Thank You Caroline for the Gift of Voice | SPD - Singapore

Thank You Caroline for the Gift of Voice

Caroline Matheussen joined SPD as a volunteer in February 2014, helping to cultivate good reading habits in the young children supported by SPD’s early intervention programme. A month later, she stepped up to help in getting Specialised Assistive Technology Centre (ATC) client Yong Seng Koon, a young man who is unable to speak, to use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to communicate.

Seng Koon was diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and athetoid cerebral palsy, a condition which renders him unable to talk. To bolster the efforts of the AT specialists in helping him to communicate using assistive technology, Caroline would meet him once a week to practise 'talking' with his AAC device - an iPad tablet - and to improve on his literacy skills.

Seng Koon uses an iPad app, the Touch Chat HD with Word Power 30, which allows him to communicate using symbols. With Caroline’s help, he practised questions and answers, exchange of greetings and other necessary verbal skills using his AAC device. She also coached him in using a book with pictures and simple sentences to help him communicate better. Now, Seng Koon carries the book wherever he goes.

Seng Koon has come a long way since pairing up with Caroline and today can read and write simple sentences.

Deborah Yong, the speech and language therapist at the Specialised ATC who oversees Seng Koon’s progress, praised Caroline for her dedication.

“Caroline has been instrumental in helping Seng Koon develop his interests. She brought him books on his favourite topics and watched online videos relating to his interests together with him. Caroline also read to him from an array of topics to broaden his interests. She was indeed a friend whom Seng Koon looked forward to meeting weekly, not just to chit-chat but also to learn things from.”

In the last few months before Caroline’s move back to the United Kingdom at the end June, she focused on helping to strengthen Seng Koon’s functional communication skills and used real life activities to practise simple grammar with him.

During an appreciation lunch held for Caroline on 30 June 2016 at Tech Able, Seng Koon gave a short but heartfelt speech using his device, attributing his achievements to his volunteer tutor. “I have good years learning from Caroline. Thank you!” summed up his great appreciation. When asked what he enjoys the most about going to the Specialised ATC, Seng Koon replied with a smile, “Caroline”.

Commenting on her two-year volunteering stint at SPD, Caroline said: “I strongly recommend volunteering or working at the SPD because the clients and staff are an inspiration to us all. Having worked with the team for over two years, I’ve learnt a great deal and most importantly enjoyed making a difference in people’s lives.”

We are thankful for Caroline’s contribution and wish her the very best in her future endeavours.