VisAbility welcomes two new speech pathology students from Curtin University, 28-year-old Katherine Economis and 22-year-old Georgia Toutountzis. They’re both undertaking a ten-week placement in the Children and Youth Services team for children living with vision impairment.
Georgia and Katherine have plenty of enthusiasm, a real thirst to learn and a commitment to be hands-on and assist whenever they can. Katherine and Georgia say their student work placement is very varied at VisAbility
We caught up with them both to learn a little bit more about their interests and their initial impressions of VisAbility.
Why did you choose speech pathology?
I’m going to be honest, it wasn’t my first choice. After studying for a double degree in science and commerce, I landed a job in an accounting firm. I thought that it was going to be my job for life, but sadly it wasn’t. Handing out financial advice wasn’t my forte.
I’ve got twenty cousins all aged under ten and it made me think about working with children. I wanted a meaningful job so investigated health disciplines. After I’d quit my accounting job I did some travelling and volunteered at an orphanage in Tanzania with Projects Abroad. Princess Margaret Hospital invited me to help in their activity room for the under twelves and that’s when I thought I’d like to work with children.
Similarly to Katherine I started studying another subject and that was health promotion as I enjoyed food science. But it didn’t leave me satisfied.
My mum, who’s a teacher and enjoys her work, suggested speech pathology. It was a fairly easy transition to make as a lot of units crossed over. I always wanted to go into paediatrics as I love children and regularly babysit for youngsters.
What made you study at Curtin University?
Curtin has got a good reputation and a massive health/science cohort. I enrolled on a four-year BSc in Speech Pathology and it’s very structured. I’m covering both adult and child pathology, so it’s a good mix.
It was an easy transition for me to move across from health promotion to speech pathology and I’d been enjoying Curtin University (link opens in new window) so it was a seamless move.
Are you enjoying VisAbility?
Of course! People are supportive and offer lots of guidance and we have such a great mix of work. We’ve both been doing home visits, school visits and also sat in on clinics. I’m also enjoying working with children who have wider disabilities, that’s youngsters who have vision impairment, and a remit of language and speech issues.
What I like most is knowing that my input will influence their development into the teenage years, adult life and beyond.
The facilities at VisAbility are amazing, the community is driven to make a difference, it feels like I’m a member of a close-knit family! Many of the children we’re seeing have multiple issues, so it’s a steep learning curve.
Ultimately I know there are a lot of prospects in my chosen career path even if I step away from paediatrics. There is an ageing population and people need the support of speech pathologists if they’ve had a stroke or been diagnosed with severe dementia.
Tell us something we might not know about yourself?
When I was in Tanzania, I went camping and slept out in the middle of the Serengeti National Park surrounded by wild animals. Men with spears stood outside our tents to protect us 24/7. We had walkie talkies so we could call on people to escort us around – an experience I won’t easily forget.
My ancestry is Greek and I still have lots of relatives in Kastoria, a beautiful city nestled between mountains and built around a lake.
I eat, swim, breathe sport – footy, cricket and netball you name it! You could say I’m the West Coast Eagles most ardent fan. I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 AFL Grand Final and was cheering on the Eagles when they beat Collingwood in the 2018 AFL Grand Final.