Giving Voice

Monday 28 January 2019

"A day without laughter is a day wasted..."

Last week I talked at a Lost Voice Guy Gig in Newcastle about Speech and Language Therapy. It was organised by the SLT Society at Newcastle University and I was delighted to be invited to take part.

RCSLT contacted me before Christmas and asked me if I would be interested in talking at the event. I’d be lying if I said the audience of 160 wasn’t rather daunting, but I agreed that I’d be happy to talk to the students to find out what they required.

 A few emails later and I’d agreed to a 5 minute slot at the beginning of the night. Giving Voice rep and final year student, Fran, was really helpful regarding running order of the evening and possible content for my speech.

I began to write my talk when I was off work over Christmas, and although I was quite happy with the first draft, I knew it still needed some work. Like all good things, I left it for a little while, whilst still thinking about it, to let the ideas grow and develop.

As 21st January approached I knew I needed to work on it a little more so I spent some time re-drafting (and practising on my family). I also discussed it with some of my closest friends (some of whom are also SLTs) for honest feedback. All the feedback was positive, with some ideas for potential extras, so I made a few minor edits in the few days before the big night.

The Friday before I spoke to Derek Munn, from RCSLT, who was also planning to talk on the night, so that we could ensure that our talks complemented each other.

I was excited about talking at the event but also quite nervous. The audience would be expecting comedy and they’d be getting 5 minutes of me: a speech and language therapist who usually only makes people laugh by accident – something I definitely didn’t want to do on stage in front of so many people.

Fran and the other students very kindly arranged tickets for my husband and I to stay and watch the show. We arrived about an hour before it started so that I could see the stage area and have a run through of my speech. By this point I was feeling nervous but I was well prepared and was happy with what I’d written.

Talking in public always reminds me of the complexities of communication. Being under pressure, I worry I might talk too quickly, forget the words I need, or say them in the wrong order – something that people with communication difficulties may worry about every day.

I had chance to talk to the students and to Derek before the start of the show and it was great to feel the excitement and enthusiasm of everyone. I was also very excited to see my name was on the poster! (This was made even more exciting as it’s the first Giving Voice event I’ve been at since I got married last July). 

The students introduced the evening and then it was my turn to talk. I felt nervous, but I was excited to raise some awareness of Speech and Language Therapy. In my everyday life I talk a lot, so standing on stage in front of an audience should be easy, after all communication is what I do for a living. That didn’t make it easy but it did mean I was equipped with the skills and knowledge to deliver the speech effectively. The speech went well and I got a few laughs (in appropriate places!) 

I talked about how important communication is, a brief overview of my involvement in Giving Voice (and arranging comedy gigs starring Lost Voice Guy), the Voice Box joke competition and finished with the range of client groups SLTs work with. I also included some key facts such as 20% of the population may need a Speech and Language Therapist at some point in their lives. That’s 1 in 5 of us.  I wanted to use some facts would reach out to people and that they might remember long after the comedy was over.

The comedy was great; starting the night was Mr Joe King followed by Joby Mageean. We then had a 20 minute interval before the students welcomed us back for the final act. Derek gave an inspirational speech about the importance of communication before introducing Lost Voice Guy to the stage. He was as brilliant as ever and had the audience in stiches!

The students concluded the night with a few thank yous (while Lost Voice Guy came back on stage ‘just for some more attention!’)

It was a brilliant night and the students should be so proud of themselves for organising it.

Communication is integral to us as humans and I love that comedy brings us together for a shared experience in laughter. We definitely had that; whilst also raising awareness of SLT and fundraising for the Percy Hedley Foundation. 
Derek and I with the amazing student team

“A day without laughter is a day wasted” Charlie Chaplin

Monday 27 November 2017

Little Stars

It’s that time of year again! What better way to warm up during the autumn term than an annual joke competition. After the success of last year’s Voice Box we decided to get the laughter started and take part again. Each campus held their own Voice Box competition over the last few weeks through class and whole school assemblies; and we held the intercampus final on Friday.
We chose to host this year’s competition at the campus which gave us last year’s national finalist, Jesse, and it was a lovely afternoon. The audience was made up of parents, staff, KS2 and our judging panel (our Primary Governor, Ian Lavery, MP and our Director of Data).
We heard jokes from 3 children of each campus. The runners up from each told us their jokes first; then we heard from each of our 5 winners. While the judges were deciding on the winning joke we were delighted to welcome back Jesse who told us the joke that got him to the national final last year. Jesse started secondary school in September so it was lovely to welcome him back to his primary school.  Everyone was excited to see him and he told us his joke and talked about his experience of the final in London (read about it here).
Ian Lavery gave out the certificates and medals to all of the runners up before moving on to announcing the winner. It was a tough competition and I’m glad it wasn’t me making the decision! The winner from each campus received a trophy, medal and certificate, with the overall winner receiving an extra special trophy.

It was a lovely afternoon and I am really proud of all the children who took part. I’ve received lots of positive feedback from staff about the increase in the children’s confidence and how much they enjoyed it. Some of the parents also commented about how proud they were seeing their children telling jokes in front of a large audience.
I feel privileged to have been able to take part in this again; our winning joke has been submitted to RCSLT and we look forward to hearing whether she has been shortlisted to the national final.
Whatever the outcome, all of the children are winners to us.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Maximum Impact

Happy No Pens Day!
Maximum impact is something that we all want for our clients as we want to make a difference to the lives of the people we work with, while ensuring what we do is good value for money. The theme of the RCSLT Conference this year was pertinent as it was Maximising Impact. It was a packed two days, which was brilliantly organised, informative and inspirational.
Morag Dorwood, Chair of Council, welcome us to the conference in Glasgow (and to Scotland). The opening keynote speakers really set the scene for what was a highly motivating two days. A leading Allied Health Professions Officer from each country in the UK discussed important issues around workforce, leadership, early intervention and prevention. Kamini Gadhok, Chief Exec of RCSLT led the discussion while they encouraged us to think about our personal and professional impact. They inspired us to be courageous and to develop skills around demonstrating impact.
Morag Dorwood opening the two day conference
Following the keynote speeches the buzz of enthusiasm and motivation could actually be felt in the air, and we moved on to a refreshment break where there was time to look at many exciting posters, exhibits and network with other SLTs.
After the break the first parallel sessions took place; so many interesting topics but only time to attend one! I chose the session around creating and using evidence which was thought provoking and informative.
Following this session the Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House, spoke of his joy and privilege to have been asked to attend the conference. It was a pleasure to listen to him talk so passionately about our profession and to hear him say that the most stimulating and rewarding part of his work as an MP was the review of SLCN (Bercow Review); wonderful to hear a decade on! He also talked about Voice Box (which is hosted at Speaker’s House) and I was delighted that he mentioned Jesse (one of this year’s finalists and a child from the schools I work in) and how Voice Box made him more popular.
The AGM followed John Bercow’s speech and it was lovely to see the photo of the Voice Box finalists (including Jesse!) on screen during the RCSLT impact report (detailed in the September Bulletin for those who’ve not yet seen it). 
The afternoon was another exciting parallel session (this time I chose Child Speech); followed by a keynote from Professor Courtney Norbury. HRH Countess of Wessex also joined us to hear Professor Norbury talk about Developmental Language Disorder. This session was highly motivating as we thought about where we add value, intervention goals and how we can measure impact. It was also interesting to hear more about the change in terminology from Specific Language Impairment to Developmental Language Disorder (DLD).
Morag Dorwood closed the day and also told us that our RCSLT2017 hashtag had been trending on twitter, which was greeted with a cheer from us all.
It was lovely to see a number of Speech and Language Therapists who I haven't seen for a while (including Andrea Robinson and Gill Rudd who I met through the Giving Voice Innovation Group, and Dr Helen Stringer and Professor James Law who were both lecturers during my time at Uni.) It was also nice to meet lots of new SLTs too!
On Wednesday night I attended the social event where the Honours and Giving Voice awards took place. It was lovely to hear about the deserving winners of all the awards and to see HRH Countess of Wessex (Patron of RCSLT) give out the awards. She also talked passionately about the profession and the valuable work we do. 

HRH Countess of Wessex speaking at the Honours Ceremony
Thursday was another informative and interesting day filled with more inspirational speakers. The key note address was from Professor Linda Worrall who is the Director of the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Aphasia Rehabilitation. She encouraged us to think bigger, collaborate with everyone and to always keep the end goal in mind. She challenged us to write a letter to our future selves ( as a gentle reminder to ourselves of something we want to work on or achieve. This is definitely something I plan to do – both on a work and personal level. I like the idea of receiving an email from myself at some point in the future (by a specified date), reminding me of some of the goals I am working and keeping on.
Further parallel sessions took place throughout the day and I’d chosen another good two sessions (this time learning more about Service Delivery, and Developmental Language Disorder). The day closed following another keynote address, this time from 2 service users (Euan MacDonald and Fiona Petrie). This was a highly moving and inspirational session and following both speeches, the whole auditorium gave a thoroughly deserved standing ovation. The main messages from this session were that we should always take into account the views of service users and to never stop fighting for them. This was a moving end to an information packed two days and was good to draw everything together in terms of why Maximising Impact really does matter.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Laughter in London

As the clocks move forward and Spring is in the air, I welcome you to my first post of 2017. Last week was a particularly exciting week for a pupil in one of the schools I work in. Jesse was invited to London as one of the finalists for Voice Box. He was delighted to be able to attend with his Mum and older sister to tell his joke in Speaker’s House at the Houses of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament before we went inside
Upon arrival at Portcullis House we passed through security and were greeted by a buzz of enthusiasm and excitement in the room. I’d tweeted a photo of Jesse travelling to London on the train, which had subsequently been re-tweeted by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT). Not long after we arrived a number of members of RCSLT staff came to say hello and told him they recognised him from Twitter, which really made his day.

At 12.30pm we were all greeted and shown to Speaker’s House, which involved a walk under the road and up a rather grand flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs we were given a name badge and informed that lunch was served. This allowed a nice opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and mingle with the other guests.

It was clear to see how excited everyone was though I’m sure there were lots of nervous butterflies fluttering around in tummies too. During lunch, there was a magician providing entertainment for the guests and was particularly popular with the children.

After lunch, we were called through to the main room ready for the children to tell their jokes. Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, was Master of Ceremonies and he did a great job of keeping the day moving along. He welcomed each of the judging panel and it was lovely to see last year’s winner TJ was back to help choose the winning joke. Read more here about when he won last year. TJ told us his joke at the beginning of the day and then each of the other judges told a joke too.

All of the children were brilliant with a very high standard of jokes (the judges had a tough decision to make!) There were a range of jokes from children from around the country and it was great to see some MPs get up there with their constituents to tell a joke of their own.  

Once all the children had told their jokes we had a refreshment break while the judges made the important decision about the winner and runners-up jokes! We had the opportunity to chat with Ian Lavery, MP who came along to support Jesse.

Jesse and Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

All of the children were presented with a goody bag and framed certificate and Kamini Gadhok, CEO of RCSLT congratulated everyone on reaching the final. Once all of the children received their goody bags the runners up and winner were announced.  It was a brilliant day and a fantastic opportunity for the children! To read Sam’s winning joke visit RCSLT’s Giving Voice website here.

On Friday morning, I received a telephone call from RCSLT informing me that BBC Radio Newcastle wanted to interview Jesse about his experience at Voice Box. Jesse was extremely excited about this opportunity and I went to his school on Friday afternoon so that the interview could be recorded via telephone. We both chatted to the presenter Jon and the interview went out on the Drive Time show on Friday evening. If you’d like to listen to the interview you can find it here (from 54:09) – it’s only available until Friday (07/04/17).

It’s been great to see lots of activity on Twitter, including tweets from RCSLT, BBC Radio Newcastle and Ian Lavery, MP.  More photos from the day can be found on the RCSLT Instagram and Twitter.

It was a brilliant day in London and it was lovely to hear Jesse say that the competition has led to him making more friends. We all thoroughly enjoyed the competition back in the Autumn term (read about it here) and Jesse getting to the final is fantastic.

I received lots of positive feedback about how much the children and teachers enjoyed Voice Box and we are all looking forward to taking part again. It’s a brilliant opportunity to celebrate language and how fun it can be!

Jesse's Mum, me, Jesse and his sister at Speaker's House
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

Thursday 15 December 2016

Inspiring the Future...

Earlier this month I travelled to Manchester to talk at the RCSLT student study day. In the weeks leading up to this I was involved in the Student Day Working Group helping to shape the programme for the day. As a final year student 5 years ago (I really don’t know where the time has gone?!) I found the RCSLT student study day extremely useful so I was very excited to have been asked to take part this year.

The study day took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Manchester and the delegates were seated in Cabaret style via a seating plan to allow opportunity to network across educational establishments. It was a lovely location and the hotel was decorated for Christmas which made me feel rather festive!

Christmas Decorations at the hotel
As well as being involved in the Working Group session near the beginning of the day, I also had a 7 minute slot to talk about ‘How I got there?’ with the theme of Education. I’d spent a long time planning this and thinking about what the students would find most useful, trying to put myself into their shoes as I thought back to my student days. I asked a few of my colleagues and a couple of final year students I know to make sure I captured the relevant information. I felt like 7 minutes was a long time until I began to plan it and realised how much I wanted to say!

I’d typed my speech out and practiced it a number of times and I had planned to read it to make sure I didn’t forget any of the important points. I was quite nervous before I began but I was keen to inspire the students so I stood with a smile on my face and began to talk. I soon stopped reading the speech from the paper and used it only as a guide to talk through my experiences and expand the points as I thought of additional information. The more I talked the less nervous I felt and I was surprised when I was given my 3 minute warning and hadn't got as far through as I thought I would have done. As well as talking about my journey into Education (and the variety of temporary jobs I had before securing a permanent post in Leeds) I also used it as an opportunity to talk about Giving Voice and Voice Box. This was a good link to my experience in Education as Voice Box has been a great opportunity to raise awareness of Speech, Language and Communication Needs in a fun way.

I feel like the students were interested in my experiences and I enjoyed sharing theses. I also had opportunity to talk to a number of students at the breaks (and lovely lunch!) and it was great to feel such a buzz of enthusiasm in the room.

I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the student day and I think the students got a lot out of it. There was a good range of speakers and there were also career and research posters around the room with further information. The RCSLT website has the PowerPoints from the day as well as the research and career posters – check them out here. Please do get in touch with me if you would like to know more :)

As ever, being involved in an event where there are so many Speech and Language Therapists (and students) makes me proud of the profession I’ve chosen and excited for what the future may hold.

Wishing you all a very Peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Sunday 27 November 2016

Laughter is the best medicine!

Earlier this month we hosted our inter-school Voice Box competition in Ashington, Northumberland. It was a lovely end to a busy week and we were delighted to welcome Ian Lavery, MP, and Andrew Day, Executive Director of the Northumberland Church of England Academy (NCEA) to our judging panel. All five schools participated and we invited the winner and 2 runners up from each of them. There were 3 schools from Ashington, one from Newbiggin and one from Lynemouth.
In the weeks leading up to the competition there was lots of chatter about Voice Box as I visited each of the schools. I had presented at a number of the staff meetings to encourage schools to take part and I was delighted with the enthusiasm this had created. A number of the schools sent a homework activity to find and learn a joke and staff reported that this lead to a positive uptake of homework with almost all pupils actively engaging. Each campus held their own Voice Box competition slightly differently with class based competitions, class votes and whole school assemblies.

I was excited for the final and was looking forward to welcoming parents and guests for an afternoon filled with laughter. Key Stage 2 from our host school also formed part of the audience. I briefly introduced the afternoon and then handed the stage over to the budding comedians! All of the runners up went first, followed by the winner from each of the 5 schools. While the judges were deciding their winner (with the help of a score sheet and a Giving Voice pen from their goody bag!) I welcomed Lost Voice Guy to the stage. He entertained us for 15 minutes through a funny story packed with jokes. The children (and adults!) loved him and it was great to have a Comedian join us for the afternoon.
Lost Voice Guy, Ian Lavery, Andrew Day
At the Judges table with their goody bags!

Ian Lavery announced the winner and handed out all of our medals and trophies. All the children received a medal and certificate and the winner from each school also received a trophy. Ian Lavery and Andrew Day both said a few words before I closed the afternoon and thanked everyone attending.

Medals and trophies for the children
It was a truly lovely way to spend an hour on a Friday afternoon and it was nice to be talking about and promoting the Speech and Language Skills of all the children. I’ve had lots of lovely conversations with staff in all the schools about how much the children enjoyed and engaged with it. Most of the schools took part on their No Pens Day which allowed lots of opportunity to really put Speech, Language and Communication at the top of the agenda J

All of the winners have been submitted to RCSLT now and we look forward to hearing back about whether any of them have been shortlisted for the National Final. It was also lovely to see on Twitter that Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, got involved with his local schools competition again too. Read about last year here.

Wishing lots of good luck to all the schools and children who have taken part this year and don’t forget if you haven’t sent in your schools winning joke yet the deadline is this Thursday 1st December! Further details from RCSLT here.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Learning to Laugh

Voice Box season is upon us and I am enjoying encouraging schools to be involved again this year. I am now settled in my new job back home in Northumberland and have spent time since the beginning of term encouraging my new schools to join in. I’ve presented at a few staff meetings over the last few weeks to share information about Voice Box and how staff can get their students involved. Prior to the staff meetings I created a resource sheet summarising what Voice Box is and the benefits of getting involved along with some information about how to support the children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). I also used this opportunity to summarise what makes a joke funny and why this can be difficult for some of the children with SLCN. We discussed how to use the joke telling as a way of exploring vocab and also incorporating it into wider school events such as No Pens Day.

In a few weeks we are having an inter-campus final where the winners and runners up can tell their jokes on stage in front of an audience at one of the schools. Planning for this is going well and I have sent invite letters to local MPs to be on the judging panel.

I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing the winning jokes and hearing how each of the schools are getting on. It’s been lovely that a couple of people have contacted me about Voice Box following my article in Bulletin last month too. I always love hearing from other SLTs!

It’s not too late to get your school involved. Check out the Giving Voice website for the Voice Box toolkit and further information. Happy joke telling!
Tilly and Tom