August 27, 2019

Speech Pathology Week: Communicating with Confidence

There are 1.2 million Australians with communication disability.

Speech pathologists like Stephanie Bennetts from Northern Health, work with these Australians to help them ‘communicate with confidence’ – which is this year’s Speech Pathology Week theme.

Speech Pathology Week runs from 25 – 31 August and is celebrated nationally.

Speech Pathology Week is designed to help raise awareness about speech pathology services in the hospital and community. It also provides an opportunity to advocate for people experiencing communication or swallowing difficulties.

“This year the theme is about educating everyone that there’s lots of little things you can do that make a big difference to those that are having trouble communicating, like giving them a bit more time and encouraging them to keep trying,” she says.

Glenroy resident, Tagreed Khouri, has experienced firsthand how speech pathologists can help people communicate with confidence.

Four and a half years ago, she underwent an operation on her brain after an aneurysm. The operation was successful but two days later, Tagreed suffered a stroke, losing her memory and speech.

“I was like a child,” she tells us.

For several weeks after, Tagreed was in rehab, where she first started speech therapy – “It was when I was in rehab I started to realise that something was really different. I couldn’t talk like I used to before. I couldn’t understand like I used to before.”

“This made me really upset. Before my stroke, I was very fluent in English and Arabic. I was an auctioneer – I used to speak all day for my work,” she says.

Whilst in rehab, Tagreed learnt that she had a condition called aphasia.

“Aphasia is like your brain is tricking you – you know what you want to say but you can’t get the words out – it affects your ability to understand,” she says.

After her initial speech therapy, Tagreed came to Northern Health for ongoing outpatient speech therapy to continue speech rehabilitation.

“The speech therapists are amazing – that’s all I can say. They’re very patient and understanding and helped me in any way they could, not just with speech, but life – my new life.”

Following speech therapy at Broadmeadows Hospital, Tagreed tells us her confidence is better than before.

For people having trouble communicating, Tagreed encourages them to “keep trying to get your message across – even if it’s hard.”

Tagreed also started volunteering at Northern Health to give back and help other stroke patients.

“I was on the rehab ward and looked after the stroke patients, talked to them, and a lot of them had no idea that I’d had a stroke,” she says.

“I encouraged them to be positive. Talking to the patients was really important because they can see after a stroke that it’s okay, that they do get better – giving them hope. For me, it was rewarding to help people get better.”

“Communication is a basic human right. We as speech pathologists have a big role in helping people like Tagreed to continue to communicate, even though it might be difficult,” Stephanie Bennetts says.

This Thursday, the Northern Health Speech Pathology Department are hosting a silent afternoon tea, encouraging staff to communicate without speech. The afternoon tea will be held above Henry’s Cafe at 10.30 am.

Tagreed (middle) with Broadmeadows Hospital speech pathologists, Elissa and Stephanie