One important role for Speech Pathologists at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), is to work with patients on how to communicate in a number of different ways.
Technology is playing a growing and vital role in keeping young people with communication difficulties engaged with their family, friends and education.
After a severe car crash left 14-year-old Sam a quadriplegic, with a tracheostomy tube and unable to communicate verbally, his Speech Pathologists helped him develop alternative means of communication using eye gaze technology and a voice generating communication device.
Sam’s involvement with RCH Speech Pathologists throughout his lengthy admission included the Acute Speech Pathology Department, the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, The Complex Care Hub and also community speech pathologists post-discharge.
“With all the help I have received from Nat at the RCH, I can communicate with people around me. I now have even been joining school classes from home with the aid of my Tobii device and the amazing team at Missing School,” Sam said.
“I am placed in the classroom as a robot but I’m on the screen from home, so the students and teacher can see me and I can see them and can participate in all my lessons as a part of the classroom.
“Ongoing speech therapy has taught me what I need to do to strengthen my voice, with the high hope of getting a voice again.
“The Tobii has kept me in contact with friends via all sorts of avenues, it’s my voice, my connection to people and the world.”
For Sam’s mum Lisa, Speech Pathology has given her family their son back.
“Once again the team at the RCH and Natalie Weekley, Sam’s Speech Pathologist, have gone above and beyond to help my son Sam be the best he can be,” Lisa said.
“He had so many options to try to better his communication skills after a severe car crash at the beginning of February 2019 left him a quadriplegic and non-verbal.
“Not only could he not learn some sort of sign language due to his disability, he also lost the messages from his brain for his voice.
“As a parent seeing your child struggling with communication was heartbreaking. We were lost but in walks happy Nat, she has changed his life.
“Nat was trying option after option to give Sam back his voice in any way she could.
“The both of them had many many laughs along the journey, but finally with the help of technology, she found his voice within the Tobii Dynavox and a program called Grid 3.
“He now can be Sam, all the thoughts, ideas and knowledge comes shining through and his dad, myself, and his brothers couldn’t be any prouder of him.
“We will always be in contact with Nat and she likes to see how her cheeky student is going, he actually teaches her things sometimes!”
“We cannot thank the speech therapy team enough, they gave us part of our son back.”
You can read more about Sam’s story at our blog.