Speech Pathology Week (20-26 August) and this year’s theme ‘Communicating for life’ highlights the vital role that speech pathologists like Kirstie play in supporting quality of life across a lifespan for people with disability, such as Yooralla client Lulu.
Five-year-old Lulu has been supported by our Speech Pathologists to develop her communication skills – and with safe swallowing, eating and drinking – and is making excellent progress in her first year of primary school.
Over the past three years, Speech Pathologist, Kirstie Calder, (working alongside our Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists) have supported Lulu’s inclusion through significant life stages, including when she was in childcare and kindergarten and during her transition to school this year. Kirstie's input as a Speech Pathologist has been critical in supporting Lulu, who has global development delay, and her family with their goals.
Over the past three years, Kirstie has helped Lulu develop a better understanding of language. “Lulu had difficulty with language comprehension and following instructions, and she presented with situational mutism when she started accessing our services,” said Kirstie.
“Over time, with the support of Speech Pathology, Lulu developed her understanding of language. She began using a combination of multimodal communication including sign language, Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication book, and assistive technology such as PODD app on her IPAD. Speech Pathology support enabled Lulu to trial different options and then use her NDIS funds to acquire a communication app on her IPAD,” Kirstie said.
“As Lulu has developed her skills and confidence, she currently does not need to use the PODD system much at all, as she mostly uses her own voice to talk to others. Lulu’s speech is also now much easier to understand than in the past,” said Kirstie.
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In addition to making excellent progress with her language and communication goals, our Speech Pathologists have supported Lulu to overcome her swallowing and feeding difficulties.
“Lulu is sensitive to different food tastes and textures and [with her Speech Pathologist] participated in ‘food exploring’ session aimed at increasing her curiosity about different foods.”
Kirstie also worked with Lulu and her family to provide a personalised ‘How I Eat and Drink Profile’, which has supported her to eat and drink safely at home and school.
“One of the strategies that has helped Lulu to eat safely is remembering to ‘pace herself’ so she swallows safely,” said Kirstie.
“Lulu has made good progress and she now safely enjoys an increasing variety of tastes and textures of food,” said Kirstie.
Kirstie said that the most rewarding part of her role as a Speech Pathologist is “supporting children and their families to work towards their goals in communication and/or eating and drinking skills.”
“I enjoy helping children develop their speech and language skills to reduce their frustration and interact better with family and friends. I also enjoy providing information and strategies, and trialling equipment with the child’s family and support team to support children to be in the best position to eat and drink safely (and with enjoyment!),” Kirstie said.
Kirstie said she loves the autonomy and flexibility in my job, and the variety in her day. “I enjoy working in a Keyworker role too with families of young children, and supporting them to make steps towards goals related to various developmental skills, mealtimes, sleep routines, behaviour and play skills.”
“I love working together with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and specialist behaviour support practitioners. I have learned so much working alongside them and this is one of the best parts of my job,” she said. “I love having team support. I’m grateful to share ideas and continue learning through peer support with other speech pathologists, my manager, team leader and clinical supervisor.”
“I enjoy sharing information and collaborating with educators and assistants at early learning centres, kinder and schools. It’s a privilege to work where the child spends a lot of their time!”