Friday August 30, 2019 Written by  Published in Local

Speech and language therapist Hannah Perry has arrived to assist families and educators to learn and develop communication skills with children who have language difficulties.

She was brought here by Autism Cook Islands, who have championed having a person in this profession for some time, to assist kids and relatives who need more knowledge and skills in this area.

“Let your child lead,” says Perry.

For parents who have kids with speech difficulties, she suggests watching them closely, “look at what they’re doing, you most probably will learn something new … that’s when you’re opening into their world.

“The children may not invite you in. But if you let them lead, they may.”

Perry will work alongside children, families and the educational team to help identify the ways their child is currently communicating, and to build strategy and skills.

“The whole emphasis is on empowering parents and teachers to connect better.

“To build strategy and skills, so parents, teachers and teacher aides can use these strategies now and in the future.”

Here for four months, Perry says, we can teach a child new skills, next year when you want to teach your child something else, the same process can be used.

Therefore, the importance is on empowering parents, teachers and teacher aides to get the most of these young people, it’s not about me coming in working with your child, and then leaving, she adds.

Perry says: “I’m not the parent or the teacher, I’m here to share knowledge so people can build their skill base.”

Perry has always had an interest in working with people with disability; while studying she worked as a support worker.

There was so little known about people with disabilities then, including autism, “it helped me decide on where my career path was headed.”

Perry is thrilled excited to be here until December, to have time to put things in place and build relationships, although she is aware this is not a long time, her my whole emphasis is on sustainability and to enter into the tool box that people around the child hold.

She has visited many of the schools, to present awareness on the programmes she will conduct and is pleased with the interest, “people are welcoming and excited, there’s obviously a great need and thirst for knowledge and genuine desire to do better for the children, it’s great to have something to offer.”

The communications project has been 18 months in the making and is now underway with the support of a UNESCO grant.

Differences in communication is one of the key areas that people with Autism struggle with.

Treasurer, Simone Fe’ao says, “Hannah is a great fit and has over 10 years’ experience as a speech therapist, in particular working with children on the autism spectrum.”

“She shares Autism Cook Islands philosophy of equipping families and support people to empower them with the skills to bring out the best of those they know living with Autism.

Autism Cook Islands is looking forward to working with families and schools, and the progress in the children.

The new executive members are: President – Gloria Rarere-Tinirau, Vice President – Tony Fe’ao, Secretary – Katrina Matheson, Treasurer – Simone Fe’ao, Member – Michael Ponga, Member-  Lysia Stringer, Member – Nicole Brown.

Fe’ao says, “it’s great to have keen new team members on board to continue the momentum we have and bring new vigour.

Apii Nikao has kindly made room for Perry to set up office.