This time ASK caught up with Speech Therapist Sophie Bozzottii. Find out why she chose to make a difference through Speech Therapy and how as parents you can help your child.
Sophie Bozzotti moved to Geneva in 2003, after a number of years working in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Still loving life in what she describes as ‘the perfect cosmopolitan city’, she dedicates her time to helping others through her
work as a Speech Therapist.
What made you choose a career in Speech Therapy?
For me, it was the perfect combination of language and science, as I wanted to study both when I finished school, but couldn’t choose between the two! This led me to read for a degree in Applied Science in Speech Pathology at Sydney University.
What qualities do you think are most valuable to becoming an effective Speech Therapist?
Great communication skills and the ability to transfer knowledge both verbally and in writing are vital. But also the ability to play like a child whilst maintaining an objective eye on what you’re doing. You need to successfully engage a child, putting yourself in their shoes and playing at their level, whilst at the same time taking a step back and evaluating.
What the main challenges/frustrations of your job?
One of the main challenges is keeping up-to-date with research and ensuring your practice is evidence-based. It’s important that treatments you propose and pursue have already proved their way in scientific literature rather than being based on intuition or history just because that’s the way it’s always been done.
I also find it frustrating that a number of children who are entitled to speech therapy at the institution at which they’re studying don’t have access to this support due to staffing constraints.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Each and every time a parent comes back to me and says they did the things I suggested and their child has made a notable improvement.
One memorable case that springs to mind is an assessment I did for a two-year old several months ago. Not only did the parents listen to my recommendations, but they really took them on board and acted upon them. They later wrote to me to say that, not only was my assessment spot on, but they came to realize they’d been speaking for their child. They now allow her to talk for herself, and she is communicating far better than she used to.
At what age can children start Speech Therapy? Is there an upper age limit?
There are signs communication is not developing as it should as early as 10-12 months. It is also now possible to identify autism far earlier than before. But, typically parents consult a Speech Therapist either when their child is two years old and struggling to put a couple of words together, or a little later at around three, when their child can’t be understood by others. There really is no upper age limit; adults can seek assistance for accent modification, fluency disorders such as stuttering, voice disorders or for problems with speech after a head injury or stroke.
What can parents do to help?
Listen to your child and take the time and trouble to help them be understood. Just because a parent knows that when their child talks about “tea” he means “key”, don’t let it slip. Ask if they mean “key” or “tea” so they understand these are two words with different meanings. This not only helps motivate your child to say it properly, but clarifies which word they should use so they’re understood by others. When parents don’t correct these errors, it is a kind of over-protection that’s not always in their child’s best interest.
Can a multi-lingual home/ school environment have a negative impact?
In general, a multi-lingual environment is an asset. Consistently hearing different languages from a young age allows children to discriminate between different speech sounds. This ability means a child is more likely to be able to pronounce the sounds correctly later on. Also, hearing different sentence structures can only encourage the child to observe the differences in sentence structure from one language to another.
However, for those with speech difficulties in a multi-lingual environment, you need to prioritise the child’s mother tongue until they are proficient. Improving deficits in a child’s mother tongue will allow for faster progress when learning a second language. In other words, for those Anglophone parents of kids with language disorders who are debating moving to Geneva, if you don’t give your child enough support in English, they will be disadvantaged.
How has Speech Therapy evolved over the last 5/10 years?
The main thing that has changed is the greater use of technology in terms of iPad applications.
How can parents in Geneva access Speech Therapy?
Parents here tend to use the ‘Know-it-All Passport’ and word of mouth for Speech Therapist recommendations. Some private schools also have Speech Therapists on site. It’s important for parents who pay taxes in the Canton of Geneva to understand that they have the right to evaluation and treatment through SPS (Secrétariat à la pédagogie spécialisée) until the age of 20.
What your hopes and ambitions?
In the short term, my main project is to establish the use of ACCENT, an assistive communication device controlled by eye gaze, for a girl with Rett Syndrome. Longer term, my main aim is to continue to strive to enable parents to help their child overcome speech and language difficulties.