NZ$21.98
EPC Zoom Workshop #2 - Working with Speech Language Therapy

EPC Zoom Workshop #2 - Working with Speech Language Therapy

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NZ$21.98

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The 2nd EPC workshop for 2022 is led by Hugh Morrison-Thomas, focused on the connection between Speech Language Therapy and Communication.

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What has studying Speech-language Therapy and Audiology taught me about communication?

Like many of you I have developed a passion for language. However, for each person who enjoys experiencing language there is another person who struggles to communicate their ideas. For many this challenge turns into a battle that can seem an awfully difficult task to win. My name is Hugh Morrison-Thomas and I’ve worked as a Speech-language Therapist in schools and hospitals in Wairarapa region. Currently, I’m in the final stages of completing a Masters in Audiology and I’m half-way through a Fellowship in teaching Speech & Drama. For the past few years, I have taught Speech & Drama at Rangi Ruru Girls School in Christchurch. From working and studying in these areas I have come to understand those mechanisms that occur within us making communication possible for us all. Not only focusing on how we converse, but also what we find most challenging and the ways to manage or compensate for issues we face when speaking with others. As there continue to be long waitlists to receive support in the public sector and many children are not seen in time, this article and the workshop I will give on 12 June aim to provide some insight into what Speech-language Therapists and Audiologists do to improve people’s communication.

The benefit of learning to speak confidently at the youngest possible age has been drilled into me regularly over my lifetime. Recent events over the past few years have reignited for me the vital importance of teaching these skills to younger generations. This was highlighted through my university studies completing zoom classes. Many of these classes were discussion based and I was surprised at the lack of willingness many students had to lead discussion with peers or ask the lecturer questions. Despite life being a 24 hour, 365 day a year conversation (dreaming is just an internal dialogue with ourselves), most people still dread giving presentations, refuse to ask questions in front of others, and don’t like the sound of their own voice. It’s not a new phenomenon, many of you may recall situations where you were itching to ask a question but didn’t; or didn’t answer a question despite being fairly sure of the answer. A reason for this is that one of the ways we are primarily judged, and judge others, is on how well we communicate and present ourselves.

Unfortunately, verbal communication in both primary and secondary education settings in New Zealand appears undertaught. Many students continue to leave school or university with impressive qualifications, yet still struggle to verbally express themselves clearly and confidently. Probably this is due to demonstration of learning and success in schools being largely based on fluency with the written word. Much of our success, happiness and even peace of mind comes through our ability to engage and connect with others. But our inability to speak with confidence, sincerity and passion does little to help us connect with each other. Verbal communication seems a particularly vital skill for my generation (Generation Z) when we are creating many superficial relationships, but have difficulty finding the time to get to know others on a deeper level.

So, what has studying Speech-language Therapy and Audiology taught me about communication?

It’s complex! The number of neurological processes and muscle contractions needed to receive a message, interpret it and convey our thoughts is enough to send my mind down a black hole of confusion. The fact that most people walk around all day not being aware of speaking, let alone conveying meaning in their messages, seems to me quite miraculous. I feel the most important point I have learnt is that different approaches are needed for managing listening, voice, speech and language problems. In teaching listening skills practice should occur within the persons daily routine regularly throughout the day. However, voice problems typically require work on specific exercises. Intensive practice (five times per day) is needed over a few weeks to retrain the vocal musculature to function in a way that tension and strain is reduced. By contrast, speech sound errors are typically corrected by completing regular practice across an extended time. Similarly, delays in language development require intense exposure of specific words or language structures for short bursts of time. This practice is usually incorporated into the student’s day as much as possible. Learning these different approaches and the processes involved in speaking has helped me understand the abstract qualities of resonance, projection and voicing as more tangible ideas. This has led to a greater realization of how to achieve these, as well as being able to listen to a person speaking and differentiate between needing to work on voice onset, resonance, projection, articulation of specific speech sounds and aspects of language.

Being encouraged to develop good communication skills at an early age has no doubt been of great benefit throughout my tertiary education and beyond. Throughout my studies I have needed to coach people, give verbal feedback, interview, build rapport, present information in an understandable way, and convey the feeling I know what I am doing. These are some of the most crucial skills I have strengthened over the past seven years. A background in Speech & Drama certainly gave me the inspiration to follow these career paths and the confidence to continue honing my communication skills.

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