Speech and Language Therapy Students Reflect on Their Journeys
Jo Sandiford, Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy, asked students to reflect on their master’s journeys. Here she introduces two of her student’s stories.
It was a joyous day to see some of our students on campus and to ask them to reflect on their journey to this point, and to think about what the future might hold for them using drawings as they are approaching qualifying as speech and language therapists.
The colourful circles on the left represent my experiences before the course. I worked in a lot of different educational settings since completing my undergrad in Psychology eight years ago and explored a lot of different options, as I knew I wanted to specialise in working with children with SEN but was unclear in what capacity. So I shadowed occupational therapists, educational psychologists, drama therapists and obviously speech and language therapists, before eventually narrowing down my options. I thought I had picked one definitive area of work by choosing speech and language therapy.
So that's where you can see the path looking clear straight ahead up to the narrowing at the top… leading to the point where I joined the course and realised that speech and language therapy is not a very narrow specialism at all!
The course opened my eyes to how SLT is actually far broader than I realised and so the spiral through the tidal wave represents the ups and downs of the course. At times feeling overwhelmed by finding out so much new information in what felt like such a short space of time, but also the highs of finding out so much fascinating new information and realising that there were a lot more options available to me than I first thought.
The little stick person on the surfboard down at the end is me now. Just in the deep end of finishing my dissertation and completing the course during COVID-19, which obviously added additional challenges, but looking upwards ahead to the future. I've deliberately left the future off the edge of the page because I really don't know what it involves at the moment! I’ve changed my mind from definitely wanting to work with children to exploring other options and I’m currently starting to apply for a variety of roles in both adult and paediatric settings. So the future remains an optimistic unknown, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it takes me!
These images capture I think not only my own journey but also reflect the journey of other students on the course that I've spoken to. I've likened my journey to Dorothy's journey through Oz and so in this first image we see me not really knowing what to do with my life. We then see my ‘fairy godmother’ character introducing the idea of speech and language therapy to me. Here speech and language therapy is represented as the Emerald City which is miles away in the distance past this deep, dark wood and kind of shrouded in mystery and we can't really see it but we just know that there's a path to get there. I've got the munchkins here in the corner who represent some of the unhelpful stereotypes that I had in my head about speech and language therapy before I started.
In the second image, I’m partway through my journey and here we see that my path splits and the route that I thought I was going to take is barred by COVID-19, by placement experiences and various other factors. But along the way I have learned, I've met some other people who have helped me to understand what it is I'm heading towards. So the Emerald City is getting a bit closer but it's still a long way off and I'm now forced to go down a slightly different route to the one that I expected to go down. This is all part of the learning process and understanding more about the course and what it means to be a speech and language therapist.
Then in the final image, I've arrived at the Emerald City but in a different way. I've not come through the main entrance along the road that I thought I was going down but I've come down the side route if you like. I'm still unable to see all of it but it looks much clearer now though it's still huge and looming and intimidating and I think even once I get inside I'll still have lots of exploring to do. So I think this captures for me this journey of not really knowing where I was heading, kind of feeling my way through and having various experiences push me in certain directions and really questioning my motives and what it means to be a therapist and so it's been a really exciting journey but one that I'm certainly not finished with yet.
Jo joined the Speech and Language Therapy lecturing team at Leeds Beckett in February 2017. She lectured here for 3 years in 2003-2006 and combined this with clinical practice, then returned to clinical work full time in 2006. In the last 10 years she has worked as a highly specialist clinician, team leader and latterly as clinical advisor for the Leeds Children's Speech and Language Therapy Service.