A little-known association of health professionals is blowing its own horn this month, although at least one Penticton family is already well aware of the group’s work.
The 1,200 members of the B.C. Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists are hoping to build on the efforts of the profession’s national group that proclaimed May as Speech and Hearing Month.
By raising its profile, the B.C. group is also trying to raise awareness of what its members do, and how they can help people who are struggling with communication difficulties, like Penticton boy Matt Stevens.
The seven-year-old lives with a condition known as apraxia of speech, which means he has difficulty co-ordinating the muscles in his head and mouth to make sounds.
“Matt never was very chatty as a child or as a baby. He didn’t babble, he was very quiet, so we knew something was up,” said his mom, Michelle Alin.
She became worried her son would be frustrated going through life able to understand other people, but unable to communicate his wants and needs. Matt was referred to a speech specialist when he was just a year old, then was assessed at 14 months. But it wasn’t until about a year later that he began receiving regular speech therapy.
Alin, who credited her son’s team of speech language therapists with helping him to finally say, “I love you,” to his parents just a few weeks ago, suggested caregivers move fast to get help.
“If you have a gut instinct that your child might have a speech delay, they need to get referred — and quickly. There’s a lot of services to access, but you need to get your name on the waiting list in order to do so.”
Janette Grant helps provide those services as Matt’s speech language pathologist
She works for the Okanagan-Skaha School District and co-ordinates his help, which includes a full-time classroom assistant, plus a tutor, speech therapist and an iPad app that allows him to put together sentences that the computer then reads aloud.
Grant said Matt’s parents have made the most of the resources available for their son.
“I think any gains that Matt has made is because this is a family that really used our services the way they’re supposed to be.”
She added that professionals such as herself help a range of clients, including victims of brain injuries and people who stutter.
“It sounds like a very specialized field, and it is, but the scope of it is actually quite large within that field,” she said.
One in 10 British Columbians is believed to have some sort of communication problem, Grant noted, and a doctor’s referral is not needed to access a speech language therapist or audiologist. She suggested anyone interested in seeking help contact a teacher or local health centre.