I, Julie, began working as an NHS speech and language therapist in Ipswich, in the 1980s.
I have always worked with children and young people. I didn’t have the easiest start to my career, working with the toughest kids in the most challenging places with little or no resources other than my own wit and skill. But, it sparked a lifelong interest for working with children with language disorders and proved to me how vital speech and language therapy is to the lives and futures of so many children.
My husband and I moved to Leeds, and I began to specialise in children with language disorders. I was hungry – I have always researched and pursued theory – always looking to answer ‘Why?’ and always tried to look for creative and novel ways of doing things; setting up new groups, working with parents, partaking in joint work with other professionals, and the improvements in many children and their families have been significant and, in some cases, exceeded all expectations. I have never been afraid to say ‘Let’s try it’.
When the time came to begin my own family, I temporarily left the NHS and set up a private practice with another therapist. We saw children and their families in their homes, at schools, or in a small private therapy room we had as an office. Many of our clients were diagnosed with Autism and it was through working intensively with these children, I began researching and specialising in therapies for autism and autism-spectrum disorders. I have seen such amazing success with these children.
Keen to share my knowledge and a desire to help as many children as I could, I returned to the NHS. I quickly became disillusioned with what I was ‘allowed’ to do, and simply couldn’t bear the limitations on the service I was able to provide, when I knew so much more could be done. After leaving the NHS, I worked for six years at St John’s school for the Deaf in Boston Spa, and progressed from a part-time therapist to head of department. I worked intensively over this time with children with complex needs that were above and beyond language disorders, and learnt the value of intensive intervention and teaching in a fun, functional and practical way. I also learned amazing techniques for teaching children to speak for the first time.
In 2010, I finally decided to set up my own independent practice, ‘The Talking House Ltd’, and began seeing children and their families privately. ‘The Talking House’ was intended to be, and still is, a culmination of everything I believe in, first and foremost that parents should be paramount in their children’s lives. I wanted to set up something that allowed a demonstration of my expertise, and filled the gaps that my NHS colleagues are unable to cover. I worked in homes and from our little garden office. The children loved coming to – the talking house! They particularly enjoyed meeting the chickens! Within no time at all, I realised the practice had more work than I personally could take on, and we had something really major to offer. People started saying how much of a difference I was making. My independent practice quickly became a full business, with Hannah joining me just a year later, in 2011, first as an assistant and now as a senior therapist. Then Laura and Carolina joined in 2013 shortly before we moved from our small garden office to a real ‘Talking House’ in Boston Spa, and now we have new and serious talent joining us.