Monday, October 3, 2016

This Time, It's Personal

SOURCE: Speech-Language & Audiology Canada - Saskatoon Health Region Cuts to Audiology & Speech Pathology Positions will Negatively Affect Patient Care

Hello blogging my old friend...Well, I've certainly pushed my hiatus this time around; but you know what? I think it's time to try and get back into the swing of things. I'm not promising we'll see weekly postings, but we'll see what develops. After all, there's still a lot of things to criticize with the way this province and country are running themselves.

And with that: Let's begin.

I'd like to talk today about an issue that is near and dear to my heart: Speech Pathology.

Those who knew me as a young kid know that I had my fair share of speech problems. Certain vowels and consonant sounds didn't come easily to me, and my tongue had a tendency to get tied in knots trying to pronounce certain words or phrases. While my pronouncing has gotten better, by miles, I still find myself tripping over certain words from time to time. And I take careful care when pronouncing words like "shark" to make sure people don't think I'm saying "shock."

Growing up, it wasn't easy. Kids around the playground often loved to "get Scott to say Puck" or "Muck" or any other "--CK" word because it sounded exactly like a word kids our age shouldn't have known.

My brother is fond of retelling a story about my second grade teacher coming to his classroom because she couldn't quite understand what I was talking about and maybe my brother could understand it a little better.

As family tends to do, I had more than a few cousins or uncles who thought it was fun to poke fun at the little guy who couldn't speak quite right. I won't mutter some of the terms they used to describe my style of speech, but needless to say they were things that a younger me didn't like to hear. Granted, it was just general family ribbing; and I'm sure some of them thought that being a little hard or joking on me would help in the long run to make me want to overcome the problems. Either way, I don't carry any grudges about it now.

But those experiences, looking back on it, definitely factored into my natural introversion. It was easier to say nothing, or keep quiet, than it was to speak up or say something and risk either a mocking nickname or many rounds of "Can you repeat that?"

But do you know what did help?

A speech pathologist. I remember being slightly confused about the whole ordeal of being called out of the classroom and sent to the library to spend between twenty and thirty minutes with a woman who wasn't a teacher in the building. It was slightly odd to just "talk" for a bit, and then be taught ways to improve the way I spoke.

Things like placing your tongue on certain spots on your teeth to produce the right sound. Making "CHA" noises and other basic sounds that now remind me very much of scenes straight out of "My Fair Lady". I can still recall just the simpleness of often reading a story a loud, or just talking in general about things that interested me (at that time, it would have been mostly dinosaurs, sharks, and outer space.)

It was a definite outlet for a shy kid who talked funny. And it helped, not just in making my speech a little more understandable; but also perhaps providing a bit more confidence than I had before.

My story, however, is not a unique one. Some of the most recognizable voices, from James Earl Jones to Samuel L. Jackson to Joe Biden suffered from speech impediments. Can you imagine a world where a young James Earl Jones was never given the support needed to overcome his impediment to go on to voice some of the most memorable characters in cinematic history?

When a young person isn't given the tools they need to overcome a speech problem, external factors are quite literally robbing them of their voice. Although I still have a quite naturally introverted personality, I do wonder how much worse it would be if I had never had the experience of addressing my speech problems with the help of a speech pathologist.

And it's thoughts like that that make me truly angry to see cuts to Speech Pathology occurring in Saskatoon. While it might not be an issue that comes to mind for many as an important health concern, I can assure you (having lived it) that it is for those kids. The inability to communicate with your peers, to be taken seriously by adults, or to express your thoughts and ideas is incredibly frustrating.

So, to see the Saskatoon Health Region lay off those who are working to ensure we are giving voices to the next generation is incredibly disheartening.

And as more and more cuts come to hospitals, not just in audiology and speech pathology, but to more areas in front line care: such as our nurses, especially in the mental health field, it speaks to a fundamental incomprehension of our current government on the matter of health care. Since 2008, the province has touted LEAN as a means of saving our health regions millions of dollars. If that is the case, why are they now staring down the barrel of millions of dollars in cuts?

Something, at least in terms of the math (and it seems to be this way a lot with the Sask Party) doesn't add up.

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