November 1, 2013 Departments

Inbox: November 2013

Volunteer in Haiti

I am an SLP in Port-au-Prince, working at one of Haiti's very few organizations for people with disabilities, "Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs" ("Our Little Brothers and Sisters"). I am working to improve the education of children in our school (they are not accepted in regular schools) and to set up a speech-language program.

In Haiti, people with disabilities are treated as pariahs and hidden away from sight, abandoned or locked/tied up within their homes. NPFS has a residential care facility for abandoned children and adults, two outpatient therapy centers, and a special needs school. I train teachers and two therapy assistants. The goal is to ensure sustainability of services, but it is difficult—most of our Haitian staff has limited education and none has background in the care, education or rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

Our most common disorders are cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, mental retardation, hydro- and microcephalus, and autism. Nearly all our children need speech-language intervention and most of the CP kids also need dysphagia therapy (feeding tubes are not an option). One outpatient center has a stroke rehabilitation program providing physical therapy and now speech.

All services are provided in Haitian Creole, the primary language of Haiti. We have created most materials and/or screening tools. We rely on donations and some small development grants. I encourage SLPs to donate their time (to help with some training) or materials they no longer need.

Kristine Cronin (kristinelcronin@gmail.com), Tabarre/Petionville, Haiti

A Pioneer in Helping Patients With Aphasia

The September Limelight ("Guides for the Long Journey Back") reminded me of a friend and colleague, William Pitts.

Bill, now in his 90s, spent most of his career as an aphasiologist at Highland View Hospital in Cleveland. He was a visionary and inventor, always tinkering with technology, envisioning it as a partial solution for independent home practice for persons post-stroke. He wrote software for the C.H.A.T. (Computerized Home Aphasia Therapy) program, incorporating strategies he had used throughout his long career. In 1980, with a small grant from Easter Seals, he was able to put a program into the home of interested patients. A Tandy computer with a floppy disk—and a small portable television serving as its monitor—was the home computer at that time. Bill often spoke of self-esteem regained by stroke survivors as they went into their home office to practice speaking independently.

Today, more than 30 years later, I still introduce the C.H.A.T. program to appropriate patients. A patient recently told me, "It's the first thing that helped me in two years." As technological advances increasingly converge with health care service delivery, what is stress for many fuels the entrepreneurial spirit in some who, like Bill Pitts, blend creativity, evidence-based practice and inspiration to help the lives of the people we serve.

Mary Spremulli, Punta Gorda, Fla.

Correction

The infographic on p. 42 of the October issue incorrectly referenced the incidence of HIV. The information was related to the incidence of HPV.


  

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