Dimitri was an undergraduate student on City's BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy course.
How did you develop an interest in Speech and Language and why did you choose to study Speech and Language Therapy at City, University of London?
Following completion of my A Levels, I was lucky to have the opportunity to partake in a 12-month internship in Public Relations (PR). Whilst I learnt a tremendous amount about the working world, I realised that I wanted to work more closely with people and make more of a direct impact in my local community.
Speaking through this with my mum, she recommended Speech and Language Therapy and after researching the course, I was very interested in the job of a Speech Therapist – particularly because I love to talk and make people feel involved!
My choice to study this course at City, University of London was partly based on a tip from my PR work: often the most popular websites appear higher on Google search results. When I was looking at the universities which offered Speech and Language Therapy, City University of London came up first, so I took this as a sign that it was a well endorsed course.
I also compared the university on websites such as UniStats and The Complete University Guide to find out more information about how the course would be taught and assessed. After discussing my options with my family, I chose City and I’m very happy with my decision.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
Throughout the course, I enjoyed learning about the complexities of language development and the use of language. We take so many things for granted, particularly when looking at pragmatic skills (social use of language), I find the subtleties of language very interesting. For example, if I walk into a room and say, “Oh, it’s really hot in here”, I am commenting about the temperature of the room, but the underlying and ‘real’ meaning is that I’m asking for the windows to be opened.
Now that I’m working in a secondary school, it is even more evident just how much pragmatic skills play a role in social interaction across children of different ages as well as between staff and students.
What did you enjoy most about your time at City?
I enjoyed partaking in the university societies whilst at City – in fact I wish I joined more! I was very involved in the Christian Union whilst at City and it was great to be able to not only meet individuals with the same beliefs as me but also provide an opportunity for discussions around faith and relationships. I was also a part of the Drama society – making my debut on the Great Hall stage with the play ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Lastly, I was very involved within the School of Health & Psychological Sciences, being elected Student Representative Officer (SRO) during my third year. As a way to foster interaction within the department, the Hockey Society captain, Tanzyla KhanTareen, and I, hosted a SHS Ball at Islington Assembly Hall which was awesome! Over 100 students attended, there was a live band, a gospel choir, dancing, singing, a 3-course meal; it was a great night and a definite highlight for me as an undergraduate student at City, University of London.
How did you benefit from the facilities available at City?
During my time at City, the School of Health & Psychological Sciences opened up a brand-new Audiology room in the Tait Building, which was where our Audiology and Phonetic classes were held. It was also a space where I was able to meet up with individuals in my cohort and work on group projects, revise and discuss class topics (and relax!).
Unfortunately, I did not attend any placements at the new Roberta Williams Speech and Language Centre. Roberta Williams was a great lecturer and I’m happy to know that the centre, which opened recently in her name, is being used to support placements and research within the field of Language and Communication.
Could you tell us about any work placements?
With regards to clinical placements, I had two placements within the Oxleas NHS trust which enabled me to work in an early year’s clinic, school nursey and mainstream primary and secondary schools. During these placements I enjoyed being able to incorporate therapy targets for students with a range of diagnoses including Developmental Language Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, with the curriculum to ensure the greatest impact was accomplished.
I also had opportunities to work within the special school settings on clinical placements. Supporting this complex clinical population confirmed the need for working on functional yet fundamental skills such as assessing for cause and effect when using an Alternative, Augmentative Communication (AAC) device to support a student to make requests.
Every student on the course must also complete an adult placement, I was based in an Acute Rehabilitation Ward which was challenging due to the nature of the setting. However, when providing intervention so soon after the traumatic incident e.g. Stroke, it is great to see progress and this encourages you to keep working hard to push your clients to their fullest potential.
Overall, I aspire to be a paediatric clinician who is able to work with a variety of diagnoses and age ranges. Therefore, having diverse clinical placements whilst at City has definitely supported my desire to grow into this.
What would be your advice to anyone considering studying Speech and Language Therapy?
If considering a degree in SLT, first of all well done – it’s a very niche career that is still developing in terms of raising awareness of what we do.
Secondly, I would say get around as many typically developing children and adults of different ages as possible – this will enable you to understand how ‘normal’ people communicate in so many different ways. You are then better equipped to identify and support individuals with a range of difficulties both in terms of communication and eating/drinking.
Thirdly, whilst the course is challenging, all other courses are too in the end it all boils down to passion. Whether you have a desire to work with children or adults, as long as you desire to better enable individuals to engage within their local communities then this is the career for you.
You don’t have to know everything – you wouldn’t even after your degree, but your innate drive to help people will spur you on to read, experience and grow so that you can become a great Speech and language therapist. Moreover, the City lecturers will support you to make the initial steps into this life-impacting career.
Please tell us about the internship at Lockerbie College
Lockerbie College is a mainstream, inclusive school based in Bridgetown, Barbados. It has small classes to cater to all types of learning from tutors who strive to make learning fun and engaging as well as meaningful and appropriate. The focus at Lockerbie is to teach at the pace that is dictated by a student’s performance and potential. You can find more information about Lockerbie College on their website: lockerbiecollege.com.
The internship offered by Lockerbie College lasts 10 months, an academic year, during these months my week was spilt: I worked at Lockerbie College for 3 days a week and EasySpeak Enterprises for 2 days a week.
How did the opportunity of the internship at Lockerbie College come about, and how did you apply to take part?
I heard about Lockerbie in my second year as an email was sent advertising the internship opportunity to final year students. I saved the contact information for the Principal, Julia Hanschell, and once I got into my final year I emailed her directly and asked if the opportunity was still available.
Following this, I sent my CV and two Skype interviews were scheduled, one with Julia and the Educational Psychologist at Lockerbie and the other with Shareka Bentham, the Speech and Language Therapist at EasySpeak Enterprises.
Please tell us about your time there
I arrived in Barbados on 30th August 2017 and will be leaving mid July 2018, which totalled 11 months as I took the last couple of weeks to enjoy the island.
My role at Lockerbie College included providing remedial classes which focused on language and communication linked with the curriculum, with students aged 8-19. Sessions included supporting students with phonological, spelling, reading, processing and expression difficulties, including students with a diagnosis of Dyslexia, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Central Auditory Processing Disorder.
I completed formal and informal assessments to evaluate language ability which was supported with a written report of findings which was shared with staff. I was also a Personal Student Advocate (PSA) working with students to support management of the school curriculum through liaison with the students, their teachers and their parents.
My role at EasySpeak Enterprises included assisting in administering speech and language assessments and interventions for children with a range of communication disorders from ages 2-11 years. This included Down Syndrome, Developmental Language Disorders and ASD.
Intervention included articulation and phonology sessions, literacy support, development of social interaction, receptive and expressive language skills. I also had the opportunity to provide training and educational opportunities for parents/caregivers and educators in a range of topics related to speech and language development and support/intervention.
What did you enjoy most about this experience?
I have most enjoyed figuratively ‘swimming’. This was an experience that threw me into deep water, at first it was challenging but now as I’m coming towards the end of my internship, I am grateful for learning how to ‘swim’. I never thought I would be a clinician with an interest in early years but now – bubbles, Brown Bear Brown Bear, windup toys and puppets are a few of the resources that come to mind when planning my sessions.
I have also really enjoyed working with the older students – they can be a little cheeky at times, but it’s great to see growth, for example supporting a 13-year old student with dyslexia give a presentation about women’s rights. Furthermore, I’ve personally really seen the benefits of reading research articles and blog posts by other speech therapists to give me ideas for sessions and deepen by understanding in particular areas e.g. phonological processes.
Ultimately, I feel strongly that no matter where I work next, or what client group I work with, I will be able to ‘swim’ in whatever deep waters I am in, because my strokes have been developed here in Barbados.
Were there any aspects you found challenging, and how did you overcome them?
Moving to a new country and starting a new career is in itself a challenge. My clinical placements offered a good foundation when working with primary and secondary school students with language difficulties. However, I had limited experience working directly with children 5 and below, particularly children with Autism and therefore working at EasySpeak Enterprise was definitely a challenge to start with.
However, with the help of my experienced supervisor, reading and Pinterest (yes – check it out, it’s a great tool for therapists!) I learnt ways to conduct the sessions in ways that I now feel more comfortable and confident with this client group. Another challenge was developing my knowledge of literacy intervention but with asking for support, reading and a key website TeachersPayTeachers.com, spelling rules, story sequences and main idea activities are only a glimpse into my resource folders for both Lockerbie and EasySpeak Enterprises.
What would be your advice to anyone considering taking part in this or similar opportunities?
Go for it! No matter where you are, challenges will always arise, it doesn’t take being in another country. However, completing an experience such as this, allows you to partake and observe situations that you may have never imagined. As a clinician, we are to continually grow, and opportunities such as the Barbados internship helps (or pushes ha!) you to do this.
I consider myself a pretty ‘inside the box’ kind of lady but having seen what’s outside the box I definitely advise first peeking out, then reaching out, and then stepping out. It doesn’t have to be a drastic move, you could volunteer to take on a more complex client, work in an clinical area that’s completely different, or work in a country you have never previously stepped in (yep – that was me).
No matter what level the opportunity is, step out and grow, or jump in and swim. It’ll be hard, but you’ll be much better for it!
Date of interview: