BSc Speech and Language Therapy / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Lifelong Disability A

Course unit fact file
Unit code PCHN20211
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit falls in the first semester of the second year of study and forms the first part of the Lifelong Disabilities theme within the programme. (Part B is in Year 3) The unit is founded on the social model of complex disability in childhood and the role of the speech and language therapist in supporting children and families to overcome the barriers that restrict life choices for individuals who have a disability.

The course unit also uses the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) concepts of body structure and function (and their impairments), activity and participation as a unifying theme across different types of lifelong needs.


The unit aims to:

  • Provide students with the opportunity to develop their understanding of the social model of disability and the implications of lifelong disability for communication needs.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to develop knowledge about a broad range of developmental disabilities including physical, sensory and learning needs.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to gain an understanding of the wider social issues facing families who have a child with developmental needs.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to consider assessment and management options for children with lifelong disabilities within the context of the family, the broader social environmental and the multidisciplinary team.
  • Highlight the role of the speech & language therapist within a multidisciplinary developmental disability team.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to understand principles of practice and to gain knowledge of eating, drinking and swallowing in children.
  • Provide an introduction to specialist intervention, including augmentative and alternative communication methods, for children with a range of lifelong disabilities.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate understanding of the social model of disability, its history and the role it has in removing barriers to participation.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the term lifelong complex disability, the range, diversity and complexity of this client group and the effects on communication development.
  • Demonstrate understanding of and be sensitive to the possible social, emotional, psychological, educational and medical issues associated with lifelong complex disabilities in children.
  • Demonstrate understand of the central role of the family in meeting the needs of children with developmental disabilities and the value, challenges and rewards of working in partnership with families.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the key roles of other professionals in meeting the needs of children with developmental disabilities and the importance of the multidisciplinary team.
  • Demonstrate awareness of appropriate assessment and management choices for children across a range of disabilities and be aware of current specialist interventions available, including AAC.
  • Have an understanding of the development of the typical swallow and developmental norms for eating, drinking and swallowing and an understanding and working knowledge of appropriate swallowing assessments and management techniques.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate the literature in order to select what is pertinent to the lives of specific service users living with certain conditions.
  • Make judicious use of online materials to support development of understanding of contemporary themes and campaigns regarding lifelong disabilities to inform their approach to working with service users and their families.
  • Plan and report on a case study, synthesising information from across materials related to the ICF classification framework and devise a person-centred approach to intervention.
  • Be aware of the limits of knowledge gained in undergraduate training and the additional training that is required to become a specialist therapist.
  • Begin to recognise their own beliefs and prejudices in terms of becoming agents of change to remove such barriers to inclusion for service users.

Practical skills

  • Use library, electronic and online resources
  • Engage with online learning materials.
  • Demonstrate practical clinical strategies around the management of swallowing, eating and drinking in childhood.
  • Demonstrate skills necessary to participate in a practical feeding and swallowing workshop
  • Demonstrate introductory knowledge around the use of AAC devices. 
  • Use presentation skills to effectively describe their chosen case.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Independently gather and synthesise and organise material relating to a case of a child with a lifelong complex disability from various sources.
  • Make an oral presentation of the case to a peer/tutor group, using appropriate media for the audience. Have an opportunity to carry out a formal presentation with viva-type questions.
  • Work appropriately in a small team to listen to others and to share contribution within a seminar sessions.

Teaching and learning methods

Learning and teaching processes utilise mixed modality delivery including; lectures; online materials within a virtual learning module, accompanied by online-guided reading and class exercises; expert case presentations including problem-based learning and videoed case examples.

There will be a workshop demonstration of augmentative and alternative communication methods and devices, and paediatric feeding and swallowing practical activities.

Assessment methods

  1. Attendance at seminars: reading of journal articles and taking part in discussions around specific topics (2 x 1 hour sessions, formative)
  2. Small group mini-presentation: develop hypothetical case study from given data and present within group to gain formative feedback (1 hour, formative)
  3. Case presentation: presentation and viva to tutor and peer group on a hypothetical case study of a child with a lifelong complex disability including communication needs management (30 mins, 100%)

Feedback methods

Verbal tutor feedback is provided directly to students during scheduled seminar sessions.

Verbal and written tutor feedback is provided after mini-case presentation.

A mark and detailed, individual tutor written feedback and marks will be given after summative case-based presentations.

Throughout the unit, students will have the opportunity to self-evaluate their work and understanding against class discussion and tutor comment.

Recommended reading

Atherton et al (2011) Learning Disabilities: Towards Inclusion (ebook) London: Elsevier Health Sciences UK 6th ed.

Batshaw, M (2007) Children with disabilities (6th ed.) Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Winstock, A. (2005) Eating and Drinking Difficulties in Children. Bicester: Speechmark.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 25
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Starkey Unit coordinator

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