Jesus isn’t just for Sundays! Christians are called to bring God’s Kingdom with them into their week – to workplaces, homes, streets and communities – impacting every area of life with the power of the Spirit. In this article, Julia explains how her faith impacts her work as a Speech and Language Therapist, and how her desire to see the Kingdom come in this area led her to start a new initiative which is now encouraging thousands around the world!
As well as my love for walks down the canals, browsing in a farm shop, watching movies, and eating out in nice restaurants, I am very passionate about my job. I work fulltime as a Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist for the NHS, in Birmingham in the UK. This is very varied work; one day I could be helping a child, with no to little verbal communication, use pictures and signing to express their ‘voice.’ The next day I could be supporting a young person who stammers to feel accepted and confident in themselves. I enjoy my job immensely and love seeing the children and young people achieving more than they ever knew they could before. This is part of what it is for me to bring God’s abundant life to my community, making a way for everyone to flourish and being a positive force in the lives of those I encounter – just as the Bible encourages us to do:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
– Proverbs 3:27
This isn’t an easy work. I am reminded everyday that funding for therapy services is just not enough, that there are long waiting lists, that time for each child is short and that the support on offer is often minimal, regardless of how much the therapist knows they could help.
This was highlighted by a 2019 report from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield. She found that, on a yearly average across the country, £10.12 was spent on each child for Speech and Language Therapy (equivalent to less than one hour with a therapist), falling to as little as 58p in some areas. When I read this report, I felt heartbroken – 58p for something that is so crucial in enabling children to flourish? No child matters as little as that. I had many sleepless nights and prayed for some wisdom on what I could do about it and how I could do it, knowing that I had to do something. I lobbied local MP’s, I requested an audience with the people who hold the purse-strings and I joined a parliamentary group asking questions and sharing knowledge. All of that was useful, but I wasn’t confident as to how much of it would trickle down to the children and young people at the centre.
So instead, I decided to create something new: The Speech and Language Academy. I’ve launched it first as an online space on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and soon to be website, sharing regular access to free Speech and Language Therapy advice, resources and training, and offering a helpline to support parents and carers. Incredibly, in just over a year, the page now has nearly 12,000 followers, and already is making a real difference in people’s lives. Only this week a parent messaged to say that she had been fighting against a brick wall to get support for her child and wanted me to know how valuable my time talking with her had been.
My dream is that one day the Academy will be a physical place, a therapy hub, with an open door for all to come, play and learn, with specialist support, training, and advice for anyone who needs it, and a community hub for people to look out for one another.
My heart is for a better future for our children’s Speech and Language Therapy services, to help every child step into who God wants them to be, living with freedom, purpose and identity, for “not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.” If you share my enthusiasm or would be interested in making use of any of the Academy’s resources, please do take a look at the social media pages or get in touch with me – I’d love to hear from you!
Written by Julia Henly from Oasis Church Birmingham