Employability Series: Speech and Language Therapist, Marianna Puzzo, talks to Applied Linguistics students – by Ed Clarke

 As part of our employability programme in the Applied Linguistics department, we invited alumna , Marianna Puzzo, who is now a qualified Speech and Language Therapist, back to talk to our students about a potential career in SLT.

Graduating with a degree in English Language and Italian in 2014, Marianna went on to do a BMedSci in Speech Science at the University of Sheffield which qualified her to become a Speech and Language Therapist. A course which took 4 years to complete.

One of our third years, Ed Clarke, who is in his final year of the BA (Hons) English Language degree and is editor of the student-led Swansea Linguistic Journal for 2018-2020 had this to say about the event.

Marianna Puzzo’s presentation about working in speech and language therapy was well-attended and I’m glad I went as the session was both informative and fascinating. The talk varied from information about the day-to-day responsibilities of a Speech and Language Therapist, to demonstrating how much of an impact a speech and language therapist’s work can have on their patient’s lives. As a final year student in the Applied Linguistics department, I greatly enjoyed learning about this unfamiliar profession. It opened up ideas about potential career opportunities that I might be able to pursue after university; ones I hadn’t thought about before.

One of the first and most interesting aspects of the talk was when Marianna posed the simple question ‘What does a speech and language therapist actually do?’ Students offered a variety of responses such as ‘helping with speech impairments’ or ‘helping with fluency issues’. However, we were then informed that the responsibilities of a speech and language therapist went beyond those original expectations. It seems that Marianna’s profession and skills qualify her to help with swallowing issues and difficulties with social interaction. These aspects were just a few examples of a wide range of issues that a Speech and Language Therapist helps a patient overcome, which I found just as surprising as I did interesting.

A particular responsibility of a speech and language therapist that I found noteworthy was they were part of a multidisciplinary team that diagnoses a patient’s specific difficulties. I felt that this responsibility was significant – it is this diagnosis that is the starting point for a patient’s recovery and Speech and Language Therapists have specific skills that they can add to this. Once a diagnosis has been made, she is be able to recommend the most efficient treatment and recovery plan available to help her patient to the greatest extent possible. An aspect of this process that I had previously underestimated was the variability in how Marianna approaches different patients. She explained as a therapist that you have patients that come from contrasting backgrounds, with unique issues that must be taken into consideration. This means that the way Marianna tries to inform different patients will differ greatly depending on multiple factors, such as their age and prior knowledge about the subject and their cognitive ability. Thus she adapts the way she discusses any issue at hand by trying to find a balance between making the information understandable, as well as not losing too much important information. This is where accessible and easy read information is pivotal. I found the need to provide knowledge to a patient in the most efficient way possible is key to success, as it helps avoid confusion for the patient. Furthermore, the more knowledge a patient has about their difficulty, the better awareness and readiness they have for therapy.

The thing I found most interesting was the demonstrable passion and care needed for this particular pathway. Marianna stressed the amazing feeling of making such a difference on someone’s life, especially for patients who may be struggling with life. She explained the rewarding feeling you experience as a Speech and Language Therapist through the use of prior knowledge of language to actively improve someone’s life. I found this aspect of the job brilliant, as it provides a type of accomplished feeling that seems to be unrivalled by other occupations.

Marianna was an inspirational example of the Swansea Applied Linguistics graduate; you could see the knowledge she had gained while at Swansea University and developed at Sheffield. The passion she had for her current role was demonstrable throughout her presentation. She showed us how working as a Speech and Language Therapist can greatly benefit others in the wider community and allow you to apply the knowledge you gain from your own learning during university.