I have been working as a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant (SLTA) at STEPS Rehabilitation, a specialist Neurological and Spinal Injury facility in Sheffield. I assist the SLTs in sessions and conduct one-on-one therapy sessions with clients in accordance with their therapy programmes.

Amongst other areas, sessions with our clients can focus on speech, language, cognition, or the use of AAC devices. No two sessions are the same.

Other sessions concern clients with dysphagia; this is an area of SLT which I find particularly interesting as it has such an effect on the quality of life of a client. The SLT team devise swallow rehabilitation programmes which can include: swallow exercises, conducting oral trials, observing and monitoring client transition between IDDSI Levels. The STEPS SLT team also have a Biozoon kit. The Biozoon modifies liquids into a foam enabling those with significant swallowing difficulties to be able to taste their favourite flavours in a low risk consistency. This can enhance quality of life for those who may not be able to safely manage an oral diet.

Biozoon allows for some oral stimulation through the sense of taste which can benefit a clients wellbeing. I am grateful for having the opportunity to observe such sessions as the knowledge gained will greatly benefit my training which will begin in October.

I also support the STEPS Voices group, a joint SLT and neurological music therapy group which incorporates the articulation and manipulation of speech sounds to the beat and rhythm of music. Observing the positive change in clients when this technique is implemented is fascinating; the stimulus can increase engagement and act as a trigger for spontaneous speech.

Observations made within the Voices group include those with low verbal output being able to join in with mouthing or singing or those with aphasia being able to sing words to a melody which provides a pace.

During my time as an SLTA, I have been supervised and supported by the SLTs in areas including: the effects of a stroke, dysphagia, and switch access. I have developed my skills in communication as I have come into contact with a variety of speech and language difficulties. Initially, I found the use of AAC challenging as it was new to me, however the exposure and support I have received has led to this being an area of SLT which I hope to continue to learn about. I have also become more observant as I have had to learn to understand each client's nuances in order to gauge what they need.

The skill which I am most proud of in terms of development is leadership. As an SLTA, I have been able to share the speech and language therapists advice to new members of staff, supporting them in being able to support communication with those who have complex communication needs at STEPS Rehabilitation. I feel assured that members of the team can discuss their concerns with me, and to further that, that I am able to offer alternative suggestions or assist sessions to ease the communication process, under the guidance of the speech and language therapy team.

We all wish Becca the very best of luck in her studies!