REACHING out to the frustrated children across East Lancashire is a full time job for Katie Khan.
She is a speech and language therapist based in Lower Darwen and says that her business has doubled in size, as language evolves and pressures on local services stretch.
In 2003 the mother-of-two left her NHS job to deliver a better service to children in Lancashire schools, who were struggling.
“I noticed that my caseload grew larger and larger when I was in the NHS, my time was being spread more and more thinly. In particular, I was frustrated that I was unable to offer children and schools more opportunities for the therapy they required,” said Katie.
She then formed The Speech Bubble, a company that now employs five speech and language therapists, including her husband Imran.
“I decided that there was a better way to reach more children, and to do just that. I wanted to provide parents and schools with the opportunity for immediate therapy at a time and place convenient for all. No more large caseloads, no waiting lists, no problems with accessibility or reliability, and enough time for every child.”
According to Katie, 39, who has been in the industry for 17 years, poor attention spans, digital devices and a lack of family support contribute to children’s poor language skills.
“There are more children coming into school with poor attention spans, there’s a multitude of things that contribute to their speech. I notice traditions aren’t passed down from grandparents and there are parents out there living without family support.
“There’s a rise in single young parents who don’t have the time and are still learning themselves. Children need stories reading to them and parents don’t do that as much,” said Katie who also works with adults who struggle with speech.
Katie and her team work exclusively in schools.
“We’re not trying to replicate the NHS model of speech and language therapy. we specialise in an area that we feel is vitally important, but often overlooked. We are in an area where English is at a lower level, but that’s isn’t the main cause of language problems. For a lot of children there’s no known cause of a stammer, it can be a mixture of chemicals in the brain and there’s children with autism who also struggle,” said Katie.
Stammering has been a common problem from celebrities such as singing sensation Gareth Gates to royalty, with King George VI, as highlighted in the 2010, smash-hit movie, The King’s Speech.
“For adults who have a stammer, we concentrate on breathing techniques and relaxation and with children we try to change the environmental factors. I aim to make every learning opportunity fun, meaningful and positive for all children. Having operated in schools for several years, I’m confident in our ability to make a difference.”