Meet Hannah, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist | Bristol Community Health Careers Bristol Community Health


Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

“Bristol Community Health is committed to improving lives.”

  • Tell us about your role. What do you get up to on a typical day/week?

    I am a specialist in the areas of AAC and Dyphagia. AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This means any method of communicating that supplements the ordinary methods of speech and handwriting, where these are impaired.

    Children and young people are referred to the AAC support team to be assessed for a communication aid if their speech is absent, significantly delayed or unintelligible. Children and young people are referred to the Dysphagia support team if they have eating and drinking difficulties. I visit mainstream and SEN school settings in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. I have a small loan library of iPads and tablets with special software which allows young people to create language and to say what they want to say and be understood. If the young person, the family and educational setting feel that technology would be of benefit, we may have to seek funding through the NHS, education or charities.

  • What’s the best thing about working in the community? What made you choose this kind of work?

    Communication is a basic human right and all people with a severe communication impairment should have access to AAC equipment and professionals with knowledge and skills to support them. I find giving children and young people the gift of instant communication hugely rewarding. There are challenges when working with technology but liaison with families and settings, and building a strong, effective team around the child, adds to the job satisfaction.

  • If you have worked in a previous environment, e.g. acute, how does this compare to working in community health?

    Bristol Community Health is committed to improving the lives of individuals, families and staff. As an organisation it is forward thinking and open to new ways of working to meet current challenges.

  • Describe the working culture here?

    I feel well supported by my managers and I know that my well-being is important to the organisation, as, without that, I would not be able to give my best to the job.

  • Tell us about the learning and development and career progression opportunities?

    AAC specialist is just one of many roles within Speech and Language Therapy. After qualifying as a Speech and Language Therapist, there are opportunities to learn and develop, either by shadowing and learning from colleagues, attending local clinical excellence networks or attending national postgraduate courses on specialist topics.

  • What do you think patients would say about the service you provide?

    Parents have said that their relationship with their child has improved once they have a communication aid, as the child is more able to express themselves. Parents comments include: “My son’s level of anxiety has reduced”. “The communication App is brilliant. We will have a much better holiday, now we have the iPad!”. “This technology should be available to anyone with a communication problem”.

    Through using AAC technology, children and young people are able to tell us how they think and feel, often for the first time. Our team participated in a project led by the Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board, seeking the views of young people with severe communication difficulties. The results from the questionnaire were published in January 2018. In response to the question “what makes you worried?” – “My Communication aid (VOCA) not being charged or not working”.

    In response to the question “what makes you more able to cope?” – “Using my communication aid as much as possible”, “Making sure my Communication aid (VOCA) is always with me”, “[I like] having access to social media using my communication aid.”

  • What’s the most rewarding thing about your role?

    The most rewarding thing about my job is hearing a child communicate, when, without the technology, they would have been silent and have no voice. Watching the smile spread across the child’s face when they realise they can be bossy with daddy, or choose to watch their favourite TV programme, rather than have to watch what someone else has chosen.
    Providing someone with the means to communicate enhances their dignity, self-respect and participation in life.

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