Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Speech and Language Therapy - Aphasia Outreach Programme

Speech and Language Therapy - Aphasia Outreach Programme


Course Director: Ruth McMenamin
Ruth McMenamin graduated from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown in 1996 with a 1st class honours degree in BSc Speech and Language Therapy. Her first clinical post was within a care position in the Midland Health Board, she was subsequently appointed as an A/Senior position in Tullamore General Hospital within a year of her graduation. In 1997 she joined the team in the Mater Misericor-diae Hospital where she gained experience across all clinical areas in the acute care setting. She continued her professional development by participating in ongoing training throughout her clinical career. She was appointed Senior in Neurology in 1999 in the area of Spinal Injury until 2004. In 2003, Ruth completed an MSc in Health Informatics at Trinity College Dublin and she left the Mater in 2004 to take up her present post lecturing in acquired communication and swallowing disorders at NUI Galway.

Course Title: BSc. In Speech & Language Therapy
Subject: Aphasia Outreach Programme
Year: 4th Year Students
Participants: 25 Students
Hours: 8 hours Tutorial Support 10 hours in the community
Credits: Pass/Fail
Length: 1 Semester
Community Partners: Speech and Language Therapy Department, Galway, HSE, People living with aphasia after acquired brain injury in the Galway Region.

In 2005/2006 a Service Learning module was designed for the undergraduate Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) curriculum and NUI Galway. SLT students are trained as conversation partners and matched with people with aphasia living in the local community. Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder caused by brain damage. It is characterised by an impairment of language modalities speaking, listening, reading and writing (Chapey, 2001). One of the most disabling consequences of aphasia is the way that it excludes the person from conversation (Rayner and Marshall 2003). Students' weekly conversational visits link community service with academic study and result in a new understanding of Aphasia. Preliminary evaluation over the past two years suggests that the Aphasia Outreach Module has positively impacted students and community partners. Students have reported that the skills developed during their Service Learning module will benefit their clinical skills across client groups and settings. Community partners are very positive about the university-community collaboration and the opportunity to engage with students. Service Learning as a pedagogical approach is also supported by academic staff. The aphasia outreach module has now been embedded as a core component in the SLT curriculum at NUI, Galway.