TAFE course broadens speech pathologist’s capabilities

Speech pathologist Rachel Wood with a client

Rachel Wood, who runs a private paediatric speech pathology service in Springfield, has recently doubled up her skills by completing an online Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Education and Care through TAFE NSW.

She undertook the studies to complement her paediatric knowledge, making her sessions towards children highly specialised.

The Cheeky Monkey Speech Pathology, initially opened in February, provides therapy for children of all ages who struggle with speech, language and communication difficulties.

Wood has already had previous experience working with children, but she wanted to broaden her skills when dealing.

“I embarked on a career working with children after high school and although I was employed in a range of paediatric speech pathology roles for almost two decades, a part of me always wondered whether I should study education and combine the two vocations,” Wood said.

“They are very complementary skills sets; I consider completing the TAFE NSW course to be a significant milestone in my life-long learning journey, giving me the tools and experiences to understand children better and start my own business, to help them and their families.”

Wood has worked as a paediatric speech pathologist for over 19 years and has also gained experience in other specialised areas at the Cleft Palate Clinic & Deafness Centre at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

“I incorporate the information I learned about cognitive and physical development, child behaviour management, family dynamics and cultural sensitivity techniques into my practice,” Wood said.

Wood also works as a casual educator at Footprints Early Learning Centre in Erina where she completed work experience during her studies.

Like many other local businesses people, during the peak of COVID-19 she had to adapt her business to the new online environment by offering telehealth sessions instead of face-to-face meetings.

“It was probably not the best timing because [Cheeky Monkey Speech Pathology] had just started taking off, and then everything dropped off because everyone was isolating at home,” she said.

“Since resuming face-to-face it has picked up again, and that is the same as lots of industries, once you can go back to face to face things settle down a bit.”

While acknowledging the benefits of broadening her online skills, she said she prefers dealing with patients in person.

“It is so much easier working with kids to be doing it face-to-face,” she said.

“I think because you have got to keep the kids motivated and interested, using games and toys, that’s our main way of keeping them focused so when you take that away it is very tricky.

“Helping a child to use a sound that they thought they couldn’t articulate, helping them to say their name correctly, increasing the range of words they can use, helping them communicate with longer sentences – these are the moments I love and cherish best.”

Jacinta Counihan