Speech–language therapists are professionals educated in the study of communication, its development and its disorders.
Speech–language therapists who work in schools often see children who have difficulty communicating because of problems in language development or associated problems in learning to read. They also deal with children who stutter or are not able to produce speech appropriate to their age.
Speech–language therapists in medical settings provide services to those who have lost the ability to communicate or swallow effectively due to stroke, degenerative disease, brain injury or cancer.
The Speech and Language Pathology programme at the University of Canterbury is New Zealand's most established programme, having trained most of the country's speech–language therapists.
A hands-on qualification, you will gain clinical experience working with clients of all ages with communication disabilities. There are eight clinics on campus and you will also go on placement to speech–language therapy clinics at hospitals, schools and other facilities nationwide. There are also opportunities for overseas clinical placements.
A four-year professional degree, the UC degree was the first in the country to be accredited by the New Zealand Speech–Language Therapists' Association (NZSTA), the organisation which sets quality standards for speech–language therapy courses in New Zealand.
The Department of Communication Disorders has 12 full-time academic staff with PhDs and is a national resource centre for information and continuing professional education in communication sciences and disorders.
Each year the department welcomes a number of distinguished scholars from around the world, including Erskine Fellows, who lecture and conduct collaborative research in the department.
Entry to the Intermediate Year of study is open to all students with entry to the University. The recommended preparation for the Intermediate programme is a science background to at least Year 13 and work experience, including visits to meet people with different speech and language abilities. English and languages, eg, Māori, are also useful.
The first year of the BSLP(Hons) is called the Intermediate Year. Selection into the BSLP(Hons) professional years is made at the end of the Intermediate Year.
The Intermediate Year courses may be taken in one full-time year of study or accumulated over more than one year. It is also possible to take the Intermediate Year at other universities – if you are intending to do this you are strongly advised to seek approval of your course of study from the Student Advisor, College of Science, University of Canterbury.
The one-year Intermediate programme is followed by three full-time years of specialised professional training – the professional years. Entry to the First Professional Year is limited. In the professional years, students complete coursework covering a wide variety of topics in normal and disordered aspects of speech, language and hearing. The academic coursework is taken in combination with fieldwork, which is an important component of the professional years.
In the First Professional Year (second year), students take courses in speech and language development and disorders, evidence-based practice, and audiology. They are also introduced to the observation and assessment of individuals with communication disorders and the distinguishing characteristics of the major types of disorders. There is the opportunity for practical experience with a range of clients.
In the Second Professional Year (third year), students continue studying different types of communication disorders, predominantly neurogenic in orgin, and gaining practical experience with clients. They work with practising therapists and complete coursework in a hospital setting.
In the Third Professional Year (fourth year), further courses are taken in the areas of speech, language and swallowing disorders. Research coursework is also included. More time is spent taking responsibility for the assessment of clients and the planning, management and evaluation of therapy programmes.
Work in the field is introduced from the second year of study. This fieldwork accounts for about 10% of the year's work in the second year, 20% in the third, and 50% in the final year. Students have the opportunity to undertake work with people of all ages at clinics in Christchurch and throughout New Zealand.
Entry into the First Professional Year is competitive and is restricted to 40 students annually.
Students are selected on the basis of academic merit (normally a B+ or better average), fluency in English and suitability for training as a speech–language therapist. Relevant work experience with individuals who have communication disorders may also be considered when selection decisions are made. In cases of equal merit preference will be given to people who have completed the recommended courses.
Applications for entry for 2014 close on 1 November 2013 (application forms are available from August). Intending applicants should contact the Head of Department, Department of Communication Disorders, preferably at least a month before the closing date.
If a student is unsuccessful in gaining a place in the First Professional Year, all courses passed can normally be credited to another degree. The Student Advisor, College of Science, is available to advise students on their options.
The Master of Science (MSc), Master of Speech and Language Pathology*, Master of Audiology (MAud) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees offer advanced educational and research opportunities to graduates. The MSc and MAud degrees may be taken as a full-time or part-time course. The PhD degree typically involves a minimum of three years full-time study.
*Subject to UNZ CUAP approval due August 2013.
The speech–language therapy profession offers a range of career opportunities. Graduates are highly employable as clinicians both in New Zealand and overseas.
You can work with people or computers, in a research laboratory, a private clinic or a government agency. You can work with language-delayed children in a school setting or with elderly stroke patients in a large hospital or nursing home. You can be an entrepreneur, developing and marketing new communication devices and tests, or building your own private practice. You can teach at a university, conduct research in a scientific laboratory or be an administrator.
Perhaps best of all, you can combine several of these to establish a challenging and satisfying career which improves the quality of life for individuals with communication disorders.
For further career information, please go to www.canterbury.ac.nz/careers