Each year, Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC) dedicates the month of May to raising public awareness about communication health and to highlight the importance of early detection and intervention in the treatment of communication disorders.
We would like to take this time to recognize and appreciate all the wonderful work that Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) do to engage the families, professionals, and communities with which they work. Meet Lisa, Mia, and Rhea – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) SLPs working at Robert and Lily Family Community Health Centre. They work with children under five years old in the community who have communication disorders, including difficulty pronouncing sounds, language disorders, stuttering, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Lisa, Mia, and Rhea provide a service what most people picture in their head when thinking about speech therapy – working in an office and playing games while practicing sounds. But they also do much more. They are involved with the Support for School Success program, which provides a multidisciplinary assessment for children who may need extra supports when entering kindergarten. Rhea and Lisa supervise two UBC SLP students each year, in an innovative practicum which involves the students going into two Aboriginal Head Start programs called Singing Frog and Eagles Nest, supporting the children and families there, and working collaboratively with the educators. All three SLPs are also involved in a group language therapy program called Language Fun Story Time (LFST). The program is typically run with parents and children at community centres. Recently, they ran LFST in several childcare programs, interacting with up to 18 children in the centre. The centres value the learning and interactions these clinicians have with the children so much that they recently reached out and Lisa is going to try to run it over Zoom during the COVID-19 quarantine.
VCH's values (We Care for Everyone, We are Always Learning and We Strive for Better Results) are evident in their work every day. "I think our work in the Downtown East Side (DTES) and at Head Start has really allowed us to find the crack and crevices that we can flow into as SLPs," says Mia. And she doesn't mean solely to provide therapy but also to strengthen the current system. Families, day care providers, pediatricians and staff are fertile grounds for planting that seed to highlight that effective communication is at the heart of what children need to succeed and thrive in challenging circumstances. "It is a huge honour to be trusted in these settings," says Mia. "Some have been let down by the system and our work here helps us to become trusted allies in their role of raising their families." Mia and the team also praises the daycares and preschools for their commitment to the families and clients. "It is so fun and inspiring to share this work with them."