Published on May 16th, 20161
Christie Bentham’s Legacy of Advocacy
By Julie Herczeg, S-LP(C)
We’ve lost a pioneer.
The (relatively) young profession of speech-language pathology can attribute much of its growth, strength and momentum to those who have had the vision, dedication and drive to move us forward.
So when we lose one such pioneer, it is not only the family and friends who experience the devastating loss of a loved one, but we too, as a profession and as a community, mourn the loss of one of our own.
Christie Bentham, a fierce advocate for speech-language pathology in Ontario and in Canada, passed away in December at the age of 85. She leaves behind a trail of notable efforts that continue to serve both public and professional interests in increasing access to services that are so urgently needed.
Throughout a career dotted with accomplishments, Christie’s professional practice included working in hospitals in Hamilton, Montreal and Oshawa, with a wide variety of clients, before eventually establishing the speech pathology department at Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, Ontario. She also had her own private practice. But it was Christie’s professional advocacy contributions that had the farthest reaching impact. Christie initially served as the editor and was a member of countless committees for the Ontario Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) in its early years, then known as the Ontario Speech and Hearing Association. Perhaps most importantly though, Christie served as a charter member of SAC (then the Canadian Speech and Hearing Association) and was President of OSLA in both 1966 and again in 1987. Few speech-language pathologists have had the opportunity to influence the profession at the provincial and national spheres.
Christie’s work was never done. Forward-thinking and always anticipating change, she was a doer who sought to pave the way for others. Recognizing a clinical need for parent training, under her guidance, Christie and her staff implemented parent programming supports for pediatric clients at Centenary Hospital. Understanding the importance of ongoing professional education, she also established a study group, comprised of S-LPs from both Centenary and Scarborough General Hospitals, which still continues to this day. In her retirement, with years of experience under her belt, she recognized the power of expression and began teaching English as a second language to exchange students at the University of Toronto. She became a mentor to many, including myself, when she allowed others to find their voices.
Christie knew that the strength of the S-LP voice was in numbers, and she fought to advance the profession so that there was always a welcome spot for us at the interprofessional table. She regularly extended a hand to graduate students in the field, recognizing the need for the dissemination of new information, new voices and new talent.
Christie’s was a life well lived. It is now up to us as a community to highlight and continue her unfinished work. In an OSLA publication from 1998, Christie herself said, “We can take pride in what has already been done, but must answer the challenge of a great deal more to come.” We may have lost a pioneer, but her legacy of service to others and professional advocacy lives on.
Julie Herczeg is a speech-language pathologist who works for the York Region District School Board. She is also a private practitioner in her own practice and at ISAND (Integrated Services for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders), and is a qualified teacher as well. Julie has been a member of the OSLA Board of Directors since 2011 and currently serves as Secretary-Treasurer. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.