Cayman: A leader in regional speech therapy
The Cayman Islands has made its mark in the region as a trailblazer in both medical and educational based speech, language and hearing services. The Health Services Authority’s (HSA’s) Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) Faith Gealey, made this discovery when she attended the Caribbean Speech Hearing Association (CaribSHA) launch last month.CaribSHA, a regional organisation founded by Ms Gealey along with three other Caribbean-based SLPs, focuses on the needs and issues facing the Caribbean as it relates to speech pathology. The organisation was launched on 2-3 August at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in conjunction with the Society of Caribbean Linguistics and involved several presentations and discussions.Ms Gealey noted that during these presentations and discussions Cayman stood out as a regional leader in the field for providing medical based speech therapy services, services within the school system and a universal newborn hearing screening programme.“Although both Jamaica and Trinidad have “posts” for medical based speech therapy available, they have remained vacant for years and the countries have been unable to successfully build medical based speech services. Cayman is also the only English speaking Caribbean country that provides services within the school system, and is the only territory that provides this through government funded programmes. Other countries in the region have a private practice model, where all services are provided by private practitioners,” Ms Gealey said.“We are also the only English speaking Caribbean country to provide a universal newborn hearing screening programme,” she added.On 2 August during an interactive opening lecture and discussion on Caribbean Languages in a Globalised Region, Ms Gealey discussed the need for better inclusion of speech therapy services both in medical and educational settings throughout the region. The lecture highlighted the need for better recognition of the various Caribbean dialects, creoles and languages in terms of both phonology and language structure and the impact this has on education and employment opportunities. A cocktail reception followed the official launch.On 3 August, a formal presentation on speech pathology and audiology services throughout the Caribbean was discussed in detail by several presenters from a variety of countries. The countries represented included: Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Each representative discussed how services are provided in their respective country reviewing the pros, cons as well as room for future planning and growth.The day concluded with a business meeting to discuss future plans for the organisation and ways that the field can be promoted regionally. Eight new SLPs have just graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. UWI Mona, Jamaica is in the preparation stages of having a speech therapy programme and hopes to have up to 10 students enrolled in the programme once it is up and running. Guyana is also in the final stages of training four SLP assistants to help meet the growing demand for services in that country.CaribSHA was formed in 2014 following the American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA) Conference in Orlando, Florida. Ms Gealey and several Caribbean SLPs attended the conference to learn about ongoing global initiatives to increase the presence of, and knowledge about, Speech Language Pathology in the Latin American and Caribbean regions. ASHA Global Leadership encouraged the SLPs present to establish their own regional organisations; as a result, both Ms Gealey and Keisha Lindsay of Trinidad and Tobago remained in close contact and put together a small Steering Committee that included the director of the SLP programme at UWI Mona and an SLP from Antigua and Barbuda to coordinate the launch of CaribSHA.“I was really pleased to not only be a part of the Steering Committee that helped get CaribSHA off the ground but to also represent the Cayman Islands in this forum” said Ms Gealey who was newly appointed Chairperson of the organisation. “It is clear that we are one of the leaders in the field regionally and I am excited to see how we can get other countries to recognise the benefit of not only school based services but also hospital based services. Our medical based clients are often overlooked in favour of school based clients, yet, as a medical based therapist, my services enhance the quality of life for patients from birth through end of life,” Ms Gealey shared.“It was a proud moment for me to realise that HSA can lead the Caribbean in a step towards making medical based speech therapy a reality in every jurisdiction and I look forward to seeing how we can make a positive difference to our region in the future,” she said.Visit www.hsa.ky for more information and services offered at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.