One of Therapy Care Western Sydney’s resident Speech Pathologist, Kira, has always known her purpose is to support those living with disability. Growing up with a family member living with disability and being exposed to how their support network positively impacted their wellbeing and ability to access the community ignited Kira’s quest to find a career that would support the independence of people living with disability.
The next step for Kira was deciding her area of expertise within the therapy sector. While she was considering a few different paths, the difference communication can make in a person’s life who is trying to gain further autonomy really struck a chord with Kira.
“The power of speech enables individuals to make their own choices, whether it’s verbally or through other means. For those who haven’t experienced difficulties communicating, it’s easy to forget how powerful expressing something as simple as ‘no’ can be,” Kira says.
During her five-year stint at university where she studied a bachelor and masters degree, Kira worked as a disability support worker. Kira loved being immersed in the community and knew that doing so would set her up to be an effective speech pathologist.
“My experience as a disability support worker greatly influenced my approach as a speech pathologist.
“I am so grateful for all the lessons this role taught me. It made me recognise just how important it is to work cooperatively with everyone involved in each participant’s life in order to facilitate meaningful change,” says Kira.
Kira has been with Therapy Care for three months, and loves the collaborative approach the team takes in order to ensure each participant is receiving the right support services to set them up to achieve their NDIS goals.
“Participants benefit immensely from a collaborative approach. Knowing how they are going with their social supports, how they get on with other participants and what goals they’re working towards in other therapies enables me to tailor their speech sessions to their specific goals.
“It’s also really important to know their likes and dislikes and common behaviour, so I can understand how to keep them engaged and create sessions where they make progress and have fun,” Kira says.
At Therapy Care, Kira mostly works with participants living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental disorders, intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments as well as those who have experienced stroke or are living with neurological conditions.
Although Kira hasn’t been with Therapy Care for long, she has already made exceptional progress with participants.
Therapy Care participant Daniel* has been seeing Kira for two months once a week. Daniel also receives physiotherapy support and attends the Group Day Program at Therapy Care, and the team has seen great improvements due to this holistic approach to his NDIS plan.
Daniel has limited verbal communication, so Kira structures her sessions with Daniel as client-led. This encourages Daniel to communicate in his own way what he likes so Kira can further incorporate these activities into their sessions.
Kira has identified certain ways Daniel likes to communicate and shares this with his support workers as it assists in their communications and creates a way for Daniel to communicate his choices.
Kira also creates turn taking activities for Daniel’s sessions, as a large component of effective communication is building social skills that allow participants to understand how to engage in an ongoing ‘to and fro’ situation while building social skills.
For Daniel, verbal communication through visual aid is the most effective way for him to communicate. Kira supports Daniel to make choices through his preferred way of communicating by creating scenarios where Daniel is empowered to choose his preferred option from a set of options. This has really bolstered Daniel’s ability to formulate his messages during his sessions with Kira, and we’re hopeful that Daniel will start translating how he effectively communicates in his home environment.
Another participant Kira has been working with over the past few months is Joshua. Joshua’s biggest goal is improving his conversational skills.
Kira is working with Joshua on reciprocal communication. That is, after he has answered a question, to ask a relevant question to keep the conversation flowing.
“Two-way communication and the ability to take part in conversation is a critical component when it comes to building relationships,” says Kira.
Kira is also strengthening Joshua’s conversational skills by increasing his understanding of a sequence of ‘Wh’ questions; who, what when and why. These questions can be targeted in several ways during sessions including during preferred tasks or games or through role play where Kira and Josh may take turns asking each other questions. For example, Kira will tell Joshua about an activity she did on the weekend like going to the shops. She’ll then facilitate leading questions, asking Joshua if he has any questions about the information she’s just shared, encouraging him along the way.
According to Kira, one of the most important parts of being a speech pathologist, is ensuring each participant enjoys their time and feels valued and supported, as this creates a safe environment for them to learn how to communicate effectively.
Kira is a big fan of communication devices and where suitable, incorporates them into her sessions. Communication devices, systems, strategies and tools that replace or support natural speech are known as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). These tools support a person who has difficulties communicating using speech.
“AAC tools and devices are incredibly useful in decreasing the frustration that is felt when someone is unable to communicate their message.
“They also enable speech to be multi-modal therefore making communication more accessible to people living with disability,” says Kira.
“It’s great finding additional resources for communication. I love identifying new means where participants feel really comfortable communicating through,” Kira says.
Kira believes communication in whatever form it comes should be rewarded.
“When a participant finds a way to effectively communicate, no matter what form, it’s a great achievement for all but especially the participant,” says Kira.
To find out more about speech pathology and the benefits of including therapy supports in your NDIS plan, get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com or calling us on 02 9626 8119.
To read more participant success stories, check out our blog post, ‘Speech Pathology Week 2021‘.
*Daniel is not the real name of the participant. The participant chose to remain anonymous in this piece.