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Shining a light on communication


This Speech Pathology Week is shining a light on communicating for life – something former Cabrini patient Oli understands all too well.

When Oli, a previously fit and healthy young man was admitted to Cabrini with Guillain-Barre syndrome, his muscles in his face and throat didn’t act as well as they normally would, which impacted on his speech, making communication incredibly difficult.

Cabrini speech pathologist Maddie Ebinger was quickly introduced to Oli, a meeting that he said made the world of difference.

“When it comes to communicating, people around you expect you to be able to keep going the way you were, but you can’t,” he said.

“Previously, I used to say whatever was in my head, but because I couldn’t do that anymore I had to really carefully choose my limited words.

“For example, I might have needed to move, scratch my face, and have a glass of water. But I couldn’t just say that all at once, so it was about slowly communicating all of that.”

Maddie said it was a long process, but eventually the two were in total sync.

“Oli was on quite an emotional long journey, so it was important we worked with him to ensure he was comfortable and getting the support he needed.

“Together we developed a strategy to facilitate communications tailored specifically to him.

“For Oli this evolved across the admission as his symptoms progressed and recovered.

“We used gestures, augmented communication devices where he used his eyes to spell out words, and a picture board too.”

A major milestone in Oli’s recovery was the first time he was able to take fluid orally.

“On his birthday he was really desperate to try taking fluids, so we set it up and he was able to do it,” Maddie said.

“It was a really special moment and a really nice way to mark his birthday with a big milestone.”

“From then on as he recovered and was able to speak again, we began practicing strategies to improve the clarity of his speech.”

Oli said he was incredibly thankful for the support Maddie gave him.

“I don’t remember a lot about my time in hospital because I was incredibly sick, but I remember Maddie and all the support she gave me,” he said.

“She helped give me a voice when I didn’t have one and it made the world of difference.”

Maddie and Oli recently sat down for a chat with Speech Pathology Australia.

To listen to the podcast click here.