Hello, my name is Ellissia and I am a Speech and Language Therapy student studying at the University of Manchester. I hope this blog lets you know a bit about the profession, why I love it and my aspirations for the future!
What is Speech and Language Therapy?
When asked what I’m studying at university I usually get a response along the lines of ‘that’s great … but what is it?’ No, I am not an elocutionist.
Speech and Language Therapists work with many people ranging from birth to the end stages of life. We help with communication needs (including speech and or language difficulties) and dysphagia (eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties).
SLTs work in a multi-disciplinary way (as part of a team) alongside many other professionals. These include; Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Consultants, GPs, Nurses, Teachers, Teaching Assistants, SLT assistants and Rehab Assistants to name a few!
Why I want to study SLT
I have always been interested with working within a healthcare profession; I have never envisaged myself stuck behind an office desk! As soon as I discovered SLT I realised this was the career path I was determined to follow. It is a caring role where empathising and interpersonal skills are of the upmost importance.
I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to the best possible care, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status and everything in between. Being a speech therapist encompasses these beliefs and is such a rewarding role.
On placement, I experienced first hand how valuable SLT input is; I felt so lucky helping people with dysphagia and communication needs. This was in the community and in inpatient units for people with dementia and mental health conditions.
One particular moment sticks in my mind. After spending time with a gentleman who lives with dementia I realised communication can come in different shapes and forms. He had little expressive and receptive language skills but juts like anyone, he enjoyed company. I used person centred pictures, objects, touch and whistling (a personal favourite activity of his) to support interaction. Following this, when I walked along wards he would initiate an interaction in a way he could – by whistling – and of course I whistled back! This may seem small (I participated in a lot more ‘clinical’ evidenced based practice on placement) but it really ‘hit home’ why I love the work we get to do and the people we are lucky enough to work with.
Communication underpins almost every aspect of our lives, if it breaks down there can be a huge detrimental impact for the individual, surrounding family circle and beyond. Imagine not being able to ask for a drink or tell your family you love them. This is a reality for some people. By offering therapy and support, barriers to communication can reduced and the world can be more accessible.
Not only is it a rewarding profession it is an extremely interesting one too! Everyday as a Speech Therapist is different and this is reflected in the modules I’m taught. Although this is a specialised field I am able to gain expertise in a wide range of subjects. One day we will be learning about phonetics (study of the articulation of speech sounds) and the next I will be holding a real heart and larynx (voice box) in Biomedical Sciences – and I’m only a first year!
My aspirations for the future
I am passionate about promoting the importance of SLT. Working alongside students from DeMontfort University I am trying to raise awareness about ‘all things speech therapy’. I would love to use a bigger inter-university approach and reach out to more students in the future. I am also very excited to help our SLT society. We are planning an event for this May so keep your eyes peeled.
Voice and communication for trans people :
I am lucky enough to have been offered the volunteering opportunity pioneered by Dr Sean Pert, Senior Lecturer here at Manchester alongside the LGBT foundation. I will be helping to deliver voice and communication therapy to people who are transgender. I get to explore voice therapy (an area of interest to me) and, most importantly, get to make a positive difference to people’s lives at a time where services for transgender people are so limited. Read more about this fantastic programme here.
Jobs after graduation!
It’s exciting how quickly this year is going and soon I shall be qualified! I could talk all day about the different client groups we help.
Working with children would be great! SLT intervention in the Early Years is crucial and I want to help. The Bercow 10 report published this month (March 2018) highlighted 1.4 million UK children and young people have SLCN. It is imperative these needs are met –if SLT support is inadequate there are higher chances of having poorer educational outcomes and mental health. Additionally, there will be a greater likelihood of being in the justice system.
But I need more experience to decide where I wish to specialise! I am also interested in neurodegenerative conditions, and to see what voice work entails. Everything interests me so I will be changing my mind lots before graduation!