Emma Irvine

'An absolutely amazing, diverse and rewarding degree...'

  • Emma irvine

Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology with Honours

Paediatric Speech-Language Therapist, MidCentral District Health Board, Palmerston North

Seeing first-hand how communication disorders can affect people’s lives made Emma determined to pursue a career in this specialist field.

‘My granddad had a stroke which affected his speech,’ she explains. ‘Seeing the difficulty that he had communicating with his family and friends made me want to help other people in his situation. Also, my mother is a paediatric nurse, and this has exposed me to how vulnerable children can be. I have seen how rewarding it can be to help children recover from injuries or sickness.’

After graduating, Emma was thrilled to get a job as a paediatric speech-language therapist in the Child Development Service at Midcentral District Health Board.

My job is predominantly to assess and provide intervention to children with feeding and swallowing disorders,’ she says. ‘I provide communication assessment and intervention to young children who are already in the Child Development Service, and I also work alongside a multidisciplinary team that provides assessment for children who are awaiting a diagnosis such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

‘My role mainly involves working in the community and going to a child’s home and education facility and working with them and their family, whānau, health and education teams to achieve client-focused goals. I also see infants and children who are in-patients on the children's ward or the neonatal unit.’

The role provides exactly the sort of challenges and rewards that Emma was looking for as she embarks on her speech-language therapy career.

‘It is extremely rewarding when infants and children become successful eaters and communicators to the best of their ability,’ she says. ‘I love working as part of a supportive multidisciplinary team who all work towards common, client-focused goals to help and support children and their families.’

Emma advises that practical experience of working in the field – even if it is simply a work-shadowing exercise – will benefit students at any stage.

‘Before starting my degree I observed two different speech-language therapy settings to get a better understanding of what was involved. I highly recommend this to anyone considering the degree. It definitely sealed the deal for me, and I have never looked back,’ she says.

‘I really enjoyed the clinical papers which expose you to a variety of disorders and different career opportunities. Without these clinical papers it would be extremely difficult to understand what to expect in the “real working world”, and I am extremely grateful for the amazing variety of clinical placements that I had.’

Emma agrees that the BSLP(Hons) degree is tough, but she enjoyed the challenge and says that with the right approach it is ‘an absolutely amazing, diverse and rewarding degree’.

‘I enjoyed how well the class and lecturers got on. After the Intermediate Year the class becomes smaller, which allows you to create fantastic, lifelong friendships. Due to such a small class the students can have great relationships with the lecturers, which is fantastic as they are the ones who will help get you through the degree. Without the relationships I built with my classmates I feel that the degree would have been a lot harder.’

Emma was keen to be an active member of the UC community, and became the treasurer of the student club SpeechSOC.

‘The club organises social activities and has a peer mentoring programme where fourth-year students support students in the earlier stages of their degree.’

Coming from Invercargill, Emma was impressed with all that UC and Canterbury had to offer.

‘I enjoedy how close both the UC community and the Canterbury community are, especially since the earthquakes,’ she says. ‘I love to travel, whether it be overseas or within New Zealand, and I am amazed by how many wonderful places there are near UC that we were able to drive to within a few hours.’

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