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Port Lincoln Staff Profile – Rachel Haskard

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Wide range of clients for speech pathologist Rachel

Supporting people living in South Australia’s lower Eyre Peninsula region to communicate, especially using the latest assistive technology, is an important and exciting part of the job for speech pathologist Rachel Haskard.

Rachel was born and bred in the Clare Valley, and as soon as she finished university she was keen to get back to the country.

“Novita’s Port Lincoln hub was the best opportunity for me, and I just love it,” said Rachel.

“I think coming from a country background is beneficial because it helps you to understand the local community. You don’t have to be from the country of course to live and work successfully in a community like Port Lincoln. It’s an amazing experience.”

Rachel said that as a speech pathologist she worked with a wide range of people on their communication skills, from verbal communication to using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.

“Around 80 to 90 percent of my caseload here at the Port Lincoln hub involves AAC and assistive technology,” she said.

“I have clients that use low technology AACs such as PODD books (books or devices that use symbols and words to support communication for people living with complex disability), as well as clients that use the latest tablet communication apps and eye gaze technology.

“Eye gaze is a system similar to a tablet that tracks your eye movement so you can select symbols and words to communicate.

“With so many of my clients using AACs and assistive technology, it’s a big learning curve for me as well. I need to be up to date with all the latest systems and devices. It’s an awesome experience and I’m learning just as much as my clients.”

Rachel said her clients ranged in age from as young as two-and-a-half to as old as 92.

“My 92-year-old client suffered a stroke and has lost all verbal communication, so we’re starting from scratch to support her communication and hopefully get her back to where she was before the stroke,” said Rachel.

“I’ve only just started working with her, but already – from the point where other speechies were working with her to now – her progress is amazing, and you can see when things click with her as well.

“Another of my clients is in Year 6 at one of the region’s schools. He has very low tone in his hands, and has difficulty hand writing and typing, which are obviously things that he needs to do at school. I’m supporting him to use a great speech-to-text system so he can keep up with his school work.”

It’s very much a collaborative approach among the team at Port Lincoln, and Rachel said she and her colleagues were also seeing plenty of the countryside.

“We visit Elliston – that’s probably the furthest community I’ve been to – and we’ve had some trips to towns like Cleve, Cummins and Tumby Bay. We travel to see our clients as much as we can.”