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Clinician Profile: Cristina Sakthivel, Speech-Language Pathologist

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Cristina Sakthivel, Speech Language Pathologist, LIH Olivia's Place Shanghai

Cristina Sakthivel, Speech Language Pathologist, LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai

Cristina Sakthivel, MS CCC-SLP
Cristina is an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist from California, US. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from California State University Sacramento, and has completed training in PECS and PROMPT methods. Cristina has treated adults and children with speech and language needs for the past 6 years in a variety of settings, including medical/skilled nursing, public schools, and as a private practitioner. Cristina specializes in working with individuals with complex communication needs and multiple impairments. She served as an Augmentative & Alternative Communication Specialist in the San Francisco School District for four years. During this time, she provided direct therapy to students and consulted with other speech-language pathologists, teachers, and classroom staff to support the language needs of children using aided language methods. Language: English

 

How long have you been in China?
I packed up my husband and two geriatric “wiener” dogs and hopped a flight to Shanghai 2 years ago.

Why did you choose to work at LIH Olivia’s Place?
LIH-OP’s mission and vision are something I really believe in- improving access to therapeutic services for children in China.

Why did you choose your field?
I’ve always loved anatomy and language; speech-language pathology is the perfect blend of both. I find it wonderful that in the course of a day I can facilitate language growth by popping bubbles with a toddler, work on speech sounds with a second grader, and help a high school student craft theses statements and target social pragmatic skills.

What are some of the most rewarding experiences you have had in your chosen profession?
My true passion is working with children with complex communication needs (i.e., children who are nonverbal with multiple impairments) and providing them a means to communicate through pictures/icons, light-tech, or high-tech communication devices. I’ve never heard anything sweeter than the first time a child is able to say “no!” or “go away!” via aided means. It brings a tear to your eye!

What’s your favorite thing about living in China and/or working at LIH Olivia’s Place?
I love living in Shanghai- I think it’s a vibrant place, with so many wonderful and exciting things to do. I love that I still get lost when I go on a jog! And I love Family Mart.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?
I hope 5 years finds me continuing to travel as much as possible, enjoying a healthy life/work balance, and providing high quality therapeutic services to those in need.


Staff Profile: Akshata Kamath, Learning Support Specialist

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Akshata Kamath, Learning Support Specialist, Shanghai

Akshata Kamath, Learning Support Specialist, Shanghai

Akshata Kamath,MA, PGDM,PGD
Learning Support Specialist
Akshata is a versatile child advocate with a solid focus on the individual needs of special education students. She designs and implements inspiring hands on lessons, wide ranging manipulatives, and Individualized Learning Programs to enhance student achievement. She is skilled in addressing her student’s needs, ensuring children will thrive and develop in an adaptable educational atmosphere. She has a Masters in History and Post Graduate Diploma in Education Management from Mumbai University. She also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology and is pursuing a Masters in Education from Karnataka University. She has worked in India as a classroom teacher for over 5 years and at SHINE Academy, Shanghai for 3 years as a Learning Facilitator for children with autism, ADHD, learning difficulties, cognitive impairment, and Down Syndrome. Her core teaching areas include mathematics, language, and science. She also has a strong background in creating Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs), behavior management, and social skills.

 

Hi!!! I have been living in Shanghai for close to 6 years now. I worked in the field of Education for 6 years before arriving to Shanghai with my family. For me education has always meant a process of facilitating learning and acquiring knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.

LIH Olivia’s Place strongly believes in providing world class therapy to differently abled children and offering every child the best opportunities to reach their excellence. The therapists here work with compassion, sincerity, and dedication, which inspires me to contribute my talent and knowledge toward our mission and vision.

LIH Olivia’s Place continues to explore and grow in a positive way, involving experienced people from around the globe, bringing together new technology and ideas, and improving services for both expatriate and Chinese families. Together we have created resources that can be accessed by all families.

The work culture at LIH Olivia’s Place is amazing. We have a great team of experienced therapists who willingly share their knowledge to attain excellence in children. My ideology of learning and giving back to society is what I see in the mission of LIH Olivia’s Place. This learning and giving back to society kind of environment makes me happy. LIH Olivia’s Place is where I continue to learn and enhance my knowledge in every way. The happiness of a child’s parents when they are informed about their child’s success gives true meaning for imparting knowledge and education in community.

As my family will someday leave China, I would like to establish an LIH Olivia’s Place in my home country to expand the learning and share new techniques and ways of supporting children with difficult needs. There is more happiness and fulfillment in sharing.


More than Words – The Hanen Program for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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This month, LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai will begin offering a parent training program called “Hanen : More Than Words” for Mandarin Chinese-speaking parents of preschoolers who are on the autism spectrum or have social pragmatic deficits. The More Than Words program was developed by speech therapists who are experts in the field of communication disorders and is backed by extensive research. The program will be delivered by Yi Lien & Chihui Yong, speech therapists who are trained and certified in the More Than Words program.

More Than Words empowers you to help your child reach the following three goals:

1 Improved social communication and back-and-forth interactions

2 Improved play skills

3 Improved imitation skills

Here are some of the valuable things you’ll learn when you attend the More Than Words Program:

• What motivates your child to communicate

• How to use your knowledge about your child to set appropriate and realistic goals

• How to make interactions with your child last longer

• Tips for using pictures and print to help your child’s understanding

• Strategies for how to talk so that your child understands you

• Strategies for developing your child’s play skills

• Ways to help your child make friends

Program Components

The More Than Words parent program includes:

• 8 training sessions in small, personalized groups

• A Hanen Certified speech-language pathologist leading the program

• A pre-program consultation for you and your child with your speech-language pathologist

• Three individual sessions for you and your child with your speech-language pathologist in which you are videotaped while practicing with your child. Then you and your speech-language pathologist watch the videotaped interaction to “see” what’s helping and what you can modify to help even more

Program Details

Fee: RMB 9000

Sessions will be held on Saturdays, 2.30 -4.30pm, beginning 22nd October 2016.

Please see flyer (in Mandarin Chinese) for program content and schedule: Hanen More Than Words

For information on the Hanen Centre and Hanen More Than Words

For additional program details or to register, please call LIH Olivia’s Place at 86-21-5405-0058/59 or e-mail us.


LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai Collaborates with the Gladney Center

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Beth Rutkowski, Clinical Psychologist, works with a child at the Gladney Center.

Beth Rutkowski, Clinical Psychologist, works with a child at the Gladney Center.

In partnership with Gladney Center for Adoption, Dr. Mai Xiong and seven members of the LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai team visited and re-assessed a group of children who are hoping to find a “forever home.” The clinical team had an intensive day of updating clinical files for twenty-five children and were rewarded with smiles, laugher, and curiosity all round.

All staff at LIH Olivia’s Place are committed to providing access to high quality therapy for all children in China and we were delighted to partner with Dr. Mai and Gladney to provide much needed support for these young people. The Gladney Center for Adoption was founded in 1994 and since then has matched almost 1000 children with families in the United States.

To learn more about the project, and the children, see the following websites:
http://superkidscharity.blogspot.jp/search/label/FSL%20Project

http://adoptionsbygladney.com/blog/august-3-2016-%E2%80%93-update-cccwa-shared-list-project

 

Beth Rutkowski, Clinical Psychologist; Elle Millward, OT; Ilija Dimitrovski, PT; Dr. Susan Cadzow, DBP; Sophia Guarracino, SLP; Shirley Zhou, ST

Beth Rutkowski, Clinical Psychologist; Elle Millward, OT; Ilija Dimitrovski, PT; Dr. Susan Cadzow, DBP; Sophia Guarracino, SLP; Shirley Zhou, ST


SCMC Conference Focuses on Clinical Skills & Advances in Care

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Developmental behavioral pediatrics is a rapidly evolving field. However, in China it is still an emerging field with insufficient professionals and establishment of relevant programs. Both pediatricians and educators are confronted with serious challenges in diagnosis and treatment. In order to improve diagnosis of pediatric disorders and treatment quality, “Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Conference,” a national continuing medical education program, was held in Shanghai from 22nd to 26th June 2016. This conference was held by Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, affiliated with the School of Medicine at Shanghai Jiaotong University, attracting more than 100 healthcare providers devoted to developmental behavioral pediatrics. LIH HealthCare played a key role during the conference through the participation of several of our experienced clinicians.

The conference focused on clinical practical skills including standard treatment of pediatric disorders and differential diagnosis. Lecturers explained complex theories clearly and concisely. From basic introduction to clinical treatment, the content was well organized with prominent themes and a high-level of precision. All participants showed strong enthusiasm and took part in discussions. The conference was well received and questions put forward by participants were satisfactorily answered. In addition, the conference summarized new advances in developmental behavioral pediatrics in China to encourage healthcare providers to promote best practices.

img_2910A few experts were invited for this conference: Dr. Mark Simms, Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, who has helped to establish and advance developmental behavioral pediatrics in China over the past ten years; Professor Jin Xingming, leader of the National Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Group; and Professor Zhang Yiwen, Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. Meanwhile, Nelson Chow, CEO of LIH Healthcare, gave a keynote address at the conference, highlighting the mission of LIH Healthcare to support to support the field of developmental behavioral pediatrics in China.

Also, Dr. Susan Cadzow, Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at LIH Healthcare, presented on Infant Mental Health. Dr. Cadzow is a Behavioral/Developmental and General Pediatrician from Australia, and has worked in China for more than five years, she has extensive clinical and teaching experience in the areas of developmental and behavioral pediatrics, general pediatric medicine, and neuro-disability. In addition, Dr. Cadzow undertook further training and research in child protection and infant mental health.

Clinical psychology in China is not as well developed as in the USA or Europe. When it comes to infant mental health, there are very few resources and research on this area here. Very few people are aware that babies may have mental problems and can benefit from mental health support as adults do. During Dr. Cadzow’s presentation, she introduced “What is Infant Mental Health?,” and “What is Attachment Theory” to an audience which included pediatricians, therapists, and other pediatric clinicians. Through case sharing, Dr. Cadzow explained the risk factors and effects of early adverse experiences. She also helped the audience to understand how to identify infant mental health problems and how to promote good infant mental health. With the data analysis, case sharing and demonstration, and theoretical explanation provided by Dr. Cadzow, the audience gained a better understanding what pediatricians and other clinicians who treat babies should know about infant mental health and where to find resources.

After the conference, Professor Mark Simms was invited by LIH HealthCare CEO Nelson Chow to visit LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai. During the visit, Professor Simms was impressed by LIH HealthCare’s efforts to support the development of rehabilitation services in China. During the meeting, Professor Simms and Nelson had a great discussion on how to further Development Behavioral Pediatrics in China, how to support rehabilitative care, and how to work together to bring recent advances in theory and practice to China.

LIH Healthcare is dedicated to supporting the advancement of developmental behavioral pediatrics and will always contribute to the field of pediatric rehabilitation. We believe that pioneers in this field will apply what they have learned to clinical practice and attract more healthcare providers to improving children’s quality of life in China.


Mayo Clinic Pediatrician Shares Knowledge and Fosters Discussion in 4 Cities

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Dr. Raymond  Tervo

Dr. Raymond Tervo

Dr. Raymond Tervo is an American pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US, has a half a century of experience in pediatrics. His work, has included clinical research on neurodevelopment assessment, genetic testing for global developmental delay, self-injurious behaviors, and addressing problems encountered during treatment by families of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Throughout his career, he has promoted and developed care and services for children and their families.

Brent Johnson, Nelson Chow, Dr. Raymond Tervo, Sun Changshen, Dr. Yu Peng

Brent Johnson, Nelson Chow, Dr. Raymond Tervo, Sun Changshen, Dr. Yu Peng

As a medical adviser for LIH Healthcare, Dr. Tervo planned a comprehensive trip during late August and early September to learn more about the state of rehabilitation in China and share his knowledge with LIH Healthcare teams as well as with numerous healthcare providers in the cities we serve. His first stop was our corporate headquarters in Beijing. There, Dr. Tervo met with President Sun Changshen, CEO Nelson Chow, COO Brent Johnson, and other senior leaders and discussed the direction of rehabilitation in China. Dr. Tervo greatly impressed the executive team with his dedication to the field of rehabilitation and profound knowledge. During his trip, Dr. Tervo visited Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Kunming and shared his ideas and experiences with doctors, therapists, faculty and students in the areas of developmental behavioral pediatrics, pediatric neurology, pediatric health care, and pediatric rehabilitation.

 

In Beijing
tervo-bj-160831On 30 August, Beijing LIH Oliva’s Place presented together with the Pediatric Institution of Capital Medical University. Dr. Tervo gave a lecture on Child Development Delays. The lecture attracted more than 100 medical staff, including doctors, research personnel, nurses, and therapists, from medical institutions from throughout Beijing.

tervo-bj-2The Forum & 2016 Sino-America Behavior Development Disorder Tele-health Workshop was held by the Behavior Development Pediatric Group of Beijing Medical Society and LIH Olivia’s Place. Dr. Tervo spoke on Telehealth Coaching: Assessment and Intervention for Children with Developmental Disabilities, with professionals from more than 30 medical institution attending this lecture. During this event, Sun Changshen, President of LIH Healthcare, expressed his personal commitment and shared the company’s continued focus contributing to research in the field of developmental behavioral pediatrics in China.

In Shanghai
On 3 September, Assessment and Treatment of Childhood ADHD, an activity of The 11th Shanghai Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, was held by Shanghai Sunshine Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Tervo presented on Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD. On the same day, Dr. Tervo also attended a seminar held by Xinhua Hospital, the affiliated hospital of Shanghai Jiaotong University, together with The First Rehabilitation Hospital and LIH Oliva’s Place. About 150 people attended the seminar, including speech therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and parents. Nelson Chow, CEO of LIH Healthcare, attended the event at Xinhua Hospital. On behalf of the company, he expressed LIH Healthcare’s readiness to promote development within the field of pediatric rehabilitation in China. In addition to Mr. Chow, Dr. Fengyi Kuo, Occupational Therapist at LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai, and Dr. Susan Cadzow, LIH Healthcare Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics also attended the seminar.

tervo-shanghai-160903

Secretary Wen, Shenzhen Children's Hospital

Secretary Wen, Shenzhen Children’s Hospital

In Shenzhen
On 4 September, Dr. Tervo travelled to Shenzhen to speak on Telehealth Coaching: Assessment and Intervention for Children with Development Disabilities and Development Delay Patterns. This seminar was held jointly by Shenzhen Children Hospital and Shenzhen LIH Oliva’s Place.

Secretary Wen from Shenzhen Children Hospital acted as the host and gave a warm welcome to Dr. Tervo. More than 200 people attended the forum, including pediatricians, therapists, special education teachers, students, and parents. Clinicians in attendance were mainly from the departments of rehabilitation, developmental behavioral pediatrics, psychology, and speech and language at Shenzhen Children Hospital and other hospitals in the area specializing in maternal and child health.

tervo-shenzhen-3

km-tervo-visit-1In Kunming
From September 6 to 7, Dr. Tervo gave four speeches at an academic forum held by Kunming LIH SkyCity Rehabilitation Hospital and Yunnan Rehabilitation Medicine Society. The four speeches were Development Screening, Development Delay Patterns, Autism, and ADHD. LIH Healthcare President Sun Changshen, Yunnan Rehabilitation Medicine Society & Rehabilitation Committee Member Professor Liu Yun, and Director George Wang of LIH SkyCity Rehabilitation Hospital were present. Attendees included clinicians from the specialties of rehabilitation, pediatrics, and child healthcare.

Research on Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics and Promoting Telehealth in China
One of Dr. Tervo’s primary focuses during his trip was Telehealth coaching: Assessment and Intervention for Children with Developmental Disabilities. He noted that telehealth standards have reached a level which compares favorably with on-site medical methods in the area of child development and behavior. Meanwhile, it can solve problems related to medical resources, distance, and affordability. Dr. Tervo expressed the hope that Chinese children can benefit from telehealth technology.

Currently, Dr. Tervo is working with University of Minnesota to promote the application of telehealth in China, and is hoping that this program can be implemented in the very near future. Meanwhile, Dr. Tervo also pointed out that research in the field of child development and behavior research in China is still at an early stage. He believes we are at a critical point for China and has expressed his willingness to contribute his own efforts to help people access better rehabilitation services.


A New Therapy Available at LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai: Helping the Brain to Heal Itself

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Dr. Sophie Westwood, Clinical Psychologist, LIH Olivia's Place Shanghai

Dr. Sophie Westwood, Clinical Psychologist, LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai

As one of the clinical psychologists at LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai, I work with children, young people, families, and adults. Much of my time is spent offering talking therapies and behavioral consultations, conducting different types of cognitive assessments, and delivering training sessions and workshops to schools and other organizations in Shanghai. I recently completed extra training in a therapy that I think may be of great interest, and even help, to individuals within our community.

In July, I travelled to Hong Kong to complete the first part of the accredited training for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy. Because the name is so long it is often known as EMDR therapy. EMDR is used to treat a range of emotional and mental health difficulties such as trauma and low self-esteem, and reduce symptoms related to disturbing past experiences that the brain has not been able to process properly.

I first became interested in EMDR a few years ago whilst working for a talking therapies service in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. One of the therapies on offer involved asking clients to sit comfortably and follow the clinician’s fingers, from left to right, with their eyes. I thought this sounded a little unorthodox but in the knowledge that the NHS is an internationally renowned health service that only funds evidence-based talking therapies, I endeavored to keep an open-mind and learn more about it. Since that time, I have attended seminars and workshops and now, can offer it as a therapy. I will share a little of what I have learnt with you…

Like many therapies, EMDR aims to help people overcome the emotional distress and symptoms they are experiencing as a result of disturbing life experiences. During EMDR, the brain works hard to unblock the emotional pain that remains from past incidents or events, and this can happen remarkably quickly. The EMDR therapist uses different protocols and procedures to do this, one of which involves moving their fingers from left to right. The purpose of this is to stimulate activation, or processing, between the left and right brain hemispheres. Indeed, the EMDR therapist has a variety of methods from which the client can choose to stimulate this brain activity, to make sure that they feel comfortable and the therapy is as effective as possible. During an exercise for my EMDR therapist training, I found that following the therapist’s fingers was too distracting and I preferred to be tapped on my knees. I also had options such as listening to sounds or using a machine that vibrated on my fingertips. I was asked to do this whilst holding different aspects of a difficult memory in mind and there were other strategies used to help me to feel safe and relaxed if I needed it.

You might be thinking, how does EMDR work? The answer is not fully known but a researcher from Harvard has proposed that it could be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, helping us to process memories and disturbing feelings. Sounds strange? Well, after completing my training and seeing the beneficial effects, I find it helpful to think of EMDR as just another way of helping the brain to process disturbing or traumatic experiences, in the same way that more traditional talking therapies can. EMDR has been shown to reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms in a number of research studies and millions of people have been successfully treated over the past 25 years.

As a clinical psychologist, I offer a range of talking therapies according to the client’s needs and often work in an integrative manner, meaning that I can draw upon different therapeutic strategies and tools. EMDR is a great resource for my therapy tool-box because I can offer it as a stand-alone therapy or as part of course of therapy involving different therapeutic approaches. I can offer EMDR therapy to children, young people, and adults. If you would like to know more about EMDR please take a look at the EMDR Institute Website Frequently Asked Questions page: http://www.emdr.com/frequent-questions/ . If you are interested in EMDR therapy at LIH Olivia’s Place please contact us.

References:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, protocols, and Procedrures (Second Edition) by Frances Shapiro (2001; The Guildford Press)

The EMDR Institute, Inc http://www.emdr.com/


Celebrating the Holidays Away from “Home”

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Beth Rutkowski, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist & Psychology Team Lead, Shanghai

Beth Rutkowski, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist & Psychology Team Lead, Shanghai

Expatriate life provides us with all sorts of new opportunities and types of excitement. However, there are times when missing our home country and the people we love is inevitable. There is no time of the year that is more associated with family, togetherness, and tradition than the holiday season. This can often be an especially difficult time for expat families, who may feel they are missing out on things that have defined the most wonderful time of the year for them. So how can you maintain your holiday cheer from afar?

Maintain the traditions that matter to you and your family. Make a holiday playlist. Decorate your home. Make potato latkes or Christmas cookies. Whatever makes you feel like you are experiencing this time of year as special. Especially if you are unable to make a trip back, go all out. We may feel pressure to acclimate to our new life abroad. However, do not try to force yourself to leave behind the things that you love about the holidays. They can be a part of your new life as well. Ask your children or partner what is most important for them to experience during that time of the year and be sure to include those as well.

Add aspects of other countries’ celebrations to your holiday season. This can include both Chinese festivities and those of friends who hail from different places around the world. Ask friends to join you for a holiday gathering and take the opportunity to learn more about other their ways of celebrating. As you learn about the different traditions, choose those that resonate with you and integrate them into your own celebrations. This can make it easier when you cannot find some of the usual foods or decorations that you associate with the holiday.

There is plenty of research that demonstrates doing kind things for others makes us happier. Volunteering is therefore a great way to lift your spirits and there are many worthy organizations from which to choose. Pick a cause that matters to you and your loved ones- a children’s home, a homeless service, an animal shelter. Dedicate time to this organization, not just money. Get the entire family involved. It can be easier to feel lonely and bored if your children have time off of school or if you have time off of work. Volunteering gives you something to do and something to feel good about. It can also help you put your difficulties into perspective.

Keep in touch with loved ones back home. It may be difficult to be reminded of the gatherings and joyful reunions you are missing however, there are ways for you to participate, aided by technology and the commitment of friends and family who miss you as well. Ask your loved ones to set a seat for you at a holiday meal and participate via a video call. This will not be the same as being there in person, but it allows you that time and communication with loved ones- which is always important.

santasDo something you could never do if you were engaged in your typical holiday routine. Have a Christmas dinner of street food at the night market in Vietnam. Light the menorah beachside in Thailand. Ring in the Western New Year with Chongqing hot pot. It’s okay to be sad about missing people and happenings back home, but take advantage of the opportunity to have holiday experiences you will be able to remember for a lifetime. It’s a great time to make memories you will be able to think back on years from now and say “remember that time when…?”

Don’t worry too much about the kids. Remember that you will be able to structure your children’s own traditions as you go. They will associate the holidays with whatever you choose to incorporate into them. You may have associated Christmas with a tree and Hanukkah with huge gatherings of extended family, but this does not need to be the same for them. Integrate things that make them happy and matter to you, and these will be important to them in the same way your traditions matter to you.

However you choose to celebrate, remember that the most important thing is the happiness of you and your loved ones. Don’t feel pressure to match your holidays to those of family back home or compete with the festivities planned by friends here in China. Investing time in the things that matter to you and those you love will make you feel all the joy you hope for during this holiday season.

 

Dr. Beth Rutkowski is the Lead Psychologist at LIH Olivias Place in Shanghai. If you have questions or concerns about your mental health or that of loved ones, you are welcome to contact her directly at ber@lih-oliviasplace.com or the LIH Olivias Place team at (8621) 5404-0058 in Shanghai and (010) 6461-6283 in Beijing.


AAC Bridges Communication Gaps

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by Cristina Sakthivel, Speech Language Pathologist, LIH Olivia's Place Shanghai

by Cristina Sakthivel, Speech Language Pathologist, LIH Olivia’s Place Shanghai

I first arrived in China linguistically unprepared, possessing little aside from xie xie and ni hao. I relied on all the visual cues and signage available to me; in the metro alone, the symbols depicting the ticket gate, entrances and exits were lifesavers! These visual supports increased my comprehension of the world around me while my handy Chinese translation app helped to bridge the communication gap I was experiencing. For children with communication impairments, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) functions in the same way, enabling individuals to increase comprehension and providing a means to communicate expressively.

AAC refers to text-based or symbol based communication systems. This can take the form of symbols printed on paper, at the low tech end of spectrum, to dedicated speech generating devices/iPads with communication applications at the high tech end of the spectrum. The communication systems are customized and tailored to the needs of the individual by a speech-language pathologist and the child’s educational team.

It is never too early to introduce AAC to a child with communication impairments. Communication impairments can impact cognitive and social/emotional development; provision of alternative and augmentative means of communication allows the brain to develop and practice linguistic concepts in a functional manner until “natural” speech is possible. Additionally, increased ability to communicate leads to decreased frustration and increased social participation and engagement. AAC is essential for people who are non-verbal, but also benefits those with severe articulation (speech intelligibility) deficits and speaking individuals who need extra support structuring their language output.

There is a misconception that the use of alternative and augmentative communication will prevent children from speaking. This could not be farther from the truth! Studies have illustrated that the introduction of an alternative communication system promotes speech development- the use of visuals acts as an extra cue to scaffold oral language. As soon as a child develops the necessary fine motor skills and coordination to approximate and produce words, they will, as speech is the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. AAC acts as a means to an end, and not the end, allowing for functional communication until speech is possible.


Internship Summary: Memorable Impressions of Shining Star

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Philip Pikus, Shanghai Intern, Summer 2016

Philip Pikus, Shanghai Intern, Summer 2016

My experience at Shining Star was unbelievable, and I will cherish the opportunity to have spent three weeks with an amazing group of boys and girls! Firstly, the adults at Shining Star, Julie, Jingxia and her husband, the ayis, and all visiting therapists/volunteers do an absolutely wonderful job to create this loving and caring environment for the children. My time at the residential home has allowed me to work with both “typically” developing children, as well as children with a wide range of disabilities. I was able to play dinosaur games and build Lego with some of the fully functioning children, but I was also able to go on walks, play music for, and simply hold hands with boys and girls who were learning these basic functions. In the process, I went on an “outing” to a giant playground, observed therapies, and accompanied some of the children on a trip to Shanghai United Family Hospital to visit a world-class neurologist.

A few of my best memories from my time at Shining Star are as follows: On my first day, one of the other workers at the home asked some of the fully functioning children what they’d like to call me. When they couldn’t pronounce “Philip”, one child announced he would call me “gege” (older brother), and that stuck! One boy, Tom, who is blind and has minor learning disabilities, and is the only English speaker, immediately attached to me and asked me to do therapy with him. We became close friends with him somehow guessing where I was from with the hint, “I am from the biggest city in the USA”. New Jersey was the correct answer, although it is certainly not the biggest city in the USA! I promised him I would write him letters in the future. Lastly, I formed the closest bond with LeiLei, a 5 or 6 year old boy who appeared severely disabled. Upon seeing the neurologist, I realized that many of his problems, aside from blindness, are a result of his lack of stimulation and malnutrition prior to arriving at Shining Star. LeiLei attached to me every time I came through the door, wanting to be carried or held constantly. We would go hours hugging, without any words shared, but I could always feel the close bond we were creating. It was quite difficult saying good-bye to the children, but I look forward to receiving updates on their well-being, and hopefully to see the boys and girls again next year!

Philip Pikus interned at LIH Olivia’s Place and volunteered at Shining Star during the summer of 2016. He is studying Biology and Chinese at Bowdoin College (US) and plans to graduate in 2019.

Shining Star is a non-governmental organization (NGO) which provides foster care for visually impaired orphans in Shanghai. Shining Star opened in June 2012 and is part of Mifan Mama, a charity group that provides food, clothing, educational support, medical support and equipment to orphanages throughout China. Shining Star is a residential home for blind and partially sighted orphans. The foster home creates individualized development plans for the children and offers 1:1 and group care. They also collaborate with local and international hospitals to help provide eye and heart surgeries for some of the children. A team of specialists from LIH Olivia’s Place, including physical, occupational and speech therapists, support the children and caregivers weekly.


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