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how i involve students

With services under financial and staffing pressure (RCSLT, 2007) and a need to ensure undergraduate students have sufficient quantity and quality of placement experience, imaginative schemes are called for. These recognise students as an additional resource rather than an additional burden with a positive contribution to make to service provision. Our authors show why this benefits clients, carers, students, therapists, universities and services, at the same time playing a part in turning policy such as accessibility, user involvement and interprofessional working into reality.
Reference RCSLT (2007) Money and commissioners: managers speak out, Bulletin of the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists 667 (November), p.7.

Alison Matthews, Emma Sims, Katie Cowburn, Amy Erwin, Amy Sadowski, Nicola Derbyshire, Lizanne Carter and Linda Collier give managerial, student and university perspectives on a service centred accessible information project for adults with learning disabilities.
L-R Katie, Nicola, Amy S., Amy E., Emma

HOW I (1):

Involving students (1) Access-ABILITY nvolving students (2) A safe context Involving students (3) Everybody can communicate something

1. The Team Managers view The Oldham Communication Therapy Team takes a very proactive approach to introducing service centred and person centred accessible information (Matthews & Samuels, 2006). We recently piloted a project with six speech and language therapy students from the University of Manchester on placement with us one day a week for 6 weeks. The first session involved them attending our accessible information training day. They were then given an accessible information referral* and asked to complete the piece of work. The Learning Disability Service Community Projects supported by the students included woodwork, gardening and recycling. This type of work benefits several service users in one go and falls into the category of service centred work as opposed to person centred (Matthews & Samuels, 2006). The students were supported by our Communication Development Workers (Matthews & Baynham, 2006) with some input from me as Team Manager. They visited the project sites and worked with the service users and staff to develop the resources required.

I was aware that Linda Collier from the University of Manchester is always looking to explore alternative opportunities for student placements. At the same time, as a therapist and Team Manager of an already over-stretched service, I've been keen to design placements where it feels like the service has some kind of return. This could be a particular piece of work or a reduction in waiting lists for individuals or for accessible information. As well as the benefits to the service, the accessible information has had an impact for the people with learning disabilities who are working on the Community Projects. Feedback has been positive to the extent that, the afternoon the students finished, the manager of the projects asked when he could have the next group! 2. The students view This project has been beneficial for both our professional / clinical development and the speech and language therapy team. They were able to delegate work to us, taking pressure off them by decreasing their time on projects that would have taken many weeks. With minimal input our projects were undertaken independently. This is of particular value for all therapists with large caseloads and little time to do this kind of work themselves. We benefited from the opportunity to develop skills we did not previously have and welcomed the opportunity to work with students from other years. Project 1: Gardening Centre Our project was to show the process of making a hanging basket in an accessible format for service users (figure 1). We also developed the idea of a pocket sized laminated flick-book to make the equipment and tools used at the centre more accessible for staff and service users (figure 2). Project 2: Recycling Centre We produced accessible information for the service users at the recycling centre by making a variety of vital information sheets. Our pieces included what

PRACTICAL POINTS: involving students

1. Think out of the box what can students add? 2. Consider service centred as well as person centred schemes 3. Find useful ways to accommodate larger groups 4. Structure meaningful, holistic learning contexts 5. Carers may welcome the chance to be influential 6. Exploit and develop multi-media skills 7. Support interprofessional understanding 8. Choose projects that raise awareness of impact 9. Expose students to clients strengths and personalities 10. Recognise wider benefits for the profile of the profession




to wear when out in the van, how to use scissors safely (figure 3), how to use the small shredders and how to report an accident. Project 3: Woodwork Amy S. and Lizanne say: Our task was to make information accessible for the woodwork project that runs in Oldham. When we first visited we looked around and saw what they did with the adults with learning disabilities, and we met the service users. We were then given the different information they would like to be made accessible; this included taking all the different screw sizes and making it so that the service users could find a certain size easily, giving them just a little bit more independence. For this we took each screw size and length and developed a symbol system with a corresponding colour for each length and a corresponding shape for each size. We also developed a wallet-sized booklet so the project worker could show a service user which screw they want, and then they would be able to find the same symbol on the box that holds the screws and find the right amount of screws. We were also asked to make step-by-step health and safety check posters for each machine they use, so at the beginning of each day a service user could check the machine was safe and working properly. Furthermore we made posters to show that eye and/or ear protection was necessary and must be worn when using the machine. The skills we have learnt during this placement will definitely be useful for future projects, as the process of making information accessible is applicable to other populations. We believe it was a good experience for us to meet the service users, as this helped us make the information more relevant to the users at the various sites. This project was useful for all parties as we gained practical experience in working with adults with learning disabilities, and the service users got involved with the project as well as benefiting from it. 3. The Universitys view Over the past few years we have been developing a series of clinical taster sessions which will give the students valuable clinical experience in their 1st year of studies. These sessions have included visits to Sure Start schemes, meeting people with dysphasia in their local Communication Support Groups and making Communication Passports for service users in conjunction with the Communication Therapy Team in Oldham. The Accessible Information project - offered initially to 8 students - was evaluated very highly by the students and gave them skills that can be used with a whole range of client groups. The students were able to meet adults with learning difficulties; even if they never work with this cli-

Figure 1

ent group again during their undergraduate years this experience will stay with them and may help them consider working with this client group once qualified. Building on the success of the pilot project the whole year group attended an Accessible Information Day in Oldham in November 2007 and will now be sent on a variety of placements. There has been a huge amount of interest from other services who realise there is potential in using students to make accessible information for their clients. Apart from adults with learning disabilities services, we are also sending students into several schools in the local area to make Communication Passports and information accessible for the children. Speech and language therapy students need to be reminded in their 1st year why they have chosen the profession and it is really important to include clinical experiences alongside their academic studies. The Accessible Information and Communication Passport work helps to focus them on the clinical aspects of the profession, work with a variety of clients, build their confidence in their own ability and develop clinical skills. Students do not need to be extra work for clinical educators; they can be a benefit to the service while gaining skills that will help them throughout their careers. Alison Matthews is Team Manager of the Communication Therapy Team, Rock Street Centre, Oldham, e-mail Alison.Matthews@oldham.gov.uk. Emma Sims, Katie Cowburn, Amy Erwin, Amy Sadowski, Nicola Derbyshire and Lizanne Carter are student speech and language therapists at the University of Manchester. Linda Collier is a Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow at the University of Manchester, email linda.collier@manchester.ac.uk. *The Accessible Information Referral Form is available via the Mag Extras group in the members area of www.speechmag.com.

Figure 2 Using Scissors Safely When carrying the scissors make sure the scissors are shut

Always put the scissors back on the table when they are not being used

At the end of the day, put all the scissors back into the jug

Figure 3


Thanks to Christine Marsland and Mark Booth, Communication Development Workers, and Eric Armitage.


Matthews, A. & Baynham, T. (2006) Photo opportunities, Speech & Language Therapy in Practice Spring, pp.7-9. Matthews, A. & Samuels, R. (2006) Conference calls: Show and Tell, Speech & Language Therapy in Practice Summer, pp.20-22 SLTP



reprinted from www.speechmag.com

Accessible Information Referral Form

Name Address ... Postcode... Telephone Number:

Who the information is aimed at

Please give as many details as you can about the work you require: .
Approx. number of hours required.Deadline if appropriate.. Do you require this information in any language other than English? If so, state which language(s)..


Office use: Date received________________ Contact_____________________

Priority____________________ Actual time spent________________ Date completed__________________

reprinted from www.speechmag.com

Guidelines for Referrals for accessible information 1. Referrals should be made on the accessible information referral form. The TC Support workers will ask to discuss priorities at the locality meeting. Please give as much information as you can about who the information is to be aimed at. For example, is it a specific individual or a group? Consider the different needs of that group, eg. sensory impairment, English as a second language. Please give as much information as you can about the type of work required. For instance, if you have a document which you would like have made more accessible for a specific group consider the following points, do you require: Format a booklet, leaflet, poster, document. What size? What are your requirements in terms of layout? A video or audiotape? A set of symbols or photographs please list the pictures required. Have you broken the information down into its essential points? Does your original document contain complex vocabulary or jargon? Can this be omitted or do certain words need to be retained, with an appropriate explanation? For example you may need to keep the word assessment in a health needs assessment but the person being assessed might not understand the word. Please list the number of hours you would estimate the work to take.



Please return the form to: Alison Matthews Co-ordinator, Communication Therapy Communication Therapy Team Rock Street Centre Rock Street Oldham