When former art teacher Fiona Dagott chose to study the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at Southern Cross University, she had plans to become an art therapist and combine her two passions.
However, a recent six-month project partnering with a speech pathology clinic in Varsity Lakes has inspired Fiona to consider a career in occupational therapy, policy and social justice, to help deaf children receive treatment beyond speech therapy as well as help them overcome other developmental delays.
Fiona and her project partner Sally Iles, also an Occupational Therapy student, will present their community-based health promotion project alongside 20 other teams at the Allied Health Student Conference, organised by Southern Cross University’s fourth-year podiatry, speech pathology and occupational therapy students.
More than 40 students will present their major research projects at the annual conference at the Gold Coast campus on Friday, May 11. Health professionals and interested community members are invited to attend.
Fiona said she was excited by the possibilities of her team’s project.
“The aim of our project is to empower Speech-language Pathologists to detect and address other developmental delays for deaf and hearing-impaired children aged three months to seven years, by providing a red flag checklist and associated intervention activities,” she said.
“The checklist isn’t a diagnostic tool, as speech pathologists already have so much responsibility, but rather it is to make it easier for speech pathologists to tell if children also have issues with balance and vision so they can be referred to specialists. Often speech pathologists are the only allied health professionals hearing impaired children have regular contact with.
“Most of the time a lot of funding is focused on speech and communication, and little funding is put aside for other issues that children with hearing impairment are likely to face, such as issues with fine and gross motor skills and balance which affects everything from riding a bike and playing with their friends to sitting at a desk and writing.”
Other projects to be presented at the Allied Health Student Conference include; building mother-baby attachment through play for mothers experiencing mental health challenges; improving students' functional communication skills at a special school using a communication package; and promoting health and wellbeing amongst Vietnamese veterans staying at the Friendship Village in Hanoi.
Student organisers Matthew Bucholtz, Jana-Jade Loadsman and Claire McKenzie said the conference will count towards six professional development points for those working in the industry and included trade display stalls from 16 industry representatives.
Mr Bucholtz, a podiatry student, said the Allied Health Student Conference was now in its seventh year and had grown annually, with more than 300 expected for the one-day conference.
“These 20-minute presentations enable students to demonstrate the culmination of six months’ work and will cover a wide range of health-related topics that are encountered in the allied health field, not only for their fellow students and supervisors, but also professionals, suppliers and organisations,” he said.
“There will be two keynote speeches, including NDIS Community Engagement Manager Zoe Gill, and general managers Rae Plush and Leanne White from the Australian Health Promotion Association.”
The Conference will begin at 9am, with registration opening at 8am, in Building C. Tickets are $10 per person, which includes morning tea and lunch. The conference will conclude at 4pm with afternoon drinks and nibbles in the outside marquee.
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