Staff profiles

Katy O’Neill
Speech Language Therapist

Katy has worked for 20 years as a speech language therapist and has been with us here at the Taranaki DHB for 17 of those years. We asked Katy about the work speech language therapists do and her career.

What do you do in your work here?
As speech language therapists we assess, diagnose and treat people with communication or swallowing difficulties. We also provide education and support to clients and their families. Speech language therapists can work with clients from all ages, from babies to adults.

I work with adults with acquired speech, language and swallowing disorders. These clients may have had a stroke or have a progressive disease that impacts their ability to communicate, or eat and drink safely. Communication difficulties can include having problems understanding language or finding the right words to say. Speech can be affected if the muscles of the tongue and mouth and throat are weaker, or there may be difficulties forming the motor plan to say the words. Swallowing difficulties may be caused by weakened muscles or incoordination of the movements.This can lead to food or drink going down the wrong way and causing coughing or choking.

Tell us about your Speech Language Therapy team
We’re a small but dedicated team, seeing clients all across Taranaki.We work with adults as inpatients, outpatients and in the community and we also have a team working in the Child and Adolescent Community Centre. Across both teams there is the equivalent of four full time Speech Language Therapists, made up from five therapists as two of us work part time. We work as part of multi-disciplinary teams providing therapy input in a wide range of settings including seeing clients on inpatient wards or travelling to their homes when needed.

What’s your background?
I was born in Birmingham UK, and studied and obtained a BSc Speech Language Therapy (Hons) degree at the University of Central England. There are a number of universities in New Zealand which offer Speech Language Therapy degrees or Masters Degrees and there is an option for distance learning from one of the universities. My first job was working for Dudley NHS Trust where I worked with both adults and children. Speech language therapists can work in a variety of settings with a variety of client groups but once I moved to Taranaki I specialised in working with adults because I enjoy working with acquired communication and swallowing difficulties.

The best thing about your job?
I really get to know the clients I work with and it can be so rewarding to see someone communicate their message successfully or manage to eat that piece of food that they love safely without coughing. I feel very privileged to do this role.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a mum of three kids aged 7, 10 and 11. I really like to flop down on the sofa after they’ve all gone to bed and watch a bit of TV!


Last updated: Friday, February 19, 2021

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