Monday, 9 December 2013

BSLTRU: helping students become evidence-based speech and language therapists

Having just finished my (Vikki Greenhalgh) first year of studying postgraduate speech and language therapy at Canterbury Christchurch University in Kent, the hot topic of ‘evidence-based practice (EBP)’ is something that has been ingrained into my way of thinking. 
Vikki Greenhalgh at BSLTRU
Throughout our EBP learning about the hierarchy of research literature and how to critically appraise a publication, I and I think several other members of my cohort developed a more critical mindset and found our questions evolving from ‘What is the evidence-base?’ to ‘How does the evidence-base inform and improve practice?’.

Given the current emphasis that the RCSLT has put on EBP in speech and language therapy in order to improve outcome measures, I was interested to read in McCurtin and Roddan’s (2012) review ‘Evidence-based practice: SLTs under siege or opportunity for growth? The use and nature of research evidence in the profession’ that SLTs in practice were finding it hard to integrate EBP into their daily practice as they experienced barriers such as ‘time’ and ‘lack of skills’.

Being an SLT of the future in a time where effective outcome measures are more important than ever, I was left with more questions than answers as to how research can enable SLTs to improve their practice.

Drawing on my learning about reflective thinking I decided that I needed to take Kolb’s advice and complete my ERA (experience à reflection à action) cycle. Therefore with enthusiasm and optimism on my side, I set out to find a solution to my problem. This quest led me to organise a research placement with the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit (BSLTRU) for the last three weeks of my first year of study. Working alongside researchers who are/were practicing SLTs would be a great place for a student like me to develop my understanding of how practice and research can compliment instead of collide.

Working alongside Yvonne Wren and the team at BSLTRU has been an inspiring experience and has helped answer many of my questions around the practical applications of EBP. I am sure that every SLT practicing today can think of a valid research question, however my experience at the BSLTRU has given me an overview of how this question develops into data collection/analysis and how the findings can be disseminated to improve practice. This placement has shown me the importance of including as much professional and public involvement in your research as possible but also the challenges of achieving this objective. In order to nurture the growth of the next generation of SLTs I think that a research placement is an invaluable experience for student SLTs to gain during their studies and really recommend that other students who are interested seek out a similar opportunity.
Along with my invaluable experience at the BSLTRU I found the book ‘Creating practice-based evidence: A guide for busy SLTs’ edited by Corinne Dobinson and Yvonne Wren, a really useful tool when thinking about how I could go about integrating research into my practice, definitely worth a read!

Lastly, if you have time here is an interesting 5 minute talk about the challenges of client-centred EBP by Kate Malcomess .


Dobinson, C. and Wren, Y. (2013) Creating Practice-based Evidence: A Guide for SLTs. Guildford: J & R Press.
Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

McCurtin, A. and Roddam, H. (2012) Review: Evidence-based practice: SLTs under siege or opportunity for growth? The use and nature of research evidence in the profession. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Vol. 47 (1) 11-26. Available at



Friday, 25 October 2013

‘He’ll grow out of it, won’t he?’. The characteristics of older children’s speech when they have – and haven’t – ‘grown out of it’

The Department of Speech and Language Therapy and Rehabilitation at Birmingham City University will hold the  following research seminar as part of its on-going seminar series:

DATE: Wednesday 6 November, 3 – 4 pm

VENUE: Seacole 145, City South (Edgbaston) Campus, Birmingham City University

Seacole Building, Birmingham City University
‘He’ll grow out of it, won’t he?’. The characteristics of older children’s speech when they have – and haven’t – ‘grown out of it’  
Bristol Speech & Language Therapy Research Unit,
Frenchay Hospital, Bristol

Abstract: Studies of speech sound development and disorder have typically focused on young children learning speech prior to starting school. This is understandable given that studies of speech acquisition have shown that the process of learning to use a system of speech sounds is usually complete by age 8 (Dodd, Holm, Hua, & Crosbie, 2003; James, 2001; Smit, 1993a, 1993b).  While it is known that for some children, difficulties with their speech persist beyond age 8, there is limited information about the nature of such children’s difficulties and how they compare with children who have typically developing speech at the same age. This paper will present data from a large scale population study in which speech samples of 8 year old children were analysed in terms of percentage consonants correct scores, error types (substitution, omission, distortion, addition) and syllable structure. The patterns of speech production of children who were identified as having difficulties were then compared with children who were typically developing. The results of these analyses will be reported leading into a discussion of how this should influence clinical practice for children with persistent speech disorder.

The seminar will be followed by a wine reception and is free to attend. Seats cannot be reserved but an indication of intended attendance will be appreciated with a view to provision of refreshments. If you are planning to attend, please e-mail Christel de Bruijn on, or reply to this email.

Capacity for car parking is limited and visitors are encouraged to car share or use public transport. A few free car parking spaces can be reserved for external visitors (via only), and these will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Additional paid car parking (for a fee of £1-£2) is available in the student car park. Both visitor and paid car parks are on Westbourne Road.

For directions and maps, please see:

For information about public transport, please see:

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cleft Gene Bank to welcome a Royal visitor

Dr Yvonne Wren joined other members of the Cleft Collective research team to welcome the Countess of Wessex to the University of Bristol today. The Countess was there in her role as patron of the Healing Foundation, the charity which is funding the research.

HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO
Image by © 2013 The Royal Household Bagshot Park/Image by Millie Pilkington

The Cleft collective is the world’s largest ever cleft lip and palate research programme and was launched last year.  HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO, is Patron of the Healing Foundation, and visited the Healing Foundation Cleft Gene Bank and Birth Cohort Study at the University of Bristol. To read more about this visit  'News from Bristol University' or follow the links below to the 'Bristol Evening Post'

Thursday, 17 October 2013

BBC's Expert Women's Day

Dr Yvonne Wren is a research speech and language therapist with a particular interest in children's speech development and disorder.

Yvonne is based in Bristol but presents her work both nationally and internationally. She was an invited speaker at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Convention in 2012 and will be the keynote speaker at the conference of the National Association of Professionals working with Language Impaired Children in 2014. She has published in a number of international journals and is also on the editorial board of the journal, Child Language Teaching and Therapy. She has been successful in obtaining a number of research grants, including a fellowship from the National Institute of Health Research.

This video was a shortlisted application to one of the BBC's Expert Women's Day events, which offer free training to female specialists who would like to appear in the media as contributors and presenters.

Find out more about the initiative and see other expert's videos at the Expert Women's Day YouTube channel or the BBC Academy website

Monday, 14 October 2013

Free speech and language therapy resources available on our website!

The resource pages were set up by one of the research team following the suggestion from the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit Parent Panel. 

The research team were trying to find ways to encourage parents to take part in our research.  The Parent Panel suggested that we needed to offer parents them something useful and interesting about children’s language development as a thank you for taking part.  They also pointed out that the quality and appropriateness of information and resources on the internet is variable!
So one of the speech and language therapists on the research team searched the internet and identified some useful sites developed by other organisations.

The resource pages were originally only accessible to people who had completed the ‘Child Talk – What Works’ parent online survey.  We received some very positive feedback from parents, and also from Afasic who liked the way that the resources were designed for parents.  So, when the survey closed we made the resource pages open to all.

The resources with links are produced and provided by a range of sources so, although reviewed by a therapist, are not necessarily evidence based.  
Online Resources and Recommendations were identified from searching the internet and our experience as therapists here at the research unit including:

  • Helpful advice and information sheets
  • Games ideas
  • Picture cards and board games to print
  • Tips to use at home
  • Links to internet games

To make this easier to navigate we’ve put them into categories by age group:

They are then divided down further into:

  • Speech activities - ideas to help your child say particular sounds

  • Language activities - how to support your child’s attention and listening, to develop their understanding of language and to support them to say more words or longer/more complex sentences

We’ve also put together a list of some free or under £5 speech and/or language apps (prices accurate as of the end of April 2013). This market changes regularly but we hope it will be a useful starting guide to help you investigate what’s out there.

The resources do not replace speech and language therapy.  So, if you have concerns about the speech and language development of your child, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a speech and language therapist.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Visitors from Down Under

The staff at the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit (BSLTRU) were pleased to welcome Professor Sharynne McLeod, Dr Jane McCormack, Kate Crowe and Sarah Masso from Charles Sturt University Australia. We are collaborating with them on a project called 'Sound Start'. This will evaluate the use of 'Phoneme Factory' in Australian preschools. Phoneme Factory is a software package designed by Yvonne Wren and Sue Roulstone to improve the phonological awareness of children with speech sound disorders.

Our mutual interests in speech sound disorders, children's perspectives, and the effectiveness of interventions kept the discussions lively and we learned much from each others' work.

We started the week sharing information about our research projects.  The rest of the week the Sound Start team worked on analysing data, planning future data protocols, and having meetings with Paul White (University of the West of England statistician), Duncan Witham (busythings software developer), and Liz Dymond (North Bristol Trust innovations manager). Professor Sue Roulstone provided tutorials on randomized controlled trials and the history of Phoneme Factory Sound Sorter. In they evenings we continued our discussions as we explored Bristol and went on the Gromit trail in support of the Bristol Children's Hospital.

Staff and students at the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit with their Australian visitors

Thursday, 18 July 2013

'Child Talk - What Works' How parents can have their views about preschool SLT heard

I have always secretly wanted to be a movie star. I lack most of the basic requirements (acting skills, looks, that sort of thing) but against all the odds I have now achieved my ambition! Check out our new whiteboard animation

Yes, I am Jacob, although I can't claim to be as good looking as the animated version of me. I have less hair for a start. But how did I get to reach the giddy heights of whiteboard animation fame? (and fortune to follow, perhaps... or maybe not)
Well, it comes from being part of the "parent panel" supporting the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit and specifically the Child Talk - What Works programme of research.  The aim of the panel is to act as a bridge between the research and the public, trying to help the research team find ways to reach and engage the public and then to make the findings of the research accessible to the public. We've helped to write questionnaires and information leaflets and said "what does that actually mean?" a lot, when faced with mind boggling research jargon.
And so to our most recent task: a short film to promote the research project to other parents. It took about 30 seconds to agree that none of us on the panel could act, so an animation seemed the best way forward. Someone suggested a whiteboard animation - which was followed by a happy half hour on youtube finding out what they were, some brainstorming to come up with a storyline and a little coercion to get volunteer voices and an artist.
I think it's great fun - I like the style of video, it gets information across in a light-hearted way. We really hope that the message is clear: if you are a parent and you are worried about your child's speech, please consider taking part in this research. The research team can offer loads of resources that might help you, and the views you contribute will shape the outcomes from the research - to help improve speech and language services across the country.