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Community support elevates local speech and language pathology services

For Sandra Gomez’s two and a half year old son, Anthony, speech and language therapy has been instrumental to his childhood development.

Born with autism, Anthony was having difficulty speaking and paying attention. Through the use of speech and language therapies at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, Sandra says Anthony’s eye contact improving; he’s engaging with people more; and he’s beginning to babble, make noises and say a couple of words.

“Speech (and language therapy) has helped Anthony, not only verbally, but also his social skills and eye contact have improved dramatically during the sessions. He enjoys it very much,” she says.

Speech and Language Pathologists diagnose and evaluate a variety of speech and language conditions, such as developmental language, articulation, stuttering and aphasia.

According to Monica McKenna, a Speech and Language Pathologist at the Health Centre, speech and language therapy is a dynamic practice that works with individuals of all ages and conditions.

“We work with both adults and pediatrics [children], so each day is different. If it’s an adult day, I would be receiving referrals from the doctors, so we can work directly with patients and residents within the hospital. We do mainly swallowing or communications assessments, and we do additional therapies as needed,” says McKenna. “If it was a pediatrics day, I would have booked appointments, where we meet with the client and their family, and complete the goals in session, talk to the family about the progress and provide exercises to do at home.”

In addition to providing services within the Health Centre, McKenna shares that they also provide services in the schools.
“We offer classroom, group and individual services. We’re kind of everywhere!” she says.

As part of working closely with children, McKenna says they rely a lot on play-based therapy.

“Our therapy is very dependent on reinforcing, motivating toys,” says McKenna. “A lot of our therapy is play based especially with young kids. We get right on the floor, involve toys and play, and for children, play is their work. That’s how they learn, so we need toys to facilitate that.”

Unfortunately, due to the May 2016 wildfire, the Speech and Language Pathology team needed to discard all of their toys and materials.

“We have two storage rooms that we contain everything in – books, puzzles, bubbles, games, toys – and they were all gone. We needed to start from scratch and reorder everything,” says McKenna. “That ultimately delayed our service delivery because we couldn’t start seeing patients until we had basic toys and materials to use.”

Thanks to the generous support of McDonald’s from McHappy Day, the Northern Lights Health Foundation has invested significant funds into purchasing new toys and materials for Allied Health Services, such as Speech and Language Pathology, to serve their youngest patients.

“A big thank you! We are so appreciative. We are so grateful that we were able to receive their funds. It has been phenomenal,” says McKenna. “To be honest, this is one of the best stocked places I’ve ever worked because of the abundance of donations we do get and that we’re able to purchase so many awesome materials to support care for our patients.”

With your support, the Northern Lights Health Foundation funds vital health care needs in Wood Buffalo. Support community health care close to home. Donate Now.


Sandra Gomez with her family, including her husband Justin and two little ones, Anthony and Sophia.

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