Heroes visit rehab centre

2016-06-14 06:00
Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre Speech Therapists Megan Morrison and Alicia Bock in their superhero outfits.

Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre Speech Therapists Megan Morrison and Alicia Bock in their superhero outfits.

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Speech therapists at the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre (WCRC) in Lentegeur have embraced the challenge to celebrate Communication Week with a difference this year.

Three hospitals in the Western Cape participated and included the WCRC, Red Cross Children’s and Tygerberg hospitals.

Communication Week was observed from Monday 6 to Friday 10 June and the theme at WCRC was: “Communication is my superpower, what is yours?”

The event was initiated by the National Speech Therapy and Audiology Forum and rolled out in each province to raise awareness in various centres within the Department of Health.

At the WCRC, the drive was run by speech therapists Alicia Bock and Megan Morrison.

“Communication Week is a drive to create awareness amongst our colleagues, caregivers, patients and clients around the importance of communication in their rehabilitation process, encompassing all aspects of speech-language and hearing.

“We also try to highlight the capacity our patients have despite their difficulties. They are still able to share their ideas and needs, through gestures and picture communication, even if they cannot communicate verbally,” says Bock.

WCRC provides specialised rehabilitation services to people with physical disabilities and those who have survived a brain or spinal cord injury.

The speech therapy department provides a predominantly in-patient service, but are consulted on an ad hoc basis at outpatient services.

Bock says they see between 15 and 25 patients per therapist at any given time.

“We aim to see each of our patients at least once, and up to thrice, a week,” she says.

The group held a series of mini events through out the week, from a marshmallow challenge to dressing up as superheroes.

“[Some of the standout moments were at the start of the week] with a marshmallow challenge conducted with our colleagues on Monday. Volunteers placed six marshmallows in their cheeks then tried to communicate by engaging in dialogue about what they had for breakfast or did for the morning. It delivered hilarious results,” says Bock.

She explains this highlighted some of the difficulties their patients face.

“The full-mouth feeling and difficulty communicating represents what some of our patients experience after surviving a stroke or head injury,” she says.

Another matter highlighted is that even though verbal communication may have been challenging, they were still able to express a response via hand gestures.

The team also ran communication groups with patients in the different therapy units.

“We highlighted the strengths of superheroes and how they often have to communicate to save the day. Sometimes they do not use words, but codes, to get their message across. Patients made their own superhero masks as a symbol of their powers of communication.

“During the task they had to use sufficient loudness to make requests, or use picture cards if they could not use verbal communication, or gesture and point to their needs. We also looked at communicating with each in our native language and gesture as a sign of respect and strength to each other. We greeted and thanked each other in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa while using gestures,” she says.

The initiative was further shared with family of the patients who visited the centre during the week.

Bock and Morrison also dressed as superheroes while doing therapy every day for the full duration of the week

This bold, out-of-character move by the therapists was enjoyed by the patients and made them feel some excitement as well.

“Hopefully by the display of their therapists stepping out of their comfort zones it was an encouragement for them to step out of their comfort zones to reach new heights in their rehabilitation process as well,” says Bock.

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