Speech pathologist heads to India to help underprivileged children with cerebal palsy

Speech pathologist Kirsty Pitcher
Speech pathologist Kirsty Pitcher

IT has been a long-held dream for speech pathologist Kirsty Pitcher to help under-privileged children in developing countries.

The 24-year-old works at the Canning Vale Ability Centre with children with disabilities, mostly those with cerebral palsy and hopes her passion for the role will help when she leaves for India next month.

Joining a contingent of eight allied health professionals from WA, Ms Pitcher will go to West Bengal to work two weeks with orphans at the Anandaniketan shelter in the town of Katwa with not-for-profit Australian group Equal Health.

Working with a community that aids 350 adults and children with intellectual disabilities, Ms Pitcher said she hoped to better understand how to deal with children and adults who had swallowing difficulties – a condition known as Dysphagia – a common symptom for people with cerebral palsy that affects their ability to eat safely.

The trip has been a long-held dream for Ms Pitcher, but she said she was under no illusions that where she was going and what she will find when she gets there will be very different from life in Perth.

“There’s no doubt the health workers and carers at the Anandaniketan centre where we will be working do the best they can under very difficult circumstances,” she said.

“But we’ve been told to prepare ourselves for a challenging environment. I can only hope that the skills I take and the ideas I have will help this community long after the two weeks we’re there.”

The trip to Anandaniketan will be the first in two years by Equal Health, with last year’s postponed due to security concerns.

As a result Kirsty has been told to prepare herself for the overwhelmingly warm greeting from the children in particular.

“I know this will be an emotionally life-changing experience and I’m sure I will struggle with how unfair life is for the kids and adults at Anandaniketan,” she said.

“I also know even before I go that I will want to go back again and keep doing everything I can to make a difference, however small.”

“I know it’s going to be tough but I think the hardest part will come at the end when we have to say goodbye.”