Today, we are celebrating Laura, our Lead Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, who recently qualified as a Dysphagia Practitioner. Dysphagia is the medical term used to describe swallowing difficulties (NHS, 2021). To celebrate Laura’s latest achievements, we sat down with her to discuss her career. Let’s take a look at her story…
Laura started at CCL in October 2012 as a newly qualified Speech & Language Therapist, having graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in July 2021, with a First-Class BSc Honours in Psychology & Speech Therapy. Prior to studying her degree, Laura worked at Severndale Specialist Academy, a school for children with special education needs, as a Teaching Assistant. During this time, Laura took part in the speech therapy sessions and realised it was a career she wanted to pursue. Throughout her time at Severndale and Manchester Metropolitan University, Laura also volunteered at Action for Children, working in the community with children with learning disabilities.
So, how did Laura come to specialise in adults with learning disabilities (ALD)? During Laura’s time working with children with learning disabilities, she was curious how much speech and language input individuals received once leaving children’s services. Laura felt strongly that communication should continue to be supported once anyone moves into the ALD population. Fortunately, Laura was able to complete a placement at a facility for ALD and realised she definitely wanted to pursue her career in ALD – she even based her dissertation on it!
So, having progressed significantly in her career at CCL to Lead Speech & Language Therapist, Laura identified the need for an in-house Dysphagia Practitioner, offering advice, training and, where appropriate, assessment and therapy. Therefore, with the support of CCL, Laura decided to train as a Dysphagia Practitioner through Manchester Post-Basic Dysphagia Course.
So, what are the key benefits you may wonder? Having Laura as a qualified Dysphagia Practitioner means she can train our team of staff in Dysphagia awareness, increasing their knowledge of Dysphagia; therefore, undoubtably ensuring more effective support for CCL’s learners and residents. In addition to this, working alongside the Community Learning Disability Team, Laura can carry out Dysphagia assessments and provide Dysphagia Therapy Plans, which, makes her an invaluable asset to CCL.
On 17th March, it was Swallowing Awareness Day, so Laura and her SLT team created a CCL Swallowing Awareness Month throughout March, where they shared a new fact about Dysphagia daily in the form of a calendar. You can view this by following the link: https://indd.adobe.com/view/01d2fa13-145d-49a2-9f59-3657f5f7dfb7. As shown in the picture of Laura at the ‘Lockdown Arms’, to raise awareness of Dysphagia internally, Laura hosted a Swallowing Awareness Day where our team used thickening in their drinks throughout with an aim to give our team a better insight into how drink thickener works and the impact it makes on a person’s drink – comprehending the change in texture and taste.
On speaking to Laura about her career, she said “I have always known I wanted to work with people with learning disabilities and realised that helping somebody to communicate can open up all sorts of opportunities, whilst working alongside an SLT at a specialist school. It was for this reason that I decided to study Speech Pathology at University and go onto look for a career that combined working with people with learning disabilities and where I could really promote how important it is to communicate with somebody in a way that is meaningful”.
Laura added “I think that using a shared communication method helps someone to build positive relationships, have a chat, say what they think is important, access education and do things for themselves more easily.”
Speaking directly about Dysphagia and the role it plays in eating, Laura said “Whilst in my role at CCL I have also become aware of how much an enjoyable and safe mealtime can and does contribute to a person’s wellbeing. Bearing this in mind and recognising the importance of having an in-house Dysphagia Practitioner led to the decision that I would complete the Manchester Post Basic Dysphagia Course. Since qualifying, I have had the opportunity to be more involved in Dysphagia awareness training, assessments, and management plans all of which are hugely important in making sure that the people who access CCL are supported in a way that meets their individual preferences and needs at mealtimes; something that most of us consider to be an important and enjoyable part of our day.”
It is clear that Laura is an asset to CCL and we would like to wish her a huge congratulations on becoming a newly qualified Dysphagia Practitioner. We would also like to thank her for taking her time to talk to us. Well done Laura – we look forward to seeing the benefits you bring to CCL’s young people.