Dr Sarah Spencer, Lecturer
“I'm programme lead for the BMedSci in Speech and Language Therapy and Co-Director of Professional Education and my research builds on my previous work.”
“The subject of my PhD looked at the amount of teenagers who have difficulties with language - for example teenagers who find it difficult to understand and follow complex sentences, tell stories, or use less common words. I found that a lot of teenagers struggle with these skills and indeed have significant language disorders, but that these were often not diagnosed or supported in their schools.”
Sarah is originally from Newcastle and had goals of becoming a speech and language therapist since school – she started her PhD in 2006 and passed her viva in 2010 and is a qualified speech and language therapist interested in social justice. Sarah says, “I honestly loved my PhD from day one and I really enjoyed having time and space to engage with ideas from different disciplines - seeing childhood, language and education through different lenses. I loved hearing about different forms of research, from within my field and beyond. My PhD also involved a lot of time in secondary schools, which was great. I spent most of my time talking to young people, which was extremely enjoyable and rewarding.”
Sarah was supervised by Dr Judy Clegg and Professor Joy Stackhouse in the Department of Human Communication Sciences. She adds, “I had contacts here with community groups, schools, and speech and language therapy teams. The academics who supervised me have great reputations world-wide as both researchers and clinicians.”
Sarah has since continued her research addressing issues such as the lack of educational support for teenagers with language disorders, the linguistic discrimination faced by children and young people in school and finding new ways of supporting the development of communication skills in the classroom.
This year, Sarah is planning to evaluate an early language skills group in partnership with the Sheffield Children's Speech and Language Therapy Group and planning a research project on children's writing, social class, and dialect. She is also working with the national charity I CAN on their Talk About Talk Programme, which works with young adults with language disorders on how to become local ambassadors for inclusive employment.