As a pilot project while setting up the Saluto Charity, the founder Dave Williams undertook a course of Speech Therapy. This was the first time he had received such therapy since he was 11.
In the area of North West England where Dave lives, there is no NHS Provision to deliver Speech Therapy to physically disabled adults unless they also have a Learning Disability.
Because he attended a Special Needs Education School, the staff and pupils were “tuned in” to understanding children who had speech impediments. It wasn’t until he left that closed environment and entered mainstream society that he realised how crucial it was to be able to speak as clearly as possible… but this was when support from the NHS ended for Dave!
In adult life, not only is funding speech therapy an issue, Dave discovered that finding someone to deliver the therapy is also quite difficult. It took him 9 months to locate a suitable person … and they were based in Essex! So the sessions were delivered via Zoom.
This before and after video illustrates the significant improvement the exercises that the therapist gave Dave to practice made to the clarity of his speech.
While his speech remains far from perfect, Dave finds that he is understood by more people, more of the time. It is particularly noticeable when relatives who live further afield pay a visit. Dave can now speak directly to them rather than leave it to his mother to communicate for him.
Having clearer speech has given Dave greater confidence to engage with those around him – particularly when those around have “context” with regards to what he is trying to say.
His most recent “big win” was to buy a bottle of Coke. His speech was clear enough to tell the lady behind the counter what he wanted, where his money was and to pour the drink into the mug mounted on his wheelchair. This, a mundane task to others, brought Dave great joy at his new levels of independence!
Aside from improvements to his verbal communication skills, the therapist also assessed Dave’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). While he can type quite rapidly with his toes using a bespoke keyboard, she was able to recommend an upgrade to his speech synthesizer. It is so clear that Dave has been able to use it in meetings and family quizzes on Zoom.