Spencer & the Speechy

Spencer is one of hundreds of pre-school children who take advantage of SHDH’s excellent Speech Pathology services.  Read the below to find out more about this family’s journey with speech pathologist, Nikita Hanns.

Spencer’s lisp was cute and didn’t worry him in the least, so parents Catherine and Jason considered leaving it be,  as he prepared to start ‘big school’.

But Mum Catherine is an early intervention occupational therapist with a large organisation, and her studies indicated, it might not be a bad idea to have messages for Spencer reinforced by somebody outside the home.

So she spoke with Spencer, who is an excellent communicator, and lined up an appointment at Swan Hill District Health.

They were lucky enough to be able to bring Spencer in for his first appointment. Despite early hesitancy, especially about going to the hospital, Spencer loved speech pathologist, Nikita, from the first meeting.

Mum, Catherine says “I think that was very important to have the face to face meeting to develop a good relationship. It was nice for Spencer to meet Nikita in person, see where she worked, and understand what the sessions were about. He also enjoyed the online sessions with Nikita and he was pretty excited to be using the technology. His younger brother and sister would often want to be involved and sit in on the sessions- everyone thought it was quite interesting”.

“I loved working on my sounds with Nikita. I really liked playing the pizza game” he told us, as their final session was wrapping up.

Catherine went further, explaining “Spencer is generally quite shy when initially meeting people; however Nikita quickly developed an excellent rapport with him, enabling him to feel comfortable during the sessions.  He was always a very keen participant in the speech sessions”.

After the first in-person appointment, Spencer and Nikita connected via computer, initially by Telehealth. “The connection was bad – I think everyone was trying to get on to Telehealth at the same time. The pictures were hard to see and the sound was inaudible at times,” Catherine explained.

Nikita quickly adapted, sending zoom meeting invitations which greatly improved the connections, and Spencer’s lisp improved significantly.

“He still has a lisp, but it’s not so pronounced, and he self-corrects,” Catherine explains. “Also, I just wanted to check if there was anything a speech pathologist would suggest I share with his teacher as he heads off to school,” she said. The only thing she had to mention was a request that they remind Spencer now and again to practise his sounds – just continuing the work he does at home, really.

Was there anything we could have done differently/ better/ more imaginatively?

“No- I don’t believe so. Nikita often asked if we needed anything else to work on and was happy to send through other resources and further activities. She also made it very clear that she was happy for us to contact her if we had any questions or needed assistance with anything – so it was nice to know that this support was there if we needed it.”

Also, Catherine was impressed by the flexibility of his appointments – she never had problems accessing the service as needed. Initially, Spencer saw Nikita every two weeks, then monthly and in the end he only needed to see Nikita every six weeks. “The appointments were well-timed, as he had to do work at home and practise his sounds in between appointments”, Catherine explained.

Nikita Hanns is the speech pathologist who worked with Spencer:

Attending appointments with new clinicians can be daunting for both clients and their carers, whether it be at the hospital or online.

When meeting Spencer, I could see that he was a bit nervous to engage in speech tasks straight away. I took the time to build rapport with Spencer, by making speech tasks interactive and ensuring myself and his mum, Catherine joined in to take the spotlight off of him. This initial connection allowed Spencer to continue engaging via telehealth when required, and made every session enjoyable.

Spencer and his family worked hard both in appointments and at home to improve his “s” sound. Sometimes we were lucky enough to have Spencer’s brother join in our activities too! We always do our best to adjust therapy to suit the needs of each client and family.

It brought me so much joy to watch Spencer progress with his speech sounds before heading off to school. “

This story has been collected as part of the Swan Hill District Health Consumer Stories Project.
If you have a story to tell, or would like to share your experience, please contact the
Quality, Experience and Safety team on 03 5033 9894 or feedback@shdh.org.au