I used to be a Speech and Language Therapist . . .

2015-03-18 Liz Telegraph 01 enhanced croppedDue to a very serious illness in October 2013 I have not worked as a Speech and Language Therapist for some time now.  I have kept my CPD updated to the best of my ability, reading up date research, attending local CPD activities and learning much on-line via forums, tweet chats, etc. and via involvement with an AAC theatre project.

However, my recovery from severe sepsis and several emergency operations to save my life has been as slow as could be expected.  Now I am 60 and my hopes of being “semi-retired”, by returning to clinical practice part-time, have become increasingly unrealistic.

I have loved being a Speech and Language Therapist and am so very glad that this was the profession that I chose.  Specialising in AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) as part of a multi-disciplinary team for over 25 years was an absolute joy!  Collaborative working that results in dramatically positive life-changes for people with the most severe communication impairments – what more can you ask for really?

Since 2007, when I was so very lucky to wander by chance into a ukulele session, I have become more and more involved with “the ukulele world”, learning to play and sing and write songs, making song sheets for a ukulele club, making videos, blogging and contributing tips and technical information to online forums, etc.  In the last two years I have also organised ukulele workshops run by some fabulous international musicians and tutors.

After being made redundant in 2009 from my full-time post at Communicate for 26 years, friends encouraged me to direct my energy, enthusiasm and what talents I have in the direction of music making.  I thought they must be mad!

I had no experience of “music making” until 2007, unless you count bell-ringing, and I always considered myself to be profoundly “unmusical”.  Despite that, my New Years Resolution for as long as I can remember had been, “To learn how to sing”, though I had no idea how to go about that.

I cannot begin to explain how very, very lucky I feel I have been to have “found music”.   It has been steadily taking over my life in the same way that Speech and Language Therapy and Union activities did for so many years.  I have so much to learn about music!

Yesterday I contacted RCSLT to change my membership status to “retired”.  I do not know if that means I need to remove “MRCSLT” after my name here.  There is no information on the RCSLT web site about “retired members” so I will have to write in to ask.

From what I have said about music and singing, you might guess that my existing “special interest” in Voice has been magnified over the last few years, with a particular interest in the singing voice.  So, I am retaining my membership of the British Voice Association (BVA).

Next week I should receive a “voluntary de-registration form” from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). I have already removed the HCPC badge from my website and I need to update Twitter bio’s and anywhere else it appears.

When HCPC de-registration has gone through, I will have to remember to say, “I was a Speech and Language Therapist” not “I am a Speech and Language Therapist”.  I have been one for so long that I suspect that it is going to be rather like after someone very close to you dies, when for a while you keep referring to them in the present tense.

When anyone asks me, “What do you do?”, for the last couple of years I have tended to reply, “Mostly I just mess around with the ukulele!”.

The difference during my working life was that the answer to “What do you do?” was not an answer that referred to an activity but an answer that referred to an identity. Not, “I do Speech and Language Therapy” but “I am a Speech and Language Therapist”.

I have always thought that the statement or answer, “I am retired” seemed very odd.  Similarly, when taking a case-history, writing or ticking “Retired”, struck me as strange.  Even more of a “non-answer” than “Unemployed”.

Although those answers carry information in terms of previous or temporarily suspended engagement in some undefined remunerated activity, they are about as elucidating as, “I am in Business” or “in Management” or “I work from home”.  (Yeah – but doing what, exactly?!)

For myself, perhaps I just need to think of a slightly less self-disparaging form of words than, “Mostly I just mess around with ukuleles”.  . . . Maybe I have already started on that tack by choosing the stage name, “Ukulele Allsorts“?

When I have worked that one out I can, if I like, then add, “I used to be a Speech and Language Therapist – and Union rep!”.   Being a Union Rep is also going to stay in my blood forever, I think!

Mmmm . . . there is my “Giving Voice Song” too of course.  I love performing that as part of Giving Voice UK activities!  Do get in touch if you would like me to come along to sing and play it at your Giving Voice event.

Email (spam protected – click to find out):

Liz Panton
18 July 2015

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