Wednesday, 01 July 2009
Twenty five students have formed the initial cohort in the new Bachelor of Speech Pathology course which commenced in the School of Psychology and Social Science at the Joondalup Campus this year. Graduates of the course will be fully qualified practicing clinicians, dealing with a range of communication and swallowing disorders across the lifespan including stuttering, voice problems, speech and swallowing problems after stroke, and delayed speech and language development in children.
Students will gain the benefits of a multi-disciplinary campus, taking units in areas such as Psychology, Education and Biology, as well as focusing on specific evidence-based practice units related to communication and swallowing disorders. Unique to this program, as compared to other Speech Pathology programs across Australia, is a unit related to indigenous issues which forms part of the course, and further opportunities to embed such issues within the program as a whole are currently being planned. The students will also undertake extensive clinical practicum during the course, ranging from hospitals and community health centres to schools and specialist placements related to individuals with developmental disabilities. Rural and remote placements will form an integral part of the program.
The new Foundation Chair of Speech Pathology Professor Elizabeth Armstrong is committed to developing a program that provides students with as much 'hands-on' experience as possible via a variety of clinical practica, and enables them to explore the social consequences of communication and swallowing disorders and the ultimate impact of speech pathology treatments on clients' everyday lives. Professor Armstrong says that "Speech Pathology students from ECU will graduate equipped with a sound scientific basis for their discipline that encompasses knowledge of biological, cognitive and social systems, and also focuses on the 'real-life' experience of the people they will be dealing with." Lecturer Charn Nang has introduced the students to concepts of evidence-based practice, professional standards and competencies in Speech Pathology. She notes that the students have demonstrated mature and insightful approaches to the complexity of these issues at this early stage of the program. In conjunction with this they are developing a course-long portfolio to document individual learning and evaluative practice.
Gaining practical experience early on in the course through observation placements has also already received positive feedback from clinicians in the field who have taken ECU students on placement. A supervising speech pathologist from Fremantle Hospital reported that "The department was happy with the students and feel they have gained some good experience from their time here. Students were asking very insightful questions and were very keen." Students' motivation for enrolling in the new program and their early experiences are demonstrated in student Joan Porter’s reflections to date...."I want to work with people, especially young children, so after some research I decided that speech pathology at ECU was the way to go. I've only been studying since the beginning of this year, but we've already started hospital practicals! I find them very valuable as they provide so much hands-on learning in such a short period of time. It can be daunting, but very rewarding. As far as the staff go, all my lecturers and tutors are approachable and accommodating; it helps create a stress free learning environment." - ECU Speech Pathology student, Joan Porter.