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Speech Pathology students are harnessing the power of communication

Published:03 April 2019

TOP: Left to right, Jodie Peake, Tahlia Williams, Jessica Van Helvoirt and Leisa Skinner. BELOW: The students in action at Rockhampton Riding for the Disabled Association.

While many visitors to Rockhampton Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) focus on smiles and fun, our Speech Pathology students know there's also an opportunity to assess and improve the underlying communication that is occurring.

Clinical Education Coordinator for the course, Leisa Skinner says the RDA is a valuable 'multi-modal' student placement alongside others including aged care facilities, day respite centres and other disability settings.

"We want our students to increase their comfort level working with people with disabilities in a safe environment where they get to try out different communication strategies, not just with the client riders but also with carers and parents and coaches," Ms Skinner says.

"Our students can pass on ideas on what can possibly be done with the clients to boost communication opportunities at RDA and also suggest take-away ideas for follow up at home or school.

"Our students get to work with people with disabilities including Down syndrome, autism, various visual, hearing and physical impairments and intellectual disabilities."

Speech Pathology student Jodie Peake says the RDA placement was challenging and complex "but also a great opportunity to put our clinical practice into an area such as this".

"It really shows we can help in so many situations throughout life," she says.

"We have been able to implement strategies that have really helped the riders and the volunteers."

Student Tahlia Williams says "it's been really rewarding that the coaches can continue to use our strategies when we are not here ... we are trying to give back to the community".

Student Jessica Van Helvoirt says the sense of reward has been high.

"The past few weeks I've left on a high and feeling quite satisfied and wanting to help. It's reinforcing what we have been learning in class," she says.

"We've been taking strategies we have learnt in theory and putting them into practice. Even things learnt with children in the health clinic have been able to transfer over to the RDA setting."