The Faculty of Health’s Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) team has just completed its third course to train groups of volunteers with aphasia who will go on to coach first-year SLT students
The Faculty of Health’s Speech and Language Therapy
(SLT) team has just completed its third course to train groups of volunteers with aphasia who will go on to coach first-year SLT students, other FOH students and health care professionals from the region. This latest course brings the number of UEA trained volunteers across Norfolk and Suffolk to over 20.
Aphasia is a communication disability often caused by stroke. Each person with aphasia experiences it differently - some are unable to speak; some have just a few words, but may be unable to read, write or use numbers. Everyday activities which we take for granted may become a source of profound frustration.
In a highly effective programme, developed in collaboration with Connect – the communication disability network, the SLT team works with volunteers who have aphasia on key aspects of training and giving constructive feedback, enabling them to train students and healthcare professionals in ‘supported communication’. This is a set of specialist communication skills which help break down the communication barriers which people with aphasia experience.
SLT students trained by volunteers with aphasia then go on a ‘Conversation Partners’ placement in their first year, visiting a person with aphasia in the community once a week for six to eight months, providing them with opportunities for conversation and themselves learning about communication disability and what it’s like to live with aphasia.
Dr Simon Horton, who with colleague Anne Guyon from the SLT
team, runs the courses, said, “Working with the volunteers is inspirational and their contribution in coaching our students is a vital part of preparing students for placement. The volunteers help deliver practical advice, and bring learning alive for our students – it’s hugely beneficial.”
Linda Watson, who attended the course as a Conversation Partner Trainer said, “It’s an enjoyable experience, although it can be tiring at first. You are often the student’s first experience of what it’s like to have a conversation with aphasics, helping them before they meet patients. I view the conversations as extra speech therapy while helping to improve the skills of the next generation of health care professionals.”
One of the students recently trained said: “I felt that I was prepared fully with what to expect out of having a Conversation Partner, with the training day that was arranged. I felt that it gave me the confidence that I needed in order to talk to somebody with aphasia.”
The SLT team in FOH has had very good feedback from the Conversation Partners scheme from students, people with aphasia, and those referring to the scheme such as speech and language therapists and nursing home managers.