Speech and Language Therapy student
BA English Language and Applied Linguistics, 2017
Why did you decide to pursue an undergraduate Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) course?
During my second year studying Linguistics at Birmingham I became interested in the field of speech and language therapy and began to research around what the career entails and experience needed. Modules I studied at Birmingham sparked this interest, particularly the child language modules and phonology. At the start of my final year, I applied for Masters courses at City University, University of Essex and University of Sheffield. At the time I had applied it was the last year of NHS funding and places were few and extremely competitive. I made it onto the waiting lists at City and Essex following the interview process but unfortunately did not gain a place on either course. I was then contacted by City University with an offer to do the bachelors and as that also enabled me to qualify as a speech and language therapist, it is the route I decided to take. In my final year at Birmingham, my work experience and modules such as clinical linguistics confirmed to me that this was the right choice for me.
What does your course involve?
The bachelors course involves the same modules as the SLT Masters courses as all modules are compulsory to qualify. The difference is that the bachelors is spread across three years, whereas the Masters is a fast track two-year course. We share a lot of lectures with the masters students and content is the same.
As the course leads to qualification as a health care professional, none of the modules are optional. The course also includes a placement element in which you work alongside a qualified SLT and become more independent in the assessment and intervention process and working with clients. So far, I have completed a month long block placement at an autism, asperger's and dyslexia specialist school, assessing children's social communications and helping with interventions and collaborating with occupational therapists and teachers. I have been doing a weekly placement since September working in a mental health trust in London with children who have a mix of complex needs including ASD and ADHD. I really enjoy this placement and have learnt so much about the assessment process and have gained a lot of confidence in the area.
The course itself is very varied which I like, including some areas which I was already familiar with such as language sciences, phonetics and phonology (although at a more advanced level) and child development. As well as some topics which were completely new to me such as professional studies, biomedical science and psychology. I have also learned in depth about difference speech and language disorders, causes and interventions which can help.
What level of SLT experience did you have before enrolling on the course?
I had some experience working with young children with autism and also had volunteered in a cleft lip and palate charity. My main experience was working with a young adult with autism as part of a charity outreach programme and volunteering once a week in a SLT clinic for adults with various learning disabilities. I got this experience during my second and final year of studying at Birmingham.
What do you enjoy most about your course?
Although initially daunting, I have really enjoyed getting out on placement and putting theory into practice. I have really liked meeting clients with speech and language difficulties and gaining autonomy in assessing them and making clinical decisions (with support from a professional in the field). I also obviously enjoy the linguistic aspects of the course, but have found new aspects such as biomedical science really interesting. Learning phonetics at a more advanced and applied level has also been something I have enjoyed.
What is most challenging?
The work load is intense and as there is such variety in the modules there are so many new things to learn. Balancing placement demands and assignments can also be quite challenging, though we get a lot of support with this from our tutors. Some topics are also quite difficult to grasp, Biomedical science and Neurology has particularly involved a lot of scientific knowledge which I had not covered since A-Level, but the lecturers are very good at explaining the concepts and it interesting to see how this links to deficits in speech and language.
How did your time at Birmingham help prepare you for the course?
Having an English Language degree has definitely put me ahead of others in some areas. Whereas some of my course mates needed to completely learn phonetics and phonological processes in first year, I was already familiar with different ways of labelling phonemes and how to transcribe both broadly and narrowly at a basic level. In the linguistics and language sciences module, knowledge of grammar has been particularly useful and previous experience of analysing language data.
Already having a degree and knowing how to academically write has made written assignments a lot less daunting.
What advice would you give to students interested in undertaking a bachelors in SLT?
- Do lots of research on the course and career beforehand. The workload is intense so be prepared for this!
- Gain experience related to the field such as volunteering or if you can get some experience directly with a speech and language therapist (interviewers like to see this!). This will also help you to get a feel for the field.
- Look on the The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists website to read about the profession and latest developments in the field.
- Do not let the competitiveness deter you! The course and career is great and very rewarding and varied, I love it so far!