Australia Awardee Melina Amédée dreams of championing the rights of the disabled in Seychelles
Seychellois speech pathologist Melina Amédée has been awarded an Australian Masters degree scholarship at Flinders University (Melina Amédée)
(Seychelles News Agency) - A speech pathologist from Seychelles with a passion for helping people with disabilities has been selected as a 2015 recipient of an Australia Awards Scholarship to study a Masters degree in Disability Policy and Practice at Flinders University in Australia.
Noticing a shortage of trained experts in making the lives of disabled people more integrated into society, Melina Amédée aims to use the opportunity to be an agent of positive change for the disabled in Seychelles.
The Australia Awards scholarship programme allows post-graduate students from the African continent to study for Masters degrees in Australian universities, aiming to create a new generation of leaders with strong links to Australia.
According to the Agency for National Human Resource Development, Seychelles is offered training through the AUSAID scheme for long term Masters studies as well as shorter courses. For the Masters’ degree courses which normally last between one to two years depending on the courses, so far 35 scholarships have been awarded to the Seychelles thus far.
The awards are given based on the human resource needs of the country which Seychelles makes known to the Australian programme every year. Recently, the awards given to Seychelles have been mainly in the fields of education, environment, finance and public policy, psychology and health.
The other two Seychellois selected as Masters scholarships recipients for 2015 under the programme are Rahul Mangroo from the Department of Environment and Octavia Rose from the Seychelles Tourism Academy.
SNA caught up with Melina to find out more about her work and her goal to change people’s mindsets about people living with disabilities.
|Melina with a group of other Australia Awardees at a recent workshop held in Mauritius to prepare the scholarship recipients for their studies in Australia (Australia Awards Africa) Photo license CC-BY|
SNA: How did you start off in your career – what did you study for your bachelor’s degree?
I wanted to do something in health and yet I wanted to be a teacher. While doing my A Levels I still did not have a definite career in mind. Upon completing my A Levels I was speaking with one of my friends, who was working within the health sector at the time, and she mentioned that there was no speech pathologist in the Seychelles. After thoroughly researching the profession I saw that it was a perfect combination of the two professions I wanted to venture into. So I opted to become a speech pathologist.
SNA: How many years have you been working as a speech pathologist?
I have been working for almost five years now.
SNA: Are you the only one in Seychelles?
There are currently three qualified speech pathologists in the Seychelles but only two are practicing the profession.
SNA: What types of speech difficulties and related conditions do you deal with?
On the whole I manage children and adults with speech, language, communication, voice and swallowing difficulties. I assess and provide intervention to people with an array of conditions and diagnoses ranging from no known etiology to autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome; the list is endless; as long as these conditions and diagnoses have a direct impact on their speech, language, communication, voice and swallowing difficulties.
SNA: Are there many people in Seychelles suffering from these conditions?
There is an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with speech and language difficulties. Currently the unit is getting more and more children who are turning three who present as late talkers and possess limited vocabulary for their age; for example and at that age those children are getting ready to attend school the following year. And they have a short time span to acquire language in preparation to attend academic year the following year. Some children eventually ‘catch up’ and acquire language which is similar to that of peers within their age group. However, one thing we fail to realize is at risk children and those who do not ‘catch up’ may have difficulty thriving in the academic environment and they are the ones who will need continuous support and intervention. The message here is early detection results in early intervention.
As for adults, with recent changes in socio-economic development and lifestyle we are getting lots of stroke patients, as inpatients or as outpatients, for whom language or swallowing skills have been compromised as a result of the condition. With the world constantly evolving and as the population continues to increase we are expecting to see an increase in the number of people with speech and language difficulties or swallowing difficulties or who will eventually require the services of a speech pathologist.
|Melina works with children who are slow to develop speech as well as older patients who have lost the ability to speak due to strokes (Melina Amédée) Photo license: CC-BY|
SNA: Can speech therapy ever completely cure someone of a speech disorder?
It depends on the severity of the speech disorder. Most often in severe cases what you might see is compensation (strategies/ modification being put in place to ensure that the person is able to participate). But on other occasion, therapy can cure speech disorders. But this will depend on the person’s willingness to make the change, and also support systems that are in place and also the severity of the disorder.
SNA: How do you believe society can better include people with such disabilities in Seychelles?
I have had the opportunity throughout my career to work with people with different disabilities and one thing that we have been putting lots of emphasis on is their rights. So in terms of acknowledging that people with disabilities have rights and also that their rights are being respected across the different levels and our society and community because given the right support, training (through education) and opportunities, people with disabilities can also contribute immensely toward the economical development of the country. So overall I believe that if society gives them the opportunity to thrive, people with disabilities can perform and some of them can be even better than their able counterparts.
SNA: How do you hope your master’s studies will help you to work on improving inclusivity for disabilities in Seychelles?
My ultimate goal is that people with disabilities are included in any activities pertaining to them, be it at national and international level. I will be pushing to ensure that their rights are being upheld, and that they have equal opportunities as that of their able counterpart. And also ensuring that they have the quality of care and services they deserve. On the whole, children with disabilities who are able to attend mainstream are included in the mainstream and people who are able to go back to work or simple work are given opportunities.
SNA: You recently helped with the drafting of a new inclusive education policy which has yet to be legislated – what will change in the education system in terms of young Seychellois with disabilities?
Definitely we expect to see more children with disabilities who are able to attend mainstream schools being given the opportunities to do so. And the teachers who are providing an education to those children are given the right support and training so that they are better equipped to manage children with disabilities within their mainstream. And also tools being used in terms or resources are made available so that teachers and all parties working with these children are better equipped to work with these children. And also better partnership between Ministry of Education and the ministry of Health and other NGO’s who assist and work with these children.
SNA: When you leave for your Master’s studies and when do you expect to return?
I will be leaving early next year and I’m expected to come back during 2016.
SNA: Are you prepared for the time away? What will you miss the most?
I am trying my best to prepare myself psychologically and emotionally but it is not easy juggling work and my personal life to balance between the two. I will certainly miss my family, my friends and the Seychelles… and my clients as well!