“It’s so rewarding to help people improve their communication”
Author: Sarah McGrathPublished: 20 January 2022
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Ireland-based speech therapist Clare Meskill shares what motivated her to create her pilot app Teleatherapy – and why voice therapy is so important for people with Parkinson’s
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Clare Meskill. I am from Waterford, Ireland but moved to Cork for university – and have lived there ever since.
As a child, my family took part in a ‘home share’ programme run through a national charity. It meant once a fortnight our family would look after a child with additional needs for a few hours. The child we looked after was non-verbal, and it was my first time experiencing using alternative ways to communicate.
I enjoyed communicating through gestures and picture cards – it opened my eyes to working with people with communication needs. When it came to choosing a college course, I investigated the modules and I knew a role as a speech and language therapist would suit me.
Through clinical placements and volunteering with a local Parkinson’s choir, I met many people with the condition. This is when I learned about the huge impact voice therapy can have, which made me wonder – why is this therapy so difficult to access?
During my studies I came up with the idea which led to me starting my company, Teleatherapy.
Teleatherapy’s Clare Meskill won ‘best business pitch’ at the 2021 IGNITE Awards & Showcase. Credit: Darragh Kane.
How does Parkinson’s affect a person’s voice and speech?
Everyone with Parkinson’s can experience different symptoms. Difficulty with voice is one of the most common, with up to 90% of individuals with Parkinson’s experiencing complications. Changes to the voice can include reduced volume or hoarseness or slurred speech and reduced facial expressions.
How does Teleatherapy work?
Teleatherapy is a therapeutic platform providing remote voice therapy to individuals with Parkinson’s. We have an onboarding session with each patient, assessing their status and goals. Their progress is monitored by registered speech and language therapists, and they receive personalised feedback, helping them to achieve their targets.
By making this service available through an app, people with Parkinson’s can have therapy available to them at all times on their smartphone or tablet. Digital therapies have become increasingly popular, especially through Covid-19.
We are constantly improving our app based on the feedback we receive from users – it’s a continuous process. We are currently raising investment so we can improve the service even more.
Our service is affordable and clients can use the app in their own time, without the need to travel to and from appointments. My goal is to make voice therapy as accessible and easy to use as possible.
Clare (right) and her colleague, Kevin (left).
Do you feel there is enough awareness about the importance of voice therapy for people with Parkinson’s?
I can only speak from my own experience in talking to individuals with the condition and members of Parkinson’s associations. Many people are aware of the benefits voice therapy can have. However, many people are unaware of the large number who are affected by issues with their voice – and the importance of being proactive in maintaining it.
When do you think people with Parkinson’s should start speech therapy?
People should start voice therapy as early as possible to help maintain their voice for as long as they can. As each patient’s experience with Parkinson’s is different, their experience and progress within therapy will be too. Many patients are able to improve their voice, but it really depends on the individual and the stage of the condition.
One patient we work with could no longer sing to her grandchild due to her weaker voice – after only a few weeks of using Teleatherapy she could sing nursery rhymes before bed. Another client stated that after working with us, he was able to be part of conversations at the dinner table again – something he had lost the ability to do. While the time it takes to see results may vary between individuals, it’s always so rewarding to help people improve their communication with loved ones.
Lead image credit: Darragh Kane
Need to know
Clare Meskill is a qualified speech and language therapist currently based in Ireland. She founded her company, Teleatherapy, to help make voice therapy more accessible to people with Parkinson’s. She has a BSc in speech and language therapy from the University College Cork, Ireland.
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