Hugh Morrison-Thomas

'I think the combination of art and science is primarily what led me to Speech Language Pathology...'

  • Hugh Morrison-Thomas

Studying towards a Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology with Honours

Studying theory and practice for treating communications disorders has been highly inspirational for Hugh, as he works with clients on improving their lifestyle.

‘I saw this as a great way to improve my own communication skills. The work is people-focused and various options are available for employment including working overseas,’ he says. ‘I think the combination of art and science is primarily what led me to do a degree in Speech Language Pathology. I enjoy interacting with people, but also want to use tools and techniques to investigate the causes and solutions to problems.’

Hearing that UC’s Speech-Language studies covered an ‘intensive and thorough look’ at a full range of communication disorders, Hugh took the opportunity to venture to the South Island and look for opportunities coming from the Christchurch rebuild.

‘I see the courses as highly practical. They provide a wide range of clinical experiences in swallowing, neurological conditions, fluency, voice, speech sound and language disorders. This practical experience cements the learning gained in lectures. I do not feel I would have got this experience to the same extent if I had gone elsewhere.

‘I meet with clients of all ages and conduct assessments with them to diagnose their disorder. Once I am aware of where the client’s challenges are I provide compensatory and treatment strategies for managing their impairments. The role of a Speech Language Pathologist also focuses on modifying a client’s daily activities, to increase their participation and improve quality of life.’

Having the ability to form close relationships with clients, classmates and lecturers in the Communication Disorders Department has been one of his favourite aspects of study. The support he’s received is shown through the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Scholarship award, which he gained for his results.

His interest in the community is also shown through the Emerging Leaders Development Scholarship programme. This programme recognises leadership potential, and gives extra opportunities to develop leadership skills. Through this scholarship Hugh completed the unique CHCH 101 community engagement course and the Rotary Associates Programme.

‘It’s great for encouraging involvement in the Christchurch community and showing all the self-initiated projects around the Christchurch region.’

As one of the few male students studying Speech-Language at UC, Hugh finds that more men are needed in this profession to better support a range of clients.

‘Being the only guy in all my classes allows me to offer a different perspective, and is particularly helpful when dealing with male clients,’ he says.

His biggest advice to anyone considering Speech-Language is to meet people with communication disorders, and learn how significantly communication impairments can impact a person’s life.

‘Most importantly know why you want to do this course, because you will likely ask yourself this at some point in the future, and knowing why will help you stay on track. I enjoy meeting people with a wide range of life experiences, and learning from them. Building rapport with clients and seeing the effect that ongoing therapy has on their communication.’

Hugh is supplementing his studies with his passion for musical and theatrical performance. He plays the bagpipes and enjoys performing in plays in his spare time. He was also a member of UC’s choir Consortia for two years, singing acapella, alongside the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Secondary School Choir and many other Christchurch orchestral groups.

Hugh also likes to keep himself active, and recently completed the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award Scheme. However, he does not let his pursuit of extra-curricular activities compromise his academic performance. Last year he became a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, which indicates he is in the top 15% of students in his chosen field.

He has also received an Advanced Associate Diploma in Teaching Speech and Drama and is currently studying towards a Licentiate Diploma through the New Zealand Speech Board.

‘I have a specific interest in voice therapy so eventually I would like to work in a voice clinic, and perhaps provide public speaking tutoring to adolescents and adults,’ he says.

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