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Speech pathologist engages children in DVD chatter

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 20-11-2013

Paediatric speech pathologist Kath Keiper

Kath Keiper always knew she wanted to work in a career where she could help people, especially children.

“I wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives and always found that I could relate to and engage children easily,” she said.

“My mother jokes that I was born talking and it was through my careers advisor and my family that I ventured into a career in speech pathology.

“What I loved about the idea of speech pathology was that while it was a specialised career there were so many avenues and directions you could take within speech pathology.”

Kath achieved her Bachelor of Applied Health Sciences (Speech Pathology) at Melbourne’s Latrobe University, and for the past 16 years she has worked as a paediatric speech

pathologist in a clinical setting and also in early intervention at Melbourne’s Kalparrin Early Intervention Program and in private practice at Clarity Plus Speech Pathology.

Apart from her day to day work in direct intervention, Kath is also reaching out to children she’s never even met.

Kath launched her own DVD 'Can you sound like me?' three years ago, which she hopes is just the first in her Chew Chew Chatter series.

The DVD has been such a success it is now being distributed by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER).

Kath created 15 songs for the DVD specifically targeting children with developmental delay and disability including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Global Development Delay, and receptive and expressive language delays and disorders.

The slow-paced DVD uses simple but fun songs to engage children and teach a range of communication skills without overloading them.

“I have received wonderful feedback from families and professionals who have provided me with some amazing stories as to how I have helped their children,” she said.

“Nothing makes me happier than when I connect with a child and I truly believe that by using this medium I have been able to engage and help many more children and families than I ever would have been able to do simply through my direct intervention.”

Kath said the DVD came after years of working on combining her love of music and speech pathology intervention with the technique of video modelling to teach communication.

She worked with special education teacher Jude Gearon to develop songs and content to teach a range of skills to children which was then videoed and incorporated into their early intervention music program.

“We found we had much success engaging a whole range of children during group time who previously had not been interested in sitting, attending and participating in music time,” she said.

“We found the children’s anxiety around group time reduced over time when we showed the video footage as they were able to predict more easily what was going to happen next and this reduction in anxiety and their increasing engagement during group time opened up the scope for learning.

“We presented on the topic at the World Inaugural Autism Congress where we received much positive feedback.”

Kath continued her passion for developing amateur videos and with ongoing success decided to venture into her own professional DVD that could reach a wider range of children.

She said working as a paediatric speech pathologist was a huge privilege where she could help make a difference in a child and family’s life.

Kath said she worked with one little boy whose mum was told he was unlikely to ever verbally communicate.

“I worked with this little boy for a number of years slowly helping him to develop single sounds then simple words and then simple sentences,” she said.

“I will never forget the day his mother told me that he had said ‘I love you’.

“Knowing that I played a role in helping him say those words to his mum is something I will never forget.

“Every child I have worked with has taught me something new and if I could give any advice to any other speech pathologist in shaping their careers it would be to not only always follow your passion but always know there are many opportunities to think outside the square.”

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