What if you couldn't speak?

Date: 22/08/2018

Communication is an essential part of everyday life, but what if you couldn’t speak?

During Speech Pathology Week (19-25 August), Cabrini Health is encouraging people to seek help if they are struggling to communicate.

The importance of communication in creating equality is central to the theme of this year’s Speech Pathology Week – communication access is communication for all.

For many people, communication is a daily struggle, one which Parkinson’s patient Margaret Batt knows all too well.

The 84-year-old former speech pathologist has been undergoing speech therapy herself at Cabrini Health to improve her speech following her illness.

Mrs Batt’s voice is very soft as a result of her disease, which can made it difficult for others to listen and communicate with her.

“I have trouble getting started on a subject and I can’t introduce a subject, which makes it very difficult,” Mrs Batt said.

“I don’t have many people to talk to, so it can be very socially isolating.”

Mrs Batt said speech pathology had improved her sound and voice quality, enabling her to contribute to conversations.

“My speech pathologist was very patient and inspired me to keep practicing,” she said.

“My sound quality has improved enormously.”

Speech Pathologists like Lillian Krikheli can help people improve their speech clarity, treat voice disorders and assist people who have difficulty swallowing.

Ms Krikheli said speech changes and swallowing disorders could impact people’s self-confidence and could result in social isolation.

“Food in particular is such a big part of our lives and is linked to being social. If people feel self-conscious eating, drinking or talking to people it can leave them feeling socially disconnected,” Ms Krikheli said.

“A big part of what we do is assisting people to get back to work or to their hobbies so they can remain connected to their community.”

“It is about much more than the way they talk, it’s about their self-confidence and their ability to engage with the things they love and enjoy doing without the barrier of being unable to communicate.”

Ms Krikheli said speech pathology was not just about helping the patient but also about assisting loved ones and carers to provide appropriate support.

“It is about creating an accessible environment for the patient and to target treatments and develop strategies so they feel empowered to achieve the things they need to achieve,” she said.

Cabrini speech pathologists work in acute, rehabilitation, palliative care, aged care settings and ambulatory services assisting people with a range of speech-related issues including people who have had a stroke, Parkinson’s or other progressive diseases that can affect speech and communication.

“We assess and manage communication and swallowing issues for people of all ages, from babies with feeding difficulties to adults in end of life care,” Ms Krikheli said.

Cabrini Health also offers a range of specialised outpatient services including videofluoroscopy (swallow x-ray), Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT) program for people with Parkinson’s disease and neurological speech, voice and communication programs.

Ms Krikheli said the importance of Speech Pathology Week was to raise awareness of some of the issues people with speech or other communication difficulties faced and to improve education for those caring for people with speech-related issues.