Speech Therapy Week is held every year to raise awareness of communication and swallowing disorders, as well as the work of speech therapists. The theme for this year was “Communication for Connection: Spread the Word” which emphasises the importance of communication in our everyday lives.
With that in mind, SPD’s speech therapists set up for one day the ST Cafe on 18 November at the SPD Ability Centre to give SPD staff and clients an opportunity to experience augmentative and alternative communication, as well as a taste of modified drinks so that they can understand more about communication and swallowing difficulties.
Firstly, visitors to the café had to choose a drink via different forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to understand the ways which a person who is unable to speak can communicate. One of the devices featured was a communication chart which requires a person to make his request by picking his drink among individual picture cards showing orange, green tea and blackcurrent flavours, and fixing it onto a board. Another alternative way of communicating was via a computer tablet which the person can tap on to indicate his selection. The speech therapist would then serve up the choice of specially modified drinks suitable for people with swallowing difficulties.
Difficulty in swallowing, or dysphagia, means it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. The drinks in this case were therefore served thickened to varying degrees (nectar, honey or pudding thickness). Thickened fluids move less quickly and are easier to control in the mouth, giving a person with dysphagia more time to swallow safely. Thicker fluids are often said to be less palatable so it is important to provide the correct consistency to balance safety and quality of life. Patrons of the ST Café gamely drank the thickened drinks served.
The session proved to be both interesting and eye-opening, as expressed by Ms Teo Pek Wan (above, right), deputy director of SPD’s Inclusion Advancement Division, “I can imagine how elated a child who can’t speak would feel to be able to ask for and receive a Ribena drink. Technology, through the use of AAC devices, can certainly be empowering.”
We take this opportunity to thank all speech therapists for improving the lives of people with difficulties in language, speech, voice, fluency, and swallowing. Happy Speech Therapy Week!