On March 16th, St. Joseph’s temporarily cancelled all outpatient services and programs to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But as a health care organization, we also know how important many of these services are to our local community.
One of the areas affected was our Speech & Language Pathology program. Speech & Language Pathology is a service for the assessment and treatment of communication difficulties. Our specialists help clients to improve their abilities in a host of communications skills and areas including language use, comprehension, expression, social communication, articulation, reasoning, problem solving, memory and organization.
Many of us may not even realize all of the various skills we use to communicate each and every day. But events such as strokes, traumatic brain injuries, degenerative diseases, being on the autism spectrum, and voice disorders such as vocal quality, pitch, loudness and fluency, can impact our ability to clearly communicate with others.
Communication is so vital to us as human beings, that as soon as outpatient services were put on hold, the Speech-Language team began investigating ways that they could still serve their clients. They created virtual interactive books for children and explored using Zoom to provide treatment and care. While video-therapy was new for St. Joe’s, some staff had previous experience and they were more than happy to support the team to ensure our clients could still get the help they needed.
In the first month of providing virtual therapy, the Speech Language Therapy team at St. Joe’s hosted more than 210 video-therapy sessions over Zoom. The feedback the team has received from clients and their families has been truly inspiring.
One mom whose child is preparing to enter kindergarten in the fall, was very worried about the cancellation of outpatient services and the impact that could have on the progress her child had been making in recent speech language sessions at St. Joe’s. But through virtual sessions, she’s pleased to report her child hasn’t skipped a beat! In fact, our team has found that video calls have the added benefit of allowing our team to see how children interact at home and provides extra insight to ensure therapy plans fit each child’s and family’s needs.
“If we can engage our paediatric clients while still ensuring they’re having fun, then we call that a win-win. Video-therapy allows us to “see” our clients, to engage and laugh with them while still sticking to the physical distancing recommendations in place to protect us all from COVID-19,” says Barb VanderSluis the Clinical Lead of the Speech-Language Pathology Team at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph. “We just want to make sure our Wee Talk and adult outpatient clients don’t lose all of the progress they’ve made or miss out on their sessions during this time, and we’re so glad we’ve found a way to use Zoom to bring our services to our clients’ right inside their homes.”
As we wrap up the month of May, which is Speech and Hearing Month, the Speech Language Team at St. Joseph’s wants to remind their clients that they are here to provide their support to our local community!