August 24, 2020

Speech Pathology Week: Communicating with confidence

Speech Pathology Week promotes the profession and work done by speech pathologists with over 1.2 million Australians who have a communication disability. The theme for Speech Pathology Week 2020 is Communicating with confidence.

Rebecca Lamont, Northern Health Speech Pathologist, explained the team works with all aspects of communication challenges, relating to language, understanding and expression, voice, fluency and similar. The same muscles used for speech are used in swallowing, so the team are experts in that field too, and can also help with cognition and thinking skills.

Maree Spencer is one of Northern Health’s patients that Rebecca has been treating at the Bundoora Centre and at Maree’s home.

“She was first seen in July 2019 and diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) at 54 years of age. MND is a progressive, degenerative and fatal condition, that has no cure and no known cause. There is only one medication that can be used to slow down the symptoms, but doesn’t work to stop it,” she explained.

The disease affects parts of the brain that control movement, and as a consequence the muscles atrophy and weaken because they are not being used. The people lose the ability to move, speak or breathe.

Maree walks with a four wheel frame to avoid falls and her speech has almost completely stopped. To be able to communicate, she uses a text-to speech app or her phone and iPad, and the device then speaks for her.

“Most of the time, people with MND have preserved cognition and intelligence, and this is what makes the disease very difficult, as people are fully aware what is happening to them,” Rebecca explained.

“The disease has slowly taken my voice, and today people can’t understand me anymore without assistance,” Maree told us by typing her answers, and her daughter reading to us.

“At the moment, I am using different tools to communicate, like my iPad with the Predictable app. I also use my phone to write notes on and I am now trialling an eye-gazing communication device,” she added.

“My only advice to others would be – before your voice goes away, make sure you film video messages to your loved ones and let them know how you feel.”

“Rebecca has helped me tremendously and is giving me different tools to test. I can always email her with any concerns and she always responds quickly,” Maree added.

Maree at home
Maree at home

Featured image (left to right): Camille Meredith, Kym Patterson, Stephanie Bennetts, Devon Iluksooriya.