Special Needs Friendly Summer!

As the summer holidays are upon us, I thought I would make you aware of a couple of special needs friendly summer activities that are on offer in East Lothian and Edinburgh. Please feel free to send me a comment or a Facebook message if you know of anything else I should include! This is by no means a definitive list!

  • Odeon Cinemas offer monthly autism-friendly screenings for children, you can find the schedule on the Odeon website – CLICK HERE
  • If you have a family member who is a wheelchair user, did you know you can access the beautiful beach in North Berwick with a special beach wheelchair loaned free of charge from North Berwick Beach Wheelchairs? You will find them at the Beach Hut on North Berwick Harbour, just behind the Scottish Seabird Centre or CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • Sticking with the beach theme, Coast 2 Coast Surf School welcome special needs groups to their surf school. What a great opportunity to get your kids accessing the sea safely! CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • The Scottish Seabird Centre also welcomes children with special needs of all kinds and provides an interesting day out for children and adults alike. CLICK HERE to visit the website.
  • If animals are your child’s thing then a visit to East Links Farm Park is always good fun, CLICK HERE to visit the website for more information.

Have fun and stay safe!

Summer Sunset North Berwick, East Lothian


World Autism Awareness Week 2015

March 27th – April 2nd will be 2015′s World Autism Awareness Week and various events will be taking place across the world in recognition of this. To my mind, autism is a state of being that you cannot recognise from the outside and brings with it disabilities that are not obvious simply from looking at the person. Our society is getting better at recognising and accommodating disability but I feel very strongly that ‘invisible’ disabilities like autism, Asperger’s and ADHD are still very poorly accommodated by society. This is our opportunity to change that!

Ready for Onesie Wednesday Autism Awareness WeekI shall proudly be wearing my onesie on Onsie Wednesday on 1st April (no, that’s not an April fool!) and I’ll be making an effort to make more people aware of autism spectrum disorders and what they are. Let’s start with some interesting facts!

  1. Autism comes in many forms so no two people who have a diagnosis are the same. Most now agree that autism is a spectrum rather than one distinct condition. The best description I have heard is that autism is a bit like a 100 piece jigsaw. To get a diagnosis on the spectrum, you would have 80-100 pieces of the puzzle but everyone has at least 15-20 pieces! People who have many of the pieces  but not enough for a diagnosis might be considered to have an ‘asperger’s personality’.
  2. According to current estimates, there are about 700 000 people in the UK who have one form of autism or another. That’s one in every hundred people! (Source – The National Autistic Society)
  3. While many people on the autism spectrum have special interests (anything from volcanoes to Thomas the Tank Engine!), only a very small proportion (about 10%) have what society calls a ‘special talent’. That means 90% of people with a diagnosis ARE NOT like Rainman!
  4. Unfortunately there is an unacceptably high risk of bullying for people on the autistic spectrum. The National Autistic Society quotes a figure of over 40% of children with autism being bullied at school but I have seen much higher statistics such as 70% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high functioning autism) experiencing bullying.
  5. You can’t tell that someone has autism from looking at them. It is an invisible disability. The next time you meet someone who doesn’t look at you, stands to close or seems socially awkward, please don’t dismiss them as ‘weird’, ‘rude’ or ‘arrogant’ straight off. Take time to wonder “does this person have autism?”. Next time you see a child having a full scale tantrum in a shop, don’t judge and dismiss it as poor parenting, naughtiness or spoilt behaviour. Take time to wonder “does this child have autism?”.

You will find many, many more interesting facts and statistics on the National Autistic Society’s website. Go ahead, educate yourself!


New Resources!

As I have recently started working with more clients who need support with thinking & reasoning skills, I decided it was time to splash out on some new resources. In previous jobs, I have used Super Duper Learning Fun Decks from the US a lot, so I decided to get a selection from the lovely people at Taskmaster (the UK distributor).

A selection of Fun Decks to develop reasoning and social skills.After a good road test with some discerning clients, I can say that all of the packs have been a great success but particularly ‘That’s Silly’, ‘What’s Wacky’ and ‘What Are They Asking?’. Children love the bright, funny cartoon drawings and there are a variety of simple card games that can be played with each deck. Instructions are included with each set and the cards come in a hard-wearing tin for safe storage. The cards are very versatile in that they can easily be used with a group or an individual. The only slightly negative thing I’d say is that some of the language and pictures are very American (eg Pictures of Thanksgiving or use of words like ‘daiper’ or ‘sidewalk’). However it is easy either to translate, teach your child some new vocabulary or simply take the USA-specific cards out of the pack when you play.

Take a look at the Taskmaster website to see the full range of Fun Decks!

North Berwick Health Fair 22nd March 2014 – Free Speech Screening!

If you are passing North Berwick on Saturday 22nd March, please come and visit the Blethers display at the North Berwick Health Fair in St Andrew Blackadder Church Hall. I’ll have lots of information from Blethers and the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists as well as plenty of goodies to hand out on the day!

Blethers goodies for North Berwick Health FairI’ve planned my display to include information about Speech & Language Therapy in both the NHS and private sectors. If you want to know more about what Speech & Language Therapy is, who we work with and how we work, please do come along and pick my brains! If you are thinking about Speech & Language Therapy as a career, pop along and pick up a Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists’ careers booklet. I’m on hand to answer any questions you may have about training and working as a Speech & Language Therapist.

A work in progress! I have lots more information & pictures to add. Come along to North Berwick Health Fair to see the finished display!

If you would like to know more about charities & organisations that offer support with communication, I’ll have a range of leaflets and flyers from organisations like the National Autistic Society, iCan and the British Stammering Association for you to take away.

As well as handing out information, I’ll be offering a limited number of free speech screening assessments for children aged 4-7 throughout the day. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and would like some basic assessment and advice, bring him or her along to see me! I’ll have a sign up sheet which will operate on a first come-first served basis, so get along early if you would like to book a 20 minute slot! The speech screen will include:

  • A short picture naming assessment (Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation & Phonology).
  • A picture description or play activity so that I can hear some connected speech
  • Some informal assessment based on how the picture naming goes – things like copying speech sounds, discriminating between speech sounds and saying if 2 sounds are the same or different.
  • A brief summary report of your child’s strengths & weaknesses for you to take away.
  • Written advice to help you to support your child with any areas of difficulty we identify.
  • If necessary, referral to the NHS speech & language therapy team or you are always welcome to book sessions with Blethers if you prefer.

Do pop along and say hi!


The Small Business Marketing Minefield!

This article is aimed at anyone wanting to set up as an Independent SLT or, for that matter, any small business. When you set up a small business you instantly get bombarded by people offering all kinds of ideas about how to market and advertise your business. From friends & family to cold-callers, it seems everyone has an idea about how you should advertise your services! In my experience, and I don’t think I’m alone here, it is pretty overwhelming and at least one of the following things will happen to you:

  • People will endlessly suggest that you should pay to put an advert in a publication of some sort.
  • People will repeatedly ring you up offering (sometimes quite aggressively) to get you to the top of the first page of Google for ‘only’ £90-100.
  • People will ring you up asking if you would like to write a short article for their publication. In the next breath, they will tell you that they will charge you anywhere between £200 and £3000 to print it.
  • People will ring you up asking if you want to be one of only 10 (or other random but small number) of people of your profession listed in their industry-specific directory. Again, there will be a significant cost associated with this.

Chances are, if you are starting a small business, you will have a VERY small or non-existent marketing budget, so what do you do? Well, my first piece of advice to you is to talk to one of the business advisors at your local council (free!) and to book onto some of the Business Gateway (called Business Link south of the border) training courses (also free!) that cover marketing. The first one I did was called ‘Marketing on a Shoestring’ and it was a brilliant intro into all of the free or very cheap things you can do to market your business. Business Gateway also run more specific courses on building websites, using social media for marketing and optimising your website so that it’s found by Google & the other search engines. These courses are useful once you’ve got your marketing plan of attack together.

My second piece of advice is do not pay for anything unless there’s a REALLY good reason to do so! While there will be a few carefully considered things you will want to pay for at the start, like a web domain name and a well designed brand identity, there are literally hundreds of things you can do for free to get you started. One of the things I learned from Marketing on a Shoestring is that, by and large, adverts in newspapers and magazines are expensive and they really don’t work very well. If you really do want to try it, make sure you have a way to count up the business it brings in and do the sums! Did you gain enough new business to make back more than the cost of the advert? If not, it wasn’t worth it!

My third piece of advice is to ENGAGE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA! Facebook or Twitter might not be your bag but, like it or not, social media is MASSIVE and it’s free to use! Click here to check out a pretty mind-blowing YouTube video citing the 2013 statistics relating to social media. Seriously, if you want to market your business, you can’t afford to ignore the social media explosion. Having said that, it can be tough not get overwhelmed by all the different options and it’s easy to get sucked in to spending half your life on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ etc, etc. Therefore it is really important to consider which social media channels you are going to use and to have a clear plan of how you intend to use them and how much time you’re going to devote to it each week. Doing one or more of the Business Gateway/Business Link social media training sessions will give you some really good guidance and support to help you get the best out of using social media for business without losing days of your life to it!

My fourth pearl of wisdom is that you really need to build yourself a website. Like it or not, most people nowadays go straight to Google if they’re looking for a service or product, I know it’s always my first port of call. There are many different free platforms & templates out there that you can use to build yourself a website, from something really simple to a pretty complex affair depending on how confident you feel about doing it yourself. Of course, you can pay someone to do this for you and, depending on your skill and confidence levels, this may prove more cost effective than doing it yourself. Just be aware that it’s not actually that hard to get something simple up and running yourself for free if you do have a limited budget. I’m very lucky to have a dedicated and talented husband who has helped me to set this one up. We found that there are loads of YouTube videos and forums to help you understand how to use the various web platforms, so you needn’t be stuck. Once again, I’d strongly advise a Business Gateway course or two to learn about the basics of building a website and optimising it so that it gets found by the various search engines. While you can pay the £90 to be put in the advertised links at the top of the search page if you like, you can also do many FREE things to optimise your website so that it appears on that first page anyway. And, I have to say, as a regular Googler, I tend to ignore the paid for links anyway as they’re often less relevant than the organically generated list below. I’m sure I’m not alone there. Do be aware, however, that the things you do to help your site appear on the first page of search results can take a few months to kick in so don’t lose heart! You’ll get there!

As a fifth suggestion, I’d say it’s a good idea to get yourself listed on any relevant free listings websites that you can. Apart from giving you extra hits in searches, it also helps optimise your website to be found by the search engines. The likes of Yell and Thomson Local are a good place to start. You may also find that organisations relevant to your industry have directories that you can get a listing in for free, for example, I have a listing in the National Autistic Society’s services directory. Again, if you feel the need, there’s nothing to stop you paying to be included in one of the published directories if you want to, I’m just saying to think carefully about it’s coverage and to be aware that there are lots of listings you can get for free first!

Finally, the cold calling that probably irritates me more than all the rest is when someone calls me saying that they have a ‘feature’ on something relevant to my business in their publication and would I like to write a little editorial to go in. In the next breath they tell me it’ll cost me £300 (or more!) for the privilege. Not being bad, if I’m going to spend my time writing such an article to do someone else a favour by filling their editorial space, I think it’s more appropriate that it’s either free to publish or THEY need to be offering to pay ME! To be fair, articles telling people about what you do can be a good way to raise awareness of your business though, so it is worth looking around to see if there is a relevant publication that will be happy to publish a little editorial for you for free. As a starting point, your local council business development team will probably have a free magazine promoting local businesses which tend to have a wide circulation to small businesses local to you. Often they’re more than happy for you to send in a little profile of your business which they’ll publish for free.

So there’s my 2-penneth starters for 10 about marketing your business for not much money, I hope it helps you. Definitely get yourself along to your local council business advisor as soon as you can and see what free training is available in your area before you even start! Good luck!

Your Voice is Your Auditory Face

I have just read a fascinating article in New Scientist dated 13th July called Voice Almighty – you can access a snippet by clicking here. One quote in the article really stood out for me and that was ‘your voice is your auditory face’. How true this is. Pretty much all of us can identify which of our loved ones is speaking on the phone within a couple of words. I’m a huge music fan and when I’m listening to a new song on the radio, I can usually identify the band by identifying the voice. I think because most of us have one and use it every day, we very much take for granted and underestimate the importance of our voices as part of our self-image and self-identity.

Part of the expression of your voice is your accent, love it or hate it, we all have one! Some people, often those with a standard or ‘Received Pronunciation’ accent, will claim they have no accent. This is not true, if you speak, you have an accent! Accent is a surprisingly strong element of our cultural identity and people will strengthen or try to disguise their accent dependent on their feelings about their own background and the people they are trying to fit in with. I always remember a wee boy who arrived in my primary school on a Monday with a strong Geordie accent and by Friday, he sounded just as Scottish Borders as the rest of us!

I used to live near Liverpool, and while I never lost my Scottish accent (it’s part of my cultural identity!), I did have to soften it a bit to make myself understood. All of my Liverpool friends used to comment that when I spoke on the phone to one of my Scottish friends I sounded WAY more Scottish. I think for sure they’d all say that my accent is much stronger now that I have moved back to Scotland. For me, one of the really nice things about being back in Scotland is hearing people using some good Scottish vocabulary and that makes me feel a strong sense of belonging. I also enjoy the look on Tom’s (he’s a Cumbrian) face when I use words like:

  • Hoachin – busy with people or crawling with insects
  • Glaikit – daft or stupid
  • Sleekit – sleek or, alternatively, sly and underhanded
  • Howk – to rake about or rummage (see Ratch below!)

To be fair, Tom has also introduced me to some fantastic Cumbrian classics such as:

  • Scop it – put it in the bin
  • Wass or wassai – very large
  • Woll – hole
  • Ratch – to rake about or rummage

Interestingly, when Tom and his brothers get together, their first form of bonding is to switch into broad Cumbrian and, even though neither of us are Cumbrian, myself and my sister in law join in too! Indeed, whenever Tom meets another Cumbrian, the test of whether they are authentic is to speak to them in his best Cumbrian Farmer.

So really, if you sit and think about it for 5 minutes, it becomes very clear how important the sound of your voice (love or hate it!) is to your own identity and how you present yourself to other people. Interesting!

Here are some interesting bits of trivia about voices from the New Scientist article:

  • A study in the US has shown that CEOs with deeper voices (102Hz as opposed to 125Hz) work for bigger companies and earn more.
  • Deeper voices (male and female) are perceived by others as more assertive and authoritative.
  • Higher pitched female voices and lower pitched male ones are rated as more attractive.
  • The average pitch of female voices in Sweden, the US, Canada and Australia has deepened by 20Hz since the 1950s – we can’t say for sure but this could be related to increasing numbers of career-women in roles like CEO.
  • Regional accents colour our judgement of the speaker – for example one study showed that people were more likely to judge a suspect as guilty if they spoke with a strong Birmingham accent than if they had a more neutral English one.
  • A study has shown that imitating a regional accent makes people rate the attractiveness of that accent more highly.

Using iPad Apps

Well, I have finally entered the 21st Century and bought and iPad for Blethers!

The Blethers iPadAs well as the cost implication, I have given a lot of thought to the consideration that children nowadays have a lot of screen exposure in their daily lives. With evidence of a link between screen time and poor attention skills growing, I am anxious not to become part of the problem! I will therefore be very careful about who I use the iPad with and for how long. Having said that, it is an inescapable fact that the children of today are growing up in a world where using new technology and therefore screens is necessary for day to day life. It’s also true that, for some young people, a screen-based activity is the only way to engage them. I suppose what I’m saying here is that I am viewing the new iPad as another tool to add to my toy cupboard rather than something I will use all the time with all of my clients. I won’t be getting rid of Crocodile Dentist or Pop Up Pirate any time soon, that’s for sure!

If you’re interested in iPad Apps for communication skills, keep an eye out here as I will be adding some comments on the ones I use as I get a chance to try them…

A review of working as an independent speech therapist in Edinburgh and East Lothian.

Having completed 18 months now as a fully mobile independent speech therapist working in and around Edinburgh and East Lothian, I thought I would write a brief review of my experiences so far. I also thought I’d share with you a lovely sunset I saw at Gosford Bay, Longniddry, East Lothian  on my way home after a speech therapy session in Edinburgh.

The view to Edinburgh from Gosford Bay, East Lothian

The view to Edinburgh from Gosford Bay, East Lothian

The good and the bad

Updating the Blethers Facebook Page

Updating the Blethers Facebook Page

Working totally for yourself can be really good but it is not for the faint hearted.  There are so many things I have had to learn that are never mentioned in a speech therapy degree.  I have had to be my own IT department, purchasing department, accountant and business advisor.  I have also had to rope my husband in as my able and long -suffering speech therapy assistant. Together we have spent many happy hours cutting out therapy materials, laminating, making post boxes and thinking how to make the Blethers Speech and Language Therapy business work well. I am certainly very lucky to have such a supportive partner!

The first thing to note is that I am really enjoying working for myself and find it very emotionally rewarding.  Working as a generalist with a wide range of clients in a mix of locations and meeting parents who have a really keen interest in engaging with speech therapy for their child has been really satisfying.  I have also been able to work well and communicate well with NHS staff in a way that I felt was sometimes missing when I used to work in the NHS.  Being able to see both sides of the fence between private and state sector is a definite advantage here – knowing some of the limitations of working within the NHS and, on the other hand, knowing some of the challenges of the independent sector too makes it much easier to work effectively together across public and private sectors.

Speech therapy At Cramond Island - Firth of Forth, Edinburgh

A great place for lunch or some note writing.

Being in control of how I work means that I am have the freedom to choose when and where I eat lunch, do my admin and how much holiday I take. This aspect of independent working is really great! I also really appreciate that I no longer have to despair when an ill-considered statistics form comes my way, gathering bad data that will then be analysed and used to “improve” the way I work. I do understand the need to collect statistics but all too often, data collection is designed by a faceless part of the NHS management machine working in isolation without proper consultation with those on the front line to help shape the questions so as to provide good data. Having my own mobile therapy room and assessments is also fantastic as I know exactly what’s in the cupboards, that all the correct bits are there for the assessment or game and that no one is going to interrupt a therapy session to tell me they have also “booked” whatever room or cupboard I have been stuffed into.

The main downsides of working for yourself are that there is no guarantee of any income, you don’t get paid holiday, sick pay or have any pension rights.  You also still have to reflect on your own work flow to make sure what you are doing makes sense but at least you can make sure you are only analysing good quality data! There are some definite job safety and security advantages in staying part time with the NHS while you build up an independent client base, but do remember that you will still have to ensure no conflicts of interest, keep resources for your private practice separate, buy your own assessments and make sure your private practice is appropriately registered with all the necessary bodies including HMRC.  There are many different regulatory organisations that you may not initially be aware of but whom you must be registered with, such as the Information Commissioners Office. It is also a fact that you will still have to complete a self assessment tax return, even if you are only working for yourself a couple of days a week, but that’s not as bad as it sounds!

I have to be honest and say that working in schools has been a bit more hit and miss than I would have liked.  The majority of schools have been very welcoming but some others have been a lot more wary, I think due to the fact that I am from the independent health sector. Hopefully this will get better in time as I get to know more schools in the Edinburgh and Lothian area.  Where I have found skepticism, it usually falls away if you do eventually get access to see the child in school as the teachers and staff quickly see the specialist help that you are able to give both to the child and to them. I think that some of the initial wariness perhaps comes from a lack of understanding that independent speech & language therapists are regulated & qualified in exactly the same way as those working within the NHS. Often schools have been working with independent education staff like music teachers & sports coaches for some time but are not used to engaging with the private healthcare sector. As the economic times continue to change and more and more families start to work with independent healthcare professionals, this is certainly an issue that will need to be addressed with the support of governing bodies like The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists and the Association of Speech & Language Therapists in Independent Practice.

So what have I learned, what have I got right and what have I got wrong?

I feel I have got the service I deliver to clients right and have certainly had a lot of positive feedback from them.  I think I have been clear with my clients about what speech & language therapy sessions can and can’t achieve and hope that my website passes this message on to the wider world. The mobile therapy room has proven to be a wonderful asset and real bonus for my service delivery. Clients love to use it and it gives my service an extra degree of flexibility that I would not otherwise have. Largely, I think that i have got everything pretty much right with regards to the layout and functionality of the mobile therapy room. There have been a couple of minor tweaks as I have gone on, such as the addition of some foil blinds for really hot days and a draft excluder for the back door!

In March 2012, I set up a new website as I felt that the old one was neither meeting my needs, nor those of potential clients.  This took up quite a bit of my time but I have felt it was (and still is) well worth the effort. The new website has made it easier to provide clear information to clients and has also increased the number of potential clients visiting Blethers.  I feel that the main thing to continue doing via the website is to add well written and useful content with regular updates. The growth of mobile devices does mean that I will need to have another tweak of the website sometime in the not too distant future but hopefully this will be a little less painful!

Another thing I have learned is to become far more cost conscious.  I have had to look really carefully at each different item I purchase and make sure it is something I need and that will benefit clients. Some items such as assessments, Boardmaker and Black Sheep Press worksheet packs are essentials in my opinion but it is amazingly easy to spend thousands very quickly! Buying a core set of simple assessments then getting each additional assessment as I needed it has worked well for me. Buying assessments in this way has meant that I have built up a good library over time without a huge and unnecessary initial outlay.  That said, if a client needs a specific assessment, then you really do have to bite the bullet and buy it if you have chosen to take that client on – the £670 for the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals was a particularly painful day for me but I have used it several times since. Thankfully I have been able to make many therapy materials myself (with the help of my able assistant!) and kind friends with growing children have also been able to provide me with many toys and games along the way.

I would like to offer a word of caution at this point with regards to contract payments. Whilst they are good as they spread costs out, they can be significantly more expensive and the less regular nature of private sector income means that you need to be quite careful so you can balance your income and outgoings each month. On the topic of balancing incomings & outgoings, I’d also like to take the opportunity to say that it’s really important to make sure that you keep aside about 25% of your profit (if any!) each year until your tax bill comes in. It’s very easy to forget to do this and find yourself landed with a large tax bill that you hadn’t accounted for. I’m glad someone gave me that heads up right back at the start! Unfortunately your wages are the last thing to come out of the pot so good financial discipline is required!

One thing I feel I did not get quite right at the beginning was my fee structure. I have chosen to go with the mobile approach to speech therapy rather than working from a fixed clinic as I felt this offered more flexibility for clients, parents and schools. The main drawback of a fully mobile service is that it does make sessions more expensive as it significantly limits the number of sessions you can offer per day – I found 4-5 is a comfortable maximum, depending on how spread out my clients are geographically. With this limitation in mind plus the fact that many children reach their absolute maximum attention capacity by 30-45 minutes, you can find your income severely limited unless you think carefully about your pricing. That said, it is important to make sure that you are always offering sessions appropriate to your clients needs, developmental levels and attention span and in my opinion it is better to be clear with graded costs and pricing than to insist on a minimum session length. On the one hand a clinic-based service is definitely more efficient in terms of the therapist’s time and can make it easier to accommodate lower session fees without becoming unsustainable.  On the other hand, the downside is that you do need a bigger client base to support bigger overheads and, although the therapist’s day is more efficient, it can be more awkward for parents as they have to travel to reach the clinic.

Ultimately, how do I rate independent working?

Overall, I have to say that I’m glad I took the plunge and set up Blethers. Whilst I’ll never be a millionaire, I find it incredibly emotionally rewarding working in this way and the feedback I’ve had from my clients lets me know that my service is working well for them. As I continue to streamline my basic service, the question in my mind now is, where to next? How can I take this forward more and provide and even better service? Always reflect on yourself and try to see where you can make things better!

Review of the Mobile Therapy Room in Winter

So far, this winter hasn’t brought any major extremes of weather (except excessive rain!!) but we have had a couple of cold snaps that have let me evaluate the performance of the mobile therapy room in winter conditions. Overall, I have been pleased with it and have found working inside to be comfortable and easy.

The cuddly slug draft excluder in actionI have certainly appreciated all the efforts we put in to insulation! The Celotex insulation board and bales of wool that are stuffed into all available spaces behind the panels mean that the van heats up quickly and stays warm with the odd top-up from the heater. The one problem I did find was that there is a tiny air gap between the back doors where the back step which was creating quite a nasty cold draft. That was easily solved with the addition of a cuddly slug-shaped draft excluder and the cunning use of a household sponge to well and truly plug the gap!

The Eberspacher heater that is fitted in the mobile therapy room has done a great job of keeping us all cosy on even the coldest days. I went for the D4 model which is quite a big heater. The reason I went for the D4 was that I wanted to be able to heat the workspace in the mobile therapy room quickly. On the coldest day I have had so far, the thermostat in the therapy area was reading a chilly -9C when I switched the heater on. Thankfully, within 15 minutes, it was up to a very pleasant +18C. Mission accomplished!

The mobile therapy room with the LED lights on in the dark.Lighting is a big consideration when you are working in Scotland through the depths of winter. Through December, it gets dark as early as 3-3.30pm on the dreichest (that’s grey and miserable for the non-Scots out there!) days. The mobile therapy room is fitted with 9 soft LED ceiling lights and I have found that these provide a gentle but bright light for working when it is dark outside. Because they are LEDs they don’t flicker or hum like fluorescent strip lights which was a key reason why I chose them. I’ve also found it handy to have LED strip lighting round the step recesses as that makes it easier to see where the step is in the dark.

In terms of winter safety features, my high visibility vests have proven a big hit. I think getting them on for heading out to the van just adds to the whole adventure! I have an adult sized one plus two paediatric sizes so that no-one is left out. So far, I haven’t needed to use my Snow Socks but it gives me great peace of mind to know they are there. Snow Socks are canvas wheel covers that are easier to put on than snow chains and give you extra grip when you need it in snowy conditions. I’ve used them on my car before and they’re remarkably effective.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had over the winter has been keeping the mobile therapy room clean inside and out when the weather is wet and grotty. The way forward so far has been to remove shoes if necessary when we go in and to make sure I give it a clean each week which I do anyway.

So all in all, I can conclusively say that the mobile therapy room has consistently given me and my clients a safe, warm and comfortable working environment through the worst of the Scottish winter! Mission accomplished :-)


Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all! Enjoy the festive season, whatever you are up to and I’ll see you all again in the new year. Blethers is closed from toady (21st December) and opens again on 7th January.

North Berwick beach in the snow!