As we celebrate the theme of speech and language therapy around the world, some RCSLT members who’ve recently returned from working abroad share their experiences of the profession in other countries.
Alison Davies – speech and language therapy in St. Lucia
I was fortunate enough to spend six months working as a volunteer SLT in St Lucia with the Child Development and Guidance Centre (CDGC), a charity funded by the St Lucian government and charitable donations. The CDGC has a truly inter-disciplinary way of working – it is staffed by a paediatrician, a clinical psychologist, a physiotherapist and a therapy assistant with volunteer occupational therapists and SLTs.
Living and working in St Lucia was a rewarding experience, both professionally and personally. I enjoyed learning about Lucian English and had some great experiences which included spending a morning in a local pre-school to listen to typically developing children. There are many dialectal, grammatical and prosodic differences to get used to. The approach at CDGC is very focused on involving parents and developing their skills to develop their own children’s communication.
Lorna Maclean – speech and language therapy in Ghana
As an NQP, I spent three months volunteering in Accra, Ghana, at a centre for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although Ghana has an inclusive education system, provision for children with learning disabilities and ASD requires further development.
One of my first tasks was to write a report on the communication profile of everyone within the centre. The majority of service users were non-verbal and ages ranged from 3 to 22 years, so I knew my initial idea of working predominantly on a 1:1 basis with the children and young people would not be possible. As a result, I spent a lot of time with the children and teachers in their classrooms and during leisure activities, seeing how they interacted with each other, building a rapport with each child, and making immediate observations and recommendations.
Working in this way, alongside co-facilitating in-house training for members of staff and parents, gave me a greater appreciation of the consultative model of working and the value of upskilling others, who would still be working with these children after I had left Ghana. A big part of this was talking to every parent about their child, finding out what they were able to do within a home setting and what they wanted me to help them with.
This was the embodiment of the patient-centred care I had been learning about throughout my degree course and it allowed me to identify the parents’ thoughts and understanding of their children’s difficulties, and their expectations of how I would be able to help their children progress.
Jessica Ambler and Alex Johnson – speech and language therapy in India
As speech and language therapy students at Leeds Beckett University, we had the chance to volunteer in India at both a mainstream and a residential special needs school.
The special needs school housed more than 50 students with complex needs, and we worked closely with the teachers to create individual communication profiles for the pupils, with targets and activities.
One of our highlights was supporting the teachers in facilitating a messy play session in which the children explored bowls of shaving foam, water and jelly. One young girl who reportedly rarely engaged in classroom activities, was so taken with the task that it wasn’t enough to have just her hands and face in the foam, she submerged her feet too! The enjoyment in this activity was evident, and the teachers specifically noted an improvement in some children’s communicative intent through requesting “more” and expressing their likes and dislikes.