An unconventional internship in speech and language therapy

Marika Lomax.Marika Lomax is a student on our BSc Speech and Language Therapy course about to go into her second year. Here, she talks about an internship she has just completed with lecturer Dr Kelly Burgoyne.

My name is Marika (məɹikə) and I am a speech and language therapy (SLT) student here at Manchester. I have just spent the summer of 2021 as an intern for Dr Kelly Burgoyne, a lecturer in human communication, development and hearing at Manchester, before entering my second year of studies.

My primary interests are in child development and speech sound disorders; however, as such a new student, I am still curious about everything! My main goal in whatever specialism I choose is to be up to date with the most recent research and effective practices.

Despite knowing what an invaluable experience being involved in current child development research was going to be, I was still very nervous before starting. My internship was going to be completely remote because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. I was worried that I would not understand anything Kelly asked me to do, and I would be sat alone in front of my laptop emailing Kelly for the 700th time about the same task…but, thankfully, I was very wrong. Kelly and Stephanie Hargreaves (a research assistant working with Kelly) could not have been more supportive of me with their daily check-ins and video calls to make sure I was okay and managing.

I have been involved in a broad range of different projects during my internship including data handling for Kelly’s research project, PACT (Parents and Children Together), in preparation for a third randomised controlled trial of the teaching programme later this year.

I have assisted a student at the University of Oslo (co-supervised by Kelly) with her dissertation project for a Masters in Special Needs Education by second coding her data on an incredible project surrounding the quality of EHCP outcomes for primary school-aged children with Down syndrome.

In addition, I have (virtually) attended research group meetings and seminars, spoken 1-1 with some extraordinary practitioners who have found the time to help me with my own research, and joined forces with Kelly on a very exciting new project of our own…

Cover of Tom and Tig story book for children, written by Marika Lomax and illustrated by Caroline Gibb.

Jumping back two months to my internship interview with Kelly and Stephanie, I happened to mention that I was really keen to one day write and develop some children’s storybooks that aimed to help language disorders – and to my joy, Kelly had also always wanted to do this!

After being offered the internship, Kelly and I met up over Zoom on my first day and she said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s write a book and trial it in a pilot study.’ I really thought she was joking. But here we are, 8 weeks later, with a fully written and illustrated storybook draft that targets the improvement of children’s speech sound production.

We have also created a resource pack that will hopefully help parents to use the book to its full potential. We have recruited a few parents who are currently having the first read of ‘Tom and Tig’ so that we can get some initial feedback on the book! I cannot believe it!

Kelly and I have also drafted plans for a small pilot study that we intend to run in the future. The study intends to evaluate the book with a small group of children and their parents to see if it helps to improve children’s speech sound production. We think the book could also lead to some improvements in other areas of language development but for now, speech sounds are our focus.

Excerpt of Tom and Tig story book with a picture of a boy and a tiger in a treehouse at looking up at the night sky. Text: "Tom and Tig's treehouse sits tall above the trees. At night they watch the twinkle of the stars they wish to reach."

Two months ago I had no idea how to plan a research study. I would not have known where to start. With endless support, I have extended and applied my first year’s knowledge to create something I am so proud of and excited about.

I have learnt just how much goes into planning a research study (Researchers: I applaud your patience! I am still working on mine…) – from the participant criteria to the data collection methods, from the reliability measures to the scheduling of pre and post assessment…. There is so much to consider, and I am so appreciative for the opportunity to learn this so early in my studies.

This internship has made me so excited about research in a way that I never expected to be. I was always quite terrified by intimidatingly complex graphs and stats when reading research articles that I, admittedly, would often skim over, however, the last two months have given me the confidence to at least try to decode and understand them!

Alongside my experiences, skills such as managing a self-directed schedule, handling data, and how to effectively read and file research will be essential for my next two years as an SLT student.

I would not swap my time with Kelly and Stephanie for the world, and I cannot thank them and the University for the internship opportunity. Thank you for answering all of my little questions and I cannot wait to meet you both in person! I have been made to feel like an equal against researchers of 10+ years of experience and that my opinions are worthy and valid – I am so grateful.

This blog post originally appeared on the LuCiD website and is reposted here with permission.

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