltherapylondon.com, and you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Sarah. Congratulations on the fantastic achievements. Wishing you all the best for your future plans.