'There is a lot of different jobs available at the end, working with all sorts of people...'
Wanting a career utilising science to help others, Claire discovered the Speech and Language Pathology degree as a great way to apply her skills towards working with people.
‘I thought that the degree was a great mix of the science and medical fields, while also involving aspects of teaching,’ she says.
UC’s reputation for speech-language therapy motivated her choice of university, and she enrolled with a Noeline Clark Foundation University of Canterbury Scholarship, and a UC Emerging Leaders Scholarship, recognising her leadership potential.
‘Speech language therapy is such an interesting subject to study because there are so many areas we learn about which are very different from each other. For example we learn about swallowing, the voice, and speech and language disorders for people of all ages, from toddlers to older people. The variety is fantastic because there will be something which appeals to you, and it also means there is a lot of different jobs available at the end, working with all sorts of people.’
One of the best parts of her study is the smaller classes and tight-knit Speech-Language community.
‘It makes our lectures much more personal and interactive. We all know each other well, and our class have all been very supportive of each other throughout the four years.’
Clinical placement work throughout the degree is a highlight from her studies so far. Claire has worked with the on-campus speech-language clinic, and with local primary schools in the past years.
‘Currently I’m on a twelve week placement, doing full time work. I’m at a special education unit at a primary school so I am working with children with autism and developmental delays. I spend the day in the classroom working with the children either in class or in a separate room, and help them to develop in areas such as literacy or communication with their device.
‘These opportunities are very valuable in learning which parts of speech therapy you like, and getting experience to apply for jobs.’
Claire hopes to continue working with children in special education for her future studies and career. One area she hopes to explore further from her honours research is a form of therapy called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
‘This refers to using other means of communication when verbal speech is difficult. This might include using an iPad, an alphabet board you point to, or a camera which tracks your eye movements to select letters. I have really enjoyed my placements working with children who use these different forms of communication,’ she says.
Throughout her studies, Claire has received a number of scholarship awards recognising her achievements in study, including a Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Award, a UC Senior Scholarship, and funding from outside UC with a Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Award, a Graduate Women Canterbury Inc. Trust Board Scholarship, and a Ministry of Education Speech Language Therapy Scholarship.
She also received a UC Summer Research Scholarship in her third year, which included work with the National Science Challenges investigating literacy in children.
‘I enjoyed the experience and felt it was valuable to see what being part of research is like,’ she says. ‘I would recommend this to anyone who is thinking of starting research, as this will give them an insight as to what that might be like, and enable them to meet academics who are working in different areas of interest to them.’
Beyond study, Claire teaches saxophone with the Christchurch School of Music, sings in the UC Chamber Choir Consortia, and plays the French Horn with the UC Christchurch Youth Orchestra and in several past shows by MUSOC student club.
As such, she also chose to do MUSA 125 summer course in her first year, and has since taken extra Music courses in her degree.
‘It was a great experience because the class was very small, only five people, so we got to know each other well and could work together. It was also quite a practical course, learning to use technology to create music, which I really enjoyed. I think learning everything over six weeks is a great way to get really involved with the material, as you can focus on just that one paper, and make the most of the time you have,’ she says.
‘Studying Music alongside the BSLP degree has been very enjoyable. I have mainly studied music performance papers and these have allowed me to continue playing my instruments with a goal to work towards to keep myself motivated to improve. The flexibility of the performance papers has also worked well for me, as I could organise music lessons with my teachers to fit in with my other papers.’
Having the opportunity to combine passions for music and working with children has Claire looking forward to continuing into postgraduate studies with UC.
‘I love the UC campus because it is all in one place and so it is easy to get everywhere. There is a huge variety of activities you can get involved with and different clubs to join, so there is something for everyone. I have made some great friends and had the opportunity to learn from many different academics, including some visiting from overseas, which has been a great experience.’