The spoken word is a most powerful form of communication. When the ability to speak is impaired, life can become a series of challenges for those afflicted.
While traditional models of speech therapy address the mechanical process of talking, speech pathologists Allison Baird and Stephanie Harvey, along with communication health assistant, Mara Manzato, recognize that the emotional, social and spiritual aspects of communication need to be addressed.
For Manitobans at a loss for words after a stroke, are autistic or have chronic aphasia, communication disorders or delays, a local company called SpeechWorks Inc. provides a unique service.
Stroke survivors in particular who have difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, writing or remembering, are finding success in SpeechWorks’ holistic approach.
Clients are of all ages whose spoken challenges are due to cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, dementia, Parkinson’s, accidents, swallowing disorders and stuttering. Therapists also work with many accident victims and victims of crime who have suffered head injuries.
These services are covered by Manitoba Public Insurance, Workers Compensation and Victims Compensation. SpeechWorks staff encourage people to “read the fine print of their work/insurance policies as many folks don’t realize they are covered for speech services.”
When asked about their proven track record of success, staff highlight the combination of strategies and the compassionate philosophy of staff and volunteers.
SpeechWorks has developed successful in-person and on-line strategies that are client/family centred. These innovative strategies have been nationally recognized by organizations such as Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and Manitoba Patient Access Network. SpeechWorks is a recipient of the Innovation Award for Partnerships.
In recognition of their work, SpeechWorks has received grants from the Northern Regional Health Authority, the Parkinson Society of Manitoba and the Manitoba Brain Injury Association.
After working in hospitals in England and Canada, Allison Baird turned to private practice in 2008.
She is pursuing her dream of “providing a service based on giving clients hope.”
Born in Shilo, MB and a mother and step-mother to five young women, Allison was nominated for the YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and is Past President of the Manitoba Speech and Hearing Association.
Details of her treatment options can be found here. Some of those options include individual and group therapy, Stroke Café (a story telling group), computer assisted iPad therapy, TeleHealth and Care for Caregivers.
Allison has presented at provincial, national and international conferences and has supervised sixty graduate students and numerous volunteers. As the partner of someone who has Parkinson’s disease, she has received many accolades for her workshops for caregivers.
SpeechWorks Associate Stephanie Harvey brings an international perspective to her work. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Stephanie graduated from high school at Pearson College, BC and received her BA in Mathematics and French from the University of Winnipeg.
After teaching in Malawi, she received her Masters in Communications Disorders from the University of Minnesota. Stephanie worked as a speech language pathologist in the public school system for many years.
The mother of two made a career move to private practice with SpeechWorks where her passion for “holistic work in a community based clinic” allows her creative freedom.
“Yes,” says Stephanie, “clients come for health services, but because our approach is unique in the city, they also feel this is their other home.”
Stephanie is particularly proud of Stroke Café as it is discussion based on current events so that clients can practice real life communication skills.
Equally pivotal to client recovery is their unique use of Telehealth which serves city, rural and northern clients via the internet. SpeechWorks Telehealth received ethics approval from the University of Toronto (Baycrest) for their robust research. Results substantiated that participants experienced equal success with in-person sessions and through Telehealth conferencing.
Stephanie is also in demand as an in-service speaker for schools on the topic of Autisim Spectrum Disorders, and she runs a blog.
Mara Manzato has a BA in Linguistics and earned her Communication Health Assistant Certificate in Ontario. Having completed her practicum at SpeechWorks, she knew this was the place for her. She does everything from scheduling to working with clients and co-ordinating volunteers.
Mara shares in the clinic’s philosophy of offering hope for all clients. She has seen the difference in clients of all ages – from the young man now a UofM student who had a massive stroke at the age of seventeen, to people who are thirty years post stroke.
“Our prescription is “hope, dignity and comfort.” The volunteers Mara schedules vary from graduate students who require experience to qualify for a Masters in Speech Language Pathology, to former and current participants who want to help others and friends and family of clients.
Located in the heart of the city in Osborne Village, SpeechWorks Inc. aims to help with communication so that no one has to be at a loss for words. They can be contacted at 204-231-2165.