Auditory Verbal UK’s Emma Burton talks us through a very special A Day in the Life (or in this case, ‘A long weekend in the life!’) as she attends the AG Bell Spoken Language symposium in Madrid for the first time...

Despite a minor setback with my morning alarm, I somehow made it across London in time for our flight. More importantly, I made it with enough time for coffee!

We were off to the AG Bell symposium, which sees hundreds of hearing health and education professionals from around the world come together to discuss the latest research related to spoken language development and hearing loss, as well as the latest hearing technology. In addition, my colleagues would be presenting workshops on topics related to Auditory Verbal therapy, providing an excellent opportunity to discuss the work of AVUK on an international level..

This year it was being hosted in Madrid, which happened to be in the middle of a scorching heatwave (perfect for a sun worshipper like me!) Notepad and sun cream at the ready, I was ready to go!

In the distance, the temperature monitors were glowing 40C, and my mentor Estelle Gerrett and I took a touristy moment to celebrate our arrival. I was so excited to be attending this conference as an Auditory Verbal therapist, especially with Estelle, who supported me to certification earlier this year.

It’s crazy to look back on how much I’ve learnt since starting my training with AVUK as a newly qualified Speech and Language Therapist in 2015. 

Next, I hopped on the Metro to meet the ladies I trained with, who became colleagues and friends during the AVUK Foundation course and AVUK Advanced course.

Are you really in Spain if you don’t order tapas?

We didn’t think so! The symposium is a celebration of international collaboration, and covering France, Italy, Ireland and England between us, we felt that we had plenty to celebrate!

Spending time face to face is always such a great opportunity to connect and develop knowledge.

Registration time: The room held an electric atmosphere as everyone was building up for the event and reconnecting with familiar faces. Over 400 delegates from over 40 countries were signing in and collecting their badges. Equipped with our conference swag we were ready to get busy!

It was an action packed programme and, for me, it kicked off with AVUK therapists Noel Kenely, Louise Ashton and Estelle Gerrett presenting their practical workshop ‘Forget the Flashcards and Start Playing’.

They were showing us how to keep therapy fun and functional by applying the 3P framework – a specialised play and language process based on the idea of ‘problem, process and pragmatics’. They provided excellent (totally adorable) examples of evidence being applied in practice.

I was delighted to hear Pamela Talbot, whose ‘Topics on Auditory Verbal Therapy’ steered me into the profession, speak on optimal acoustic access, her personal experiences of delivery therapy via telepractice, and insights into the parent-professional relationship.

Next, AVUK’s Frances Clark and Lyndsey Allen from THINK TALK and LEARN encouraged us to brainstorm how we can really make a difference in the early years for families who have reduced access to resources, by getting hands on and creative.

After this…Sherri Fickenscher, who delivers a compelling presentation on resilience, called for us not only to build brains, but to be ‘brain architects’.

As if this wasn’t enough, I was thrilled to see the latest research evidence providing positive support for the use of telepractice, and with a riotous keynote speech from giants in the field, Jane Madell and Carol Flexer, we drew to a close. 

It certainly was a whirlwind of memorable days in the global listening and spoken language community! My favourite parts were meeting old friends, making new ones, and being immersed in so many high quality presentations. Feeling equipped with lots of new learning to bring back into my sessions, I am very much looking forward to the next AG Bell conference in Baltimore 2020, and I hope to see you there!