Giving Voice

Friday, 30 December 2011

A time to reflect...

December has been such a busy month that I haven’t had the chance to blog about my Giving Voice activity! That’s not because I’ve forgotten about Giving Voice, it’s just that I’ve had little time to sit down and type about it.

At the beginning of the month I was pleased to see that ‘A Creeful of Coals’ printed a Giving Voice update: a full page ‘A Quiz, some chocolate and a Ukulele’ detailing the afternoon Liz Panton and I went and spoke at Newbiggin Ladies Club. It’s a good article, with info about the afternoon, and facts about speech and language therapy and the Giving Voice campaign. There are also two photos from the event and details of the GV website (and my email address, should any other groups like me to do a similar talk). ‘A Creeful of Coals’ is available in many local North East shops and via mail subscription (UK and overseas).

Newbiggin Ladies Club
On Christmas Day, after lunch, we had a kind of secret santa for my family and I. My sister opened a present of 6 Giving Voice pens (it probably wasn’t very secret who they came from!) and she was VERY excited! She uses them at work (as a Nurse on an Elderly Care ward) and I usually give her them sparingly as I try to save them for people who haven’t already heard of Giving Voice. However, as it’s Christmas and she uses them in her work environment I decided to be extra generous! I’ve also recently started mentoring a young person. She likes pens so I gave her a Giving Voice one and she was interested in hearing about my profession. She also told me that she had speech and language therapy when she was younger. 
I’ve recently started learning how to play the Ukulele (not something I have EVER thought about before!) Liz Panton, (and her fantastic Ukulele song about Speech and Language Therapy) inspired me to do something different and I’ve met some lovely people at the Ukulele group that I now attend fortnightly! I’ve had a number of speech and language therapy related conversations with some of the other group members, some of which have had contact with Speech and Language Therapists and appreciate our important role.

I cannot begin to describe how this year has been for me. In January, when I attended the first session about Giving Voice at Newcastle University with Ele Buckley (then Ramsey) I never imagined it would have led to such a brilliantly productive and enjoyable year.


Ashington Street Fair
 It is safe to say that I have learned a lot in 2011, both through university and Giving Voice. I have gained experience and actively sought to develop my confidence in situations that have been important in taking the campaign forward. For example, I have begun to build a good working relationship with local MP Ian Lavery, following the 1:1 lobby in June, which to be honest is not something I ever saw myself doing! I’ve always had an interest in politics and I now enjoy using this interest to try to influence the government (even if that is just meeting with my MP and local councillors to discuss the importance of Speech and Language Therapy). The day of Mass Mobilisation is certainly up there in the best days of my life so far, as it was a wonderful to be part of something so powerful.

Mass Mobilisation - me with Alison Proudfoot
It is truly humbling when people tell you how fantastic they think the profession is due to personal experience. I have had an exciting and motivating year and I am proud to have been part of a brilliant campaign. I would never have described myself as someone who is likely to campaign, but I would describe myself as enthusiastic and passionate, and Giving Voice has allowed me to tailor that enthusiasm and take it forward to raise awareness of Speech and Language Therapy. It has been amazing to see just how creative and proud the profession is in our quest to ‘shout about’ just how good we are! Also, RCSLT have done an amazing job!

My initial interest in getting involved in Giving Voice was to raise awareness of what Speech and Language Therapists do as throughout my training, like many other SLTs,  I have been faced with lots of questions that demonstrate that the profession is little understood. I want to spread the word to the public, one person at a time to increase awareness of what we do.

I also got involved to raise awareness at a higher level, with the government, to ensure that they understand the important role of SLT services. This is important to ensure that SLT services remain there in the future, both so that newly qualified SLTs can get jobs and more importantly to ensure that people with communication and swallowing difficulties get the specialist support that they need to be able to participate fully in their everyday lives.

Communication Chain on Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Communication is absolutely vital to be able to form and maintain relationships with family, friends and society. Whether this is a child just starting out and finding their way in the world, or an older person trying to maintain those relationships following a brain injury or degenerative disease; communication is key. I have personal experience of family members with communication and feeding difficulties, so I understand a bit about how these difficulties impact on family life. Therefore it is vital that people can access the SLT support they need.

It’s been fantastic to be involved in so many Giving Voice events throughout the year and seeing some of these reported in local media. I started this blog to share some ideas and report on my own involvement in GV and I can’t believe there’s been over 2000 page views in just 5 months! I don’t know who reads it but I appreciate that people are interested in what I have to say. I will continue to blog into the New Year J

I cannot begin to describe how much I have enjoyed being involved in Giving Voice and I look forward to seeing what the New Year brings for the campaign and the profession! Hopefully 2012 will be an even greater year for Speech and Language Therapy (and see me getting my first post as an SLT!). I’ve met some wonderful people through Giving Voice this year (both on and off line) - and it has even led to me learningto play the Ukulele! and I am extremely proud to say I am part of the profession and have been part of this brilliant campaign.

Wishing you all the very best for 2012 – thank you to everyone who has been involved in Giving Voice this year – for me it truly has been a year to remember!

Speech & Language Therapy Transforms Lives

*~*~*~* For Grandma - the woman who taught me that life’s not always easy or fair but we have to fight for what we believe in – and we’ve got to laugh or else we’ll cry! *~*~*~*

Monday, 21 November 2011

(No) Fog on the Tyne!

After arranging to hold a communication chain across Gateshead Millennium Bridge on a mid-November day I was slightly concerned that it would be cold, windy, foggy and raining. I warned everyone to wrap up warm and be prepared for any inclement weather; so I was extremely pleased to see glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. There certainly wasn’t any Fog on the Tyne on this occasion! The lack of cloud cover meant there was a bit of a bite to the air but the sun was surprisingly warm for November. We couldn’t have wished for nicer weather!
On route to Gateshead, I text BBC Radio Newcastle to tell them about the event and to ask them to mention us on the radio. I listened for about 15 minutes after I sent the text but then we arrived in Gateshead and we had to get out the car, so I don’t know if Sue Sweeny mentioned us on her show.
There were some people playing Bagpipes in Baltic square and whilst this was not planned on our part, it made the task of blowing up the balloons much more enjoyable and we found ourselves blowing up the balloons in time to the music!
Shortly after people started to arrive on Gateshead Quayside, a very special made a wonderful entrance – a big pink 'Peppa' pig came dancing towards us!
We all posed for a large group photo complete with banners, balloons and our Pig friend! Once the photo opportunity was complete we made our way across the bridge and eagerly awaited the horn to signal the start of the message.

Group Photo
The message started at Alison Proudfoot and she used an alphabet chart to pass ‘Giving Voice to Bridge the Gap’ on to the next person who then wrote the message to pass along. Speech and Language Therapists, students, service users, friends, family and passers-by all took part in the Chinese whispers style communication chain. The message ‘Giving Voice to Bridge the Gap’ was passed along the chain in a variety of ways including, speech, signing, writing and texting.
Pink and black balloons could be seen all around Baltic Square and across Gateshead Millennium Bridge as we passed our message along our communication chain. Our chain attracted the attention of lots of passers-by (especially through our special guest ‘Peppa’ Pig who was a big hit with children and adults alike!) and led to some nice discussions around Speech and Language Therapy.
A few passers-by asked for a photo with ‘Peppa’ Pig and I heard one little boy say ‘Mam, I wonder where George is?’ which I thought was very cute! (for those of you who aren’t acquainted with Peppa Pig – George is her little brother!)

My nephew, niece and I with Peppa!
The message changed slightly as it was being passed along, but it kept the same meaning (e.g. Using voices to bridge the gap) and found it’s way back to ‘Giving Voice to the Bridge the Gap’. The horn sounded again and we all turned round for a panoramic photo of the chain on the bridge.
I followed the whole chain to take video and photos and it was interesting to see all the different ways people communicated the message. I noticed how much slower the process was when people were not using speech to pass the message on (e.g. writing or an alphabet chart) and this is just one of the many challenges that people with communication difficulties face every day.
At the end we all made our way back over to Gateshead Quayside for another photo opportunity. It was a very enjoyable for everyone involved and we got the Giving Voice message out to more people!
Thanks to everyone who came along and supported the event and also to everyone who tweeted support on the day! Let’s keep spreading the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Be Part of a Communication Chain...

I am getting quite excited for tomorrow’s event on Gateshead Millennium Bridge! I really hope the weather is like it has been today (sunny and dry - if a little cold!)

I have Giving Voice balloons and I've bought pink and black ones as well as balloon sticks to make us stand out tomorrow.  I can't wait to see them all blown up (hope it doesn't take us too long!).

If you haven’t already seen the facebook event check it out here for more information. It’s not too late to decide to come and join us! We’ve got free balloons and stickers!

If you can’t make it to the event please support our cyber chain by tweeting about the event (#givingvoiceuk) or updating your facebook status. I’ve been tweeting a range of people/organisations in the area in the hope they might retweet about the Giving Voice event (so far altweet_pet have retweeted to 1800 followers and Koast Radio to 280 followers J)

I was pleased to see that this weeks News Post Leader had a short piece in about the North of Tyne Collaboration’s award and about Sir Alan Beith’s visit to the SLT service in Berwick. It didn’t mention Giving Voice but was nice to see they are talking about the good work of speech and language therapists again! The headline is ‘MP Praises Speech Team’. I cannot find the News Post Leader’s online version but I’ll upload a photo of the piece soon.

I hope to see you Giving Voice tomorrow (either on Gateshead Millennium Bridge or in cyber space!) Good Luck everyone! Let’s make it an event to remember because Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Abseiling and a Lighthouse

Last Saturday some fantastic people abseiled down Souter Lighthouse (Whitburn, South Tyneside) in aid of the North East Trust for Aphasia (NETA). I wasn’t one of these amazing people, but I did go along to support them and to Give Voice.
Souter Lighthouse

·        NETA's main purpose is to support people with Aphasia, providing information and therapy support and the funding of the NETA Aphasia Support Centre
  • Aphasia is the loss or impairment of speech and language skills following brain damage (arising from a stroke or head injury).
  • One third of everyone who has had a stroke has problems with communication. Current figures show there are some 58,000 people in the North East who have aphasia.
In our second year at Newcastle University we have a placement in the Aphasia Centre and we get to be a part of the therapy, working individually with some of the service users. Therefore, we get to see first hand how important speech and language therapy is for people with Aphasia. NETA is a charity close to my heart (because of the links with university, but also because it’s great!) so I was very happy to go along and support the abseil. (I have raised money for NETA in the past – my brother in law ran the GNR 2 years ago for them and I had 2 stalls at Ashington Street Fairs this summer).

I wore my Giving Voice t-shirt for the event at the lighthouse (when it got cold though I did put my coat on! My GV badge was still visable though!) Initially I was set up inside the gift shop of the lighthouse but it wasn’t very busy so I the moved the display board outside and stood it on one of the fisher boats. Whilst inside I had the opportunity to talk to a lady whose husband had a stroke 14 years ago and has been actively involved in NETA ever since. She had not previously heard of Giving Voice so I told her about it and gave her some leaflets and pens (she told me she would share them at a Stroke Association she goes to with her husband). She was extremely interested in the campaign and grateful that I took the time to talk to her.

I also told the National Trust staff about Giving Voice (as well as NETA as I think the go well together to explain the importance of Speech and Language Therapy) and left some pens and leaflets with them. They too, were interested in learning about Giving Voice and appreciated how important SLT is (though this was something they said they had not thought about previously!)

Once outside I gave out a few stickers and leaflets as well as cheering on the people abseiling. All in all a very enjoyable day with the opportunity to Give Voice to some people – really pleased I was able to be part of it (I have so much admiration for the people who actually abseiled!)

At the bottom of the lighthouse

Info stand inside the giftshop/museum

My niece Toni and I with the display (inside the boat!)
If you know of a local event taking place (similar to this) why not go along with some GV leaflets some balloons, or even just yourself and see if you can engage at least one more person in a GV/SLT related conversation - you never know who you might bump into and what influence your little chat could have :-)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A Little Bit of Everything...

I’m pleased to see that MPs (mine included) are still blogging about meeting a Speech and Language Therapist at the Mass Mobilisation (Ian Lavery's Webpage) . Hopefully we’ll see lots more in the coming weeks! It was also good to see a full page spread in the Health Supplement of last Monday’s Evening Chronicle. (Speech and Language Team Win National Award)

On walking into a local pub on Friday night I was greeted by the barman telling me that he recognised me from the newspaper, as he’d seen me twice. I don’t know if was my face or my Giving Voice badge which led him to recognise me. But I smiled and confirmed that he had the correct person. He then asked the 3 men sat at the bar if they had seen me in the paper too. They all said no but were keen to know which Newspapers and why. The chatterbox in me saw this as the perfect opportunity to tell them about Giving Voice (I pointed out my badge) and the valuable work of speech and language therapists. They seemed very interested and I also told them about the mass mobilisation event and how I met our MP Ian Lavery in the Houses of Parliament. I stood talking to them for about 5 minutes and it was lovely to see they were so enthusiastic to hear about speech and language therapy.

The North of Tyne Collaborative have organised a Human Communication Chain which is due to take place on Gateshead Millennium Bridge on November 20th. If you are in the area, it would be great if you could come along and support us. If not, please support us in advertising the event (facebook event can be found here) and tweeting/updating your facebook status to raise more awareness of Giving Voice. More details of the event to follow soon!

Evening Chronicle, 31st October - (the print is the same as the online article)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Giving Voice in Print

On Thursday I received a telephone call from my grandad, asking if I had seen this week’s News Post Leader yet. When I said our copy had not yet arrived he offered to come straight round to my house with his Newspaper so that I could the piece that had been printed about Giving Voice (and me).
I was pleased that Giving Voice had made it to the local paper again, and eagerly turned the pages until I was presented with a half page spread and two photos, and the headline “Julie is ‘speechless’ on Winning Award”
A few inaccuracies in the main body of the text but still a positive piece overall and I was delighted to see that they printed two photos (one from Mass Mobilisation, as well as one of Gareth Gates and I with our awards).
The online version of the piece can be found here and is currently available from a link on the homepage of the News Post Leader website!! J
It made my grandad’s day to see me in the local paper and it made mine to see Giving Voice in print again J
I shared the photo on link to the article on my facebook and was delighted to see that some of my family and friends did the same on theirs J Giving Voice one person at a time.
The piece from the News Post Leader (page 46 - Thursday 27th October 2011)

I've created a page (which can be found by looking down the right side of this page) with links to online Giving Voice related media from my local news papers. I’ve added this most recent one to this page (Local Giving Voice Coverage - click here) 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Badge, a Scarf and a Chatterbox

It’s taken me a week but I’m finally blogging about my last day in London...
On Wednesday morning after breakfast we got ready to check out and do some sightseeing before travelling home. I pinned my new Giving Voice badge to my coat and had my camera in hand as we went to check out so I would be prepared if we bumped into David Hasselhoff again.  I looked out for him all the way from the hotel room, through checking out, to leaving the hotel, but sadly we did not see him. (It obviously wasn’t meant to be!)
Still in high spirits from such a brilliant Tuesday, I was looking forward to doing some sightseeing on our last day in London. We set off for a final look at Buckingham Palace then headed back towards Westminster. Although the sun was shining brightly, it was pretty cold so I set off on a mission to find a hat and/or scarf. We passed a shop that sold scarves and I went in to have a look. I was quickly drawn to a bright (Giving Voice) pink one but I knew it wouldn’t go with the red coat I was wearing so I decided to get a black one (another Giving Voice colour!). To my delight, the man in the shop told me that the scarves were 2 for £5 so I decided to get a pink one and a black one! As I was paying, the man read my badge and said “Giving Voice to who? To what?” so, ever the chatterbox, I took the opportunity to explain the campaign and a little bit about speech and language therapy! Happy I’d told someone else that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms lives and now a lot warmer in my new scarf, we set off to find a hat (my ears were still cold!)
Walking around, I noticed a few people looking at my badge J and when I found a shop that sold a hat, the lady on the till asked what my badge was for.  I was delighted to talk about the campaign again, and was quite impressed so many people seemed to be interested J
I have been wearing my badge all week since I returned home (complete with my hot pink scarf and black winter coat!) ready to spread the word some more when people ask.
If you were at Mass Mobilisation and got a badge – why not wear it when you are out and about to Give Voice and spread the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!
Me wearing my GV badge (Big Ben in the background!)

Me wearing my GV badge (complete with new hat and scarf!)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Celebrating Achievements: RCSLT Honours and Giving Voice Awards

I was delighted to be invited to the RCSLT Honours and Giving Voice Awards Ceremony 2011 on the evening of October 18th. I’ve been looking forward to it for a couple of weeks, but once in London the excitement really began to build!

After I finished my meeting with Ian Lavery, MP, I headed back to the hotel to change my clothes and get to my hairdressers appointment. The hair salon was next door to the hotel where we were staying and I made the appointment on Monday. The hairdresser was lovely and we engaged in conversation about my day. I took the opportunity to tell her about Giving Voice and the meeting with my MP. She hadn’t heard of the campaign before but she seemed interested in learning about it.
From leaving the hairdressers, I didn’t have long to get ready and get photos with my parents before we had to leave for Church House. I was hoping we might bump into David Hasselhoff again (this time all nicely dressed, with camera in hand!) but no such luck! (Never mind, obviously wasn’t meant to be.)

Drinks Reception

Upon arrival at Church House, we were greeted by Ele Buckley (National Co-ordinator for Local Campaigns) and I introduced her to my parents. Susan Fairbrother, from RCSLT, then signed us in and led us upstairs to the Hoare Memorial Hall for the drinks reception and photo opportunity.

During the drinks reception I introduced myself to Jennie Marshall (the inspirational Speech and Language Therapist who cycled 180 miles to get to Westminster communicating with her light writer – check out her fantastic blog London or Bust). It was lovely to meet Jennie and hear about her experiences having followed her blog throughout her journey. I admire her efforts and think she has raised lots more awareness through this experience. She used her light write (Leonard) in the meeting with her MP, and even let him have a try at using it! J Well done Jennie!

Jennie Marshall and Me

Gala Dinner and Awards

Checking the seating plan to see where I would be sitting, I was excited to see a few names that I recognised (Speech and Language Therapists who have published research etc as well as Gareth Gates!). Once seated, I was delighted to see that Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, and Shadow Minister of Education, was seated on our table with us. Ms Hodgson is a lovely lady and this provided opportunity to network as she introduced me to some of her colleagues (Nick Smith and Geraint Davies (MPs in Wales) and John Bercow, Speaker of the House). Ms Hogdson, Mr Smith and Mr Davies are all supportive of Giving Voice and the work of SLTs and are keen to raise questions in the House of Commons.

Nick Smith, MP , Me and Sharon Hodgson, MP (Shadow Minister for Education)

Geraint Davies, MP and I

The dinner and entertainment was wonderful, and it was exciting to be mingling with so many fantastic people. I also had opportunity to meet Gareth Gates for a chat and photos (which was quite exciting as I voted for him Pop Idol when I was 12! I told him this too!).

The RCSLT Honours ceremony was extremely inspiring and I felt privileged to be watching so many phenomenal individuals being congratulated for years of dedication to the profession. The Giving Voice Awards were equally inspiring, and I felt proud not only to be a Speech and Language Therapist but also to be part of such a brilliant campaign.

I am extremely proud of the North of Tyne Collaboration for winning the Service Award for England - a fantastic team of Speech and Language Therapists and students (with great links to the university), who have worked hard all year long to raise awareness of Giving Voice in a number of ways. Their enthusiasm and team spirit has been inspirational and it has been a pleasure Giving Voice with them all year and I look forward to more Giving Voice related activities in the coming months. I am proud to say I am part of such a brilliant team (through Giving Voice). The Service Award was presented by John Bercow (Speaker) and collected by Alison Proudfoot, Sue Welsh, Kath Frazer and Samantha Hicks on behalf of the team. Well done North of Tyne!!

North of Tyne collecting the Service Award for England

Some of the North of Tyne team with Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates, Mark Logue (Author, and Grandson of Lionel Logue, The King’s Speech) and Geoffrey Rush (Actor) were all nominated and awarded for their part in Giving Voice. Gareth and Mark both made acceptance speeches on stage, and we were shown a pre-recorded message from Geoffrey Rush.

I am still delighted and overwhelmed to have been awarded The ‘Outstanding Contribution to Speech and Language Therapy’ (from within the profession).

I’d like to thank the people that nominated me, it is very much appreciated! For me, Giving Voice has been (and always will be) about raising awareness of our wonderful profession (at a local and political level) and the valuable work that Speech and Language Therapists do on a daily basis for the benefit of people with Speech, Language, Communication or Swallowing needs. Therefore, for me to have been recognised in such a way is amazing and I feel truly honoured to have collected an award (which I dedicate to all service users). It makes me even more proud to say that I am part of such a fantastic profession and I am excited about my future career.

I’ve done lots of campaigning for Giving Voice this year but it would not have been possible without everyone who has supported me and the campaign (especially my family). I was very surprised and touched at how many people have heard of me through following my campaigning and my blog and totally overwhelmed at the fact that people (who I have not even met) are genuinely delighted that my work has been recognised.

After the awards ceremony we had the opportunity to mingle and I talked to some lovely people, including John Bercow (Speaker of the House), Avril Nicoll (editor of Speech and Language Therapy in Practice), Mike Richards (Speech and Language Therapist who helped Service User Mark Wilson overcome some of his difficulties and make a speech at his daughter’s wedding – read more here ) and David Curtin (Student Campaigner of the Year).

Avril Nicoll and I

David Curtin and I
Mike Richards and I

A fantastic evening celebrating so many wonderful achievements. Everyone there should be proud of themselves, and proud of being part of such a wonderful profession. Anyone who wasn’t there, should be equally proud because Giving Voice is a brilliant campaign. I was excited to hear that Newly Crowned Giving Voice Politician of the Year Robert Buckland, raised a question on Prime Minister’s Question Time!
Rt Hon John Bercow, Kamini Gadhok (CEO of RCSLT), Sir George Cox, Mark Logue, Gareth Gates and Bryony Simpson

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has congratulated me over the last week, it means a lot, but let’s not forget what it is all about…

Giving Voice is not over – so let’s keep spreading the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Waking up Westminster

I woke up early on Tuesday morning with excited butterflies fluttering around my stomach, as the day of Mass Mobilisation had finally arrived! After breakfast, we headed out for a little wander around London. Our hotel was located in Central London so it did not take long before we were at Westminster.

Refreshments and Rally

I went into Church House Conference Centre about 11.30am and was feeling very excited and motivated! When I arrived I was surprised and delighted to see so many other people were already there. There was a lovely atmosphere in the Hoare Memorial Hall, where RCSLT provided light refreshments to fuel our energy for meeting our MPs.

It was lovely to see everyone mingling and I enjoyed meeting other speech and language therapists. I saw Jennie Marshall (the inspirational Speech and Language Therapist who cycled 180 miles to get to Westminster) communicating with her light writer (as she did for her whole journey – check out her fantastic blog London or Bust). Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to say hello to her, but I enjoyed her talk during the rally in which she used her light writer to tell us that the cycling was child’s play compared to using the communication aid. I found the whole rally inspirational and the atmosphere was electric. It was brilliantly organised and extremely empowering. It made me proud to be a speech and language therapist (albeit an unemployed one!) and filled me with admiration for SLTs all over the country.

Everyone seemed really excited to be part of such a big event and it was clear that everyone was dedicated to their profession.

Kamini Gadhok, CEO of RCSLT, talks at the Rally


After the rally we walked from Church house, across Westminster Bridge to get some group photos with the Houses of Parliament in the background. Walking across the bridge, flag in hand, the excited butterflies in my stomach were beginning to fly in formation ready for meeting with Ian Lavery, MP. Having always had an interest in politics, I couldn’t wait to go into the Houses of Parliament for my meeting!

Sam, Sarah (final year students at Newcastle) and Me

Me with Alison Proudfoot (group photos)

Westminster Bridge

Palace of Westminster – Meeting Ian Lavery, MP

Once through security, I announced my arrival at the reception desk and was told to wait in Central Lobby until Ian Lavery, MP arrived. Whilst I was waiting, I enjoyed looking around the magnificent area which is Central Lobby. The Speaker’s Procession took place while I was waiting. We found this quite fitting, that John Bercow, Speak of the House (and man behind the Bercow Review - A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs) was walking through Central Lobby as we were waiting to meet out MPs to talk about the importance of Speech and Language Therapy.
(Before every sitting of the House, the Speaker's procession leaves the Speaker's House inside the Palace of Westminster and heads for the Commons chamber.)

Mr Lavery took me through the Palace of Westminster to an outdoor seating area, looking out onto the Thames, where we sat with a cup of tea and talked about the valuable role of speech and language therapists. He was every bit as supportive during this meeting as he was when I had the 1:1 lobby in constituency early in the year.

View from the Palace of Westminster

I felt like I was part of something really special on Tuesday, and I have been delighted to see that MPs have been blogging about meeting with their constituents. I think as a profession we woke up Westminster with regards to Speech and Language Therapy and I hope they continue to talk about it and work with their constituents to protect the profession for the future, so that those people who need it can access SLT services.

Congratulations to everyone who attended (or supported) the Mass Mobilisation event on Tuesday, I am proud to say I was part of it. RCSLT report:

  • 255 Speech and Language Therapists and service users turned up for the Giving Voice rally
  •  Over 100 MPs were met – in private meetings, at the event within parliament and via the green card system
  • Over 400 tweets which included the hashtag #givingvoiceuk were published during the day (keep them coming!) Why not tweet your MP

Giving Voice is not over yet so let’s keep sharing the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Just another Monday morning?... meeting The Hoff

On Monday morning we set of for Newcastle Airport ready to Give Voice for Tuesday’s Mass Mobilisation in London. I have been excited about the mobilisation since the day I signed up months ago so you can imagine this excitement was even greater once our journey began.
Having been following the blog of Jennie Marshall (an SLT who cycled 144 miles to get to London for the mobilisation) over the last week, I’ve found myself thinking about my own communication a lot. This was especially so at the airport, as I couldn’t help think how scary and confusing such a place could be for someone with speech, language or communication needs (SLCN).  Even more so once we reached Heathrow and needed to ask for directions. A simple thing for my parents and I but a task which could be extremely difficult for someone with SLCN.
We made our way out of the airport, onto the tube and arrived at the hotel without any problems. A quick discussion and reading of the map and we realised it wasn’t far to walk from the tube station.
Once checked in, we made our way to the lifts in the hotel lobby. When we got there my mam said to me  ‘that man looked like David Hasselhoff!’ We didn’t think anything of it until a minute later he joined us in waiting for the lift. I agreed with my mam that the man did indeed look identical to David Hasselhoff, and I let her know this with a little non-verbal communication (a discreet smile and a nod!). By this time I really wanted to hear his voice to establish if he was a lookalike or really The Hoff. He got in the lift with us and just as we were going to ask him which floor he was going to he pressed the number himself (2, for anyone who is interested!) My dad said 'hello' as we got in the lift, and Mr Hasselhoff's 'hello' back confirmed his accent!!

I couldn’t help but look at the man in the lift, and then back at my mam. He smiled at us and I think he knew that we recognised him. He opened his room key card, as he smiled, and my mam and I saw that next to ‘customer name’ read: ‘Mr Hasselhoff’ – we looked at each other as if to say ‘I knew it!’ and my mam said ‘you are aren’t you?’ (yes mam, he is (The Hoff), but he can’t read your mind!) (My mam is mortified that she hadn’t thought of something more sensible to say, but it was just such a surreal moment, and I seemed to have lost my tongue completely! So I’m just glad she actually said something at all. I just stood there smiling!)
The Hoff smiled at us and asked us where we were from, and we had a brief conversation. He told us he was going to his room to sleep and when we asked what he was doing in London he said ‘lots of things, you’ll see me all over.’ Sadly at this point he got out the lift and we didn’t see him again. It all happened so quickly (from ground floor to level 2) that I didn’t even have time to ask for a photo. I was so annoyed with myself afterwards that I took it upon myself to write him a letter to tell him it was a pleasure to meet him. I also enclosed a Giving Voice leaflet and told him about the Mass Mobilisation which was due to take place the next day. I gave him my contact details and asked if he would like to meet me any point to get his photo taken to support the campaign, it would be very much appreciated. I then handed the letter in at reception and asked them to deliver it to his room. The lady on reception took the envelope from me and told me she would ensure it was delivered. (‘shy bairns get nowt!’ and all that). Unfortunately, I didn’t hear from him so I will never know if he received the letter. (I tweeted him but did not get a response).
Although a conversation with The Hoff in a hotel lift was more than ‘nowt’, I am disappointed I don’t have a photo. But you know how the saying goes – don’t Hassle the Hoff!
 My first day in London was indeed exciting, but Tuesday surpassed it by far. I’ll save that for another day though...

Me enjoying a cup of tea after meeting The Hoff

David Hasselhoff on BGT (sadly not a photo I took!)

A surreal few days...

I’m home now from a very exciting and rather surreal trip to London as part of the RCSLT Mass Mobilisation event. I have lots to write about (about all 3 days) so I think it will take a good few days before it’s all on here. I also have a lot of photos, from the Mobilisation event and the RCSLT Honours and Giving Voice Awards, so I’m sorting my way through those!
I think RCSLT need huge congratulations on planning, organising and carrying out such a brilliant day! Thank you RCSLT! It was fantastic to see so many people at the Mass Mobilisation and I was proud to be there alongside other SLT's and service users.
I’ll be updating this over the next few days about the events in London and of my Giving Voice experience. Please keep checking back and share it with your family and friends to help us to keep spreading the Giving Voice word that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Speech, Sir Alan, and some Sausage Rolls!

On Friday, Sir Alan Beith, MP, visited the Speech and Language Therapy service in Berwick and I went along too. It was my first ever trip to Berwick (!) and I quite enjoyed the drive up to the other end of my beautiful county of Northumberland (I was lucky that the roads were pretty quiet so it only took about an hour). I don't know why I haven't been up to Berwick before as it's a lovely place :-)

Sir Alan arrived at Berwick Infirmary and was greeted by Sue Welsh, Head of Therapies and Daljit Lally, Executive Director of Adult Care. He then came along to the speech and language therapy department where two service users (a parent of a child with a stammer and a man who has aphasia following a stroke), two speech and language therapists and I met him.

Sue gave a short presentation explaining the value of SLT and outlining the Giving Voice campaign. We then had an informal group discussion with Sir Alan about the variety of work Speech and Language Therapists do.

Sir Alan was surprised at the variety of work speech and language therapists do on a daily basis. He said he was aware that SLT’s work with children who have speech difficulties, but he wasn’t aware of lots of the other work we do (such as work around language and swallowing). He enjoyed talking to the service users (who were both very positive about their experience of speech and language therapy) and told us he felt he was much more informed about the work we do.

Sir Alan, stayed with us for lunch (which was a lovely spread of sausage rolls, sandwiches and fresh fruit) and our discussions continued. Before he left, Sir Alan said he was beginning to think about how life would be for him if he was unable to speak, and realised how he wouldn’t be able to do his job in the same way and how different his life would be. Fortunately, for Sir Alan this was hypothetical, but for thousands of people every single day this is a reality.  

Following the discussion, a photographer took some photos of Sir Alan with the team to use for publicity, and newspaper coverage is due to follow (in the Berwick Advertiser and the health supplement of the Evening Chronicle).

Sir Alan will be meeting with Sue as part of the Mass Mobilisation on Tuesday. Now I’d best go and check I have everything for London as I’m travelling tomorrow, ready to meet my MP, Ian Lavery on Tuesday.

Check out the advice from RCSLT about using Twitter to spread the word about Mass Mobilisation.

Even if you aren’t heading down to London on Tuesday you can still help to spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s see how much we can Give Voice together!!

Sir Alan and I
Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives.