Published on June 26th, 20140
Contributions Beyond Words
This article was originally published in ‘Stories from the Front’. Please note that the article has been edited for this publication.
Angelina Batten, a speech-language pathologist working with Western Health in Newfoundland, has gone above and beyond for her tight-knit community of people with Parkinson’s. In addition to running a speech education program, which started in 2009, Angelina launched a related therapy program to help people in need improve their speech, vocal endurance and facial expressions.
The road to her current role was a long one.
Originally studying for an undergraduate degree in German linguistics, Angelina transitioned to speech- language pathology (S-LP) after a shift in educational interests. She did her formal training and education in Texas at a renowned S-LP program before returning home with her newly acquired skills.
“I wanted to go as far away as I could for my education because I knew that once I started work, travel would be difficult. I am very lucky because they [the University of North Texas] have a fabulous program …. I was excited to come back to Newfoundland with my education,” said Angelina.
After getting her feet wet with Western Health, Angelina was approached by Patricia Morrissey, Executive Director of Parkinson Society Newfoundland and Labrador (PSNL), to start a local Parkinson’s speech-language education group. This program was created by the University of Alberta as a tool to allow people with Parkinson’s to learn about what speech issues may occur and how to fix them without a therapeutic component.
“I knew I could work the speech-language education group into my schedule. Western Health supported me all the way. The group has grown to the point where it’s not just educational information anymore; we now offer a related therapy group [as well],” added Angelina.
“Based on what they learned [in the speech-language education group] a lot of people were maintaining their skills independently… [so] my supervisors allowed me to start the therapy program. For one hour a week we cover the same topics as the education program in a practical setting. While direct one-on-one therapy is always an option, we help people with Parkinson’s maintain their speech skills year round,” Angelina said.
In the therapy program participants go through a series of exercises to work on breathing, relaxation, voice volume, vocal endurance, clarity and rate of speech. With eight participants currently enrolled in the therapy program, the group is getting close to outgrowing their meeting space.
“We’ve got three people who have been with us for six years and [another person] for five years. As we get new participants the existing group is extremely supportive of new people coming in. They become part of our Parkinson’s family. The new attendees feel comfortable to come and stay with us,” Angelina said proudly.
PSNL, a partner of Parkinson Society Canada (PSC), funds the S-LP education program in full, while Western Health finances the therapy program. Both groups run for six weeks, in spring and fall respectively.
“I can’t ask for better,” said Angelina of the support she and her group gets from PSNL, PSC and Western Health.
Angelina’s contributions don’t end with the education and therapy groups. As with many families, she fully supports her group members in their PSNL related fundraisers, such as the annual Tulip campaign and SuperWalk. She’s also found that the group returns that support in unexpected ways.
“Our group really is like a small family. It’s a personal and professional satisfaction. I get to see improvements in the group personally. We have people who increase their abilities by over 50%. Seeing that progress keeps me centered and helps me keep things in context,” said Angelina.
Angelina is a heroine in the eyes of her clients. Her unwavering commitment to helping people with Parkinson’s is a shining example of what one person can do to make a difference.