We’re raising awareness about communication during Speech Pathology Week and highlighting the diverse work of our speech pathologists.
Did you know that one of our newest speech pathologists has worked in Vietnam helping to train staff to run health programs? She also speaks basic Norwegian, so she’s immersed in language in many ways.
Amelia Bell joined VisAbility this year and works with both children and adults who live with low or no vision. She graduated from Curtin University with a BSc in Speech Pathology in 2018. We thought we’d find out why she loves the job she does.
What prompted you to go into speech pathology?
I wanted to enter a profession that helped others. My grandfather always had a stutter, but as he grew up this went away. It then returned later in life when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition. This sparked my interest as I could see how much importance speech played in life.
Speech pathology is an underrated therapy. People are a bit confused about what we do as speech therapists, and think that we just work with stutters and lisps, but that’s not the case. While speech therapists deal with language disorders, delays and impairments, it’s also about encouraging verbal instructions and improving listening skills.
What was your training like?
I studied at Curtin University and it was hard. I enjoyed my degree, but putting what I learned into practice wasn’t easy. There was a lot of planning, and I was heavily scrutinised when I did any practice. But I got plenty of opportunities. I took part in a global placement in Hoa-Binh in Vietnam when I worked at an allied health centre for the under-privileged. The patients were all orphans or elderly and had disabilities or mental health problems. My role was to train people to run health programs.
As part of my degree, I also had a placement in regional Collie in an allied health centre for two months working with children from 0 to 3. It was a very close-knit community and it was a fast learning curve.
What do you love about your job?
It sounds clichéd but it’s the variety and knowing that I have made a difference. I work with children predominantly, but also adults.
I’ve never worked with people who have vision impairment. It’s both challenging and enjoyable. For example, with speech pathology you usually rely on visual prompts when working with children. That’s not possible with our younger clients who have limited or no sight, so I have to come up with other creative ways. I’m also finding that children with vision impairment usually have a shorter attention span, so it’s my job to engage them as much as possible.
What are your most notable achievements?
I have worked with a young girl who was only three-and-a-half years old and she was deaf. She made a dramatic improvement on meeting her speech goals and to watch this change happen was just amazing. I have an AUSLAN (link opens in new window) Certificate, so I have a basic command of Australian sign language.