Cayman leads the way in speech therapy

| 22/09/2016
CNS Local Life

Faith Gealey lectures on speech therapy services at the conference

(CNS Local Life): Health Services Authority (HSA) speech language pathologist (SLP) Faith Gealey, who helped to launch the Caribbean Speech Hearing Association (CaribSHA) last month, said that Cayman stood out as a regional leader in the field. She specifically pointed to efforts in medical- and educational-based speech, language and hearing services. CaribSHA, a regional organisation that Gealey established along with three other Caribbean-based SLPs, focuses on the needs and issues facing the Caribbean as it relates to speech pathology.

The organisation was launched on 2-3 August at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in conjunction with the Society of Caribbean Linguistics, and involved several presentations and discussions.

Gealey noted that during these seminars Cayman stood out as a regional leader in the field for providing medical-based speech therapy services, services within the school system and a universal newborn hearing screening programme.

“Although both Jamaica and Trinidad have ‘posts’ for medical-based speech therapy available, they have remained vacant for years and the countries have been unable to successfully build medical-based speech services,” she said.

“Cayman is also the only English-speaking Caribbean country that provides services within the school system, and is the only territory that provides this through government-funded programmes. Other countries in the region have a private practice model, where all services are provided by private practitioners.

“We are also the only English-speaking Caribbean country to provide a universal newborn hearing screening programme.”

During an interactive opening lecture and discussion on “Caribbean Languages in a Globalised Region”, Gealey spoke of the need for better inclusion of speech therapy services both in medical and educational settings throughout the region. The lecture highlighted the need for better recognition of the various Caribbean dialects, creoles and languages in terms of both phonology and language structure and the impact this has on education and employment opportunities.

On the second day, several presenters from a variety of countries discussed a formal presentation on speech pathology and audiology services throughout the Caribbean. The countries represented included Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Each representative discussed how services are provided in his or her respective country reviewing the pros and cons as well as room for planning and growth.

Eight new SLPs have graduated from the UWI St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. UWI Mona, Jamaica, is preparing to establish a speech therapy programme and hopes to have up to 10 students enrolled once it is up and running. Guyana is in the final stages of training four SLP assistants to help meet the growing demand for services in that country.

CaribSHA was formed in 2014 following the American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA) Conference in Orlando, Florida. Gealey and several Caribbean SLPs attended the conference to learn about ongoing global initiatives to increase the presence of, and knowledge about, speech language pathology in Latin America and the Caribbean. ASHA global leadership encouraged the SLPs present to establish their own regional organisations; as a result, Gealey and Keisha Lindsay of Trinidad and Tobago put together a small steering committee, that included the director of the SLP programme at UWI Mona and an SLP from Antigua and Barbuda, to coordinate the launch of CaribSHA.

“I was really pleased to not only be a part of the steering committee that helped get CaribSHA off the ground but to also represent the Cayman Islands in this forum,” said Gealey, who is the newly appointed chairperson of the organisation.

“It is clear that we are one of the leaders in the field regionally and I am excited to see how we can get other countries to recognise the benefit of not only school-based services but also hospital-based services. Our medical-based clients are often overlooked in favour of school-based clients, yet, as a medical-based therapist, my services enhance the quality of life for patients from birth through end of life,” Gealey said.

“It was a proud moment for me to realise that HSA can lead the Caribbean in a step towards making medical-based speech therapy a reality in every jurisdiction and I look forward to seeing how we can make a positive difference to our region in the future.”

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Category: Medical and Health

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