Leeds Beckett and NHS team up to offer free speech and language therapy clinic for children
Running for six weeks in July and August, 20 volunteer second and third year students on the BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy degree programme at Leeds Beckett are working alongside 13 NHS Speech and Language Therapy staff members and eight Speech and Language Therapy lecturers to help around 60 children in the city.
The children and their parents are receiving blocks of three or four free sessions at the University. The families, who were on the NHS waiting list, were offered the chance to attend the clinic, offering them valuable help whilst reducing the waiting list for speech and language therapy services. This agreed approach with LCH speech and language therapy complements the LCH Summer Waiting List Initiative which is taking place across clinics and health centres in Leeds during the school holidays.
Children attending the therapy sessions are receiving support with a variety of difficulties such as: specific speech and language problems, autism, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. The students and staff have been helping the children with social interaction, vocabulary and sentence development, and speech and sound work, through a variety of fun games.
Jo Sandiford, Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy at Leeds Beckett University, explained: “Before I joined Leeds Beckett in February this year, I worked for LCH and so was keen to set up a partnership between the two organisations. Sarah White, a Lecturer at Leeds Beckett and a part-time Speech and Language Therapist at LCH has been very influential in the organisation of this clinic.
“The NHS has long waiting lists for speech and language therapy for children and we are aiming to establish a sustainable clinic here at the university to run on a regular basis. This summer clinic is a pilot project and, if it evaluates well, we hope to make it a permanent clinic. For our students, who need to complete a certain number of days of placement practice throughout their course, it will also be a valuable opportunity for them to work in the clinic as part of their placement.”
The clinic is based at Leeds Beckett’s city centre campus where six clinical rooms are available. Funding received from the School of Social Sciences at the University allowed the clinic to purchase toys, equipment and resources.
Jenna Hatherly, a Speech and Language Therapy student at Leeds Beckett who begins her final year this September, said: “The clinic is really positive: it gives us an opportunity to get more experience as clinical practice hours are precious to us. It is an extra chance to practice and strengthen the skills we have been learning. The LCH staff have been so friendly and supportive, giving us great ideas but also letting us have independence in practicing.
“The highlight of the clinic so far for me has been seeing the impact speech and language therapy can have on the children in just a few sessions, and seeing the parents being so involved and taking the techniques home with them. It is great knowing that I’m making a difference and to see the children enjoying the experience by making it fun for them. It is really positive for everyone: the parents are moving off the waiting list quicker, it is relieving the therapists’ work load and giving us valuable experience.”
Charlotte Orr, a Speech and Language Therapist at LCH, commented: “The clinic is such a good idea as it offers another point of contact for parents. It has been really useful for the students to have another opportunity to practice their skills other than their placements, where they are being assessed and marked on their work. This gives them a different, more relaxed, feel to the experience.
“The students are getting to see a range of children: anything from very early communication where the speech is just developing through to teenagers needing help with social interaction and wider aspects of language. It is also very beneficial to parents, who are receiving help and support from both a student and a member of NHS staff or a lecturer. The students have been brilliant: they have all been very keen and willing and have also challenged me by bringing different perspectives and questioning why we do things in certain ways.”
Speaking about the success of the clinic so far, Jo Sandiford added: “It has been a great partnership venture with mutual benefits for LCH, reducing waiting lists, for the students, gaining additional clinical practice, and, most of all, for the children and families. The children are making significant progress through the therapy they’re receiving and the families have loved coming to Leeds Beckett as it is so accessible. Additionally, everyone here at the university has been so supportive in setting up the clinic and making this work so well.”