Our speech pathologist, Di Lam, attended a workshop in Melbourne this year. It was presented by Justine Joan Sheppard, who specialises in Dysphagia in Disability. Here are Di’s reflections after the course………

What were the main topics covered?

  • Swallowing and Feeding Disorders in Developmental Disability and their causes
  • Dysphagia Disorder Survey (DDS) & Dysphagia Management Staging Scale (DMSS) overview, how to use it (i.e. items involved, administering items, scoring and what it all means), practise using the tools (via use of recorded case studies) and certification in use of the DDS and DMSS
  • Overview of risk screenings (CRA and PRA)

The best thing about attending?

  • I now have a standard protocol for conducting dysphagia assessments for individuals with a disability.
  • I have a standardised method to score mild, moderate and severe dysphagia in adults with disability.
  • I am now certified to use the DDS and DMSS assessment tools.

Your top one (or three!) take home messages?

The method in which we use to screen and clinically examine swallowing difficulties in stroke or geriatric patients must differ from the way we assess swallowing difficulties in people with disability (I kind of already knew this but it was driven home in the course!). The DDS and DMSS may give you some initial information but are not diagnostic – we screen/assess using these tools so that we can obtain management strategies.

How will this change the way you practice with our clients?

It will make the way I screen and clinically examine swallowing disorders in clients with disability more consistent and standardised. This helps me to deliver a more informed, evidence-based service.