‘I said to Veronica, let’s hear what you’ve got to tell the world, and she typed ‘I am woman, hear me roar!’ I’ll never forget that,’ – Rachel Parker, Veronica’s speech pathologist.
Speech pathologist Rachel Parker tells the story that lead to Veronica finding her voice …
‘Veronica had a stroke when she was 9 years old, and over time her voice became weaker and difficult to understand. With only a spelling board or paper for writing messages on as her only means of communication, she became depressed and frustrated.
After two years of persistence, patience and hard work, Veronica can now independently communicate using a LightWriter SL40 CONNECT. During that time, Veronica and I tried many high and low tech devices as well as speech and voice exercises to help improve her communication.
For each intervention, we had the same goal – increased community participation.
We found the Lightwriter SL40 CONNECT was the most suitable communication device for her. It had all the features we wanted plus more – you can put a SIM card in it and text other people directly, and even make phone calls with it.
We borrowed one from the company and I showed Veronica and her mother how to use it. To show them how powerful this piece of equipment could be, I joined Veronica and her mum on a visit to Macquarie Shopping Centre. We pre-programmed the words ‘I’d like two Concession tickets to Mr. Penguin’s Poppers, please’.
I sat with Veronica’s mother and watched Veronica get in line. Her mum was so anxious that people were going to ignore Veronica or not give her the time of day, not understand her, and that she would fail to achieve her goal (I nearly had to hold her back so Veronica could do it alone).
However, Veronica returned, all smiles and quite proud of herself – she had purchased the tickets independently and the ticket seller was so impressed she actually gave Veronica the tickets for free!
After submitting a funding application with ENABLE, the device arrived.
‘I said to Veronica, Let’s hear what you’ve got to tell the world, and she typed ‘I am woman, hear me roar!’ I’ll never forget that.
From then on the three of us familiarised ourselves with the device, asked the company many questions, practised being efficient in conversation and worked on strategies if the other person she was talking to didn’t understand her.
I also asked Veronica to do one independent task each week. In her first week, she ordered a cappuccino … the next week she was confident enough to order one for herself and one for her friend! Then she went to the club and had a great chat with the ladies, telling them riddles she had programmed into the device.
Veronica was a changed person. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Veronica’s voice was being heard as she rapidly grew in independence and confidence.
To help maintain Veronica’s communication skills, I gave the staff at her day program, Skill Seekers CAS, a written program to help them use the device to increase Veronica’s participation in the community.
The staff were thrilled to hear Veronica speak up for herself and have been very supportive in helping Veronica work towards her goal of independent communication.
It has been wonderful to watch Veronica’s progress over the past couple of years.
She still gets up at 5am to listen to Grant Goulburn, and is working on programming her opinion into her device so she can call him one day. All by herself.
Veronica doesn’t need me anymore, but I still like to keep in touch to see if she’s still exploring the world the way she wants to!’