Every year, the month of May is dedicated to raising awareness about communication health in Canada. Speech and Hearing Month highlights the importance of early detection and intervention for communication disorders and the role speech-language and audiology professionals play in helping people of all ages to “Speak well. Hear well. Live well”.
What’s speech-language pathology?
“Our role is to prevent, assess, and treat a variety of disorders related to speech, language, communication, fluency, and swallowing,” says Jasmine EL Gazzar, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in Dawson Creek.
Jasmine has been working as an SLP at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital since February 2022. While completing her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in a linguistics course, which inspired her to pursue a career exploring the nuances of language and communication. “With any job that I’ve worked, even in retail, I realized that even though everyone comes from different walks of life, their main concern is wanting to be understood and heard,” she recalls. “I thought that a profession in speech-language pathology would help me serve people better and support and advocate for their needs.”
A common misconception about speech-language pathology is that professionals only work with children to help with speech-sound difficulties, but Jasmine says that’s not always true. People of all ages can benefit. “In my current role, I work with an interdisciplinary team to support adult clients who have experienced things like stroke, COVID-19, traumatic brain injury, dementia, or head and neck cancer with their communication and swallowing-related needs” says Jasmine. “I really enjoy how diverse it is: each patient is so different. For example, one person with a stroke might present completely differently than another person who’s suffered a similar stroke. I think it’s so interesting to tailor a care plan that’s specific to each patient and work alongside other interdisciplinary members like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nurses, and doctors.”
What’s the importance of Speech and Hearing Month?
“Speech and hearing work together in a feedback loop,” says Jasmine. “For example, hearing loss can contribute to poor communication output, core understanding, safety issues, and also feeling isolated and a decreased quality of life.”
To highlight how deficits in one area can impact the other when it comes to communication and hearing health, it’s important to celebrate both speech and hearing during the month of May.
How can I see a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist in the North?
Your child needs a referral to see an audiologist in Northern Health. However, some community SLPs will accept self-referrals or parent-referrals, meaning it’s not always necessary to wait for a referral from your primary care provider (for example, your family doctor or nurse practitioner) if you have speech-related concerns. Referrals can also come from a variety of sources depending on the concerns and the community:
- Registered nurses and allied health professionals
- Doctors and medical specialists
- Child development centres