Speech therapists: vital practitioners

Speech therapists: vital practitioners

Focus on a practitioner, vital for the improvement of patient’s communication and the advice they provide to families.

Thérèse Reichert has just joined the medical team of the Jérôme Lejeune Institute after 2 years spent at the Centre d’Action Médicale Social Précoce of Ivry sur Seine in France. At 24 years old, our new speech therapist is a well-known face at the Foundation where she already worked as a trainee while preparing her memory on “the effects of an early introduction of the Makaton* practice in patients with Down Syndrome”.

Eager to use her skills to help people living with intelligence diseases, Thérese currently holds a head position within our consultation service.

Her work consists in acting on and by the language with her patients. She anticipates and treats oral and written communication disorders.

Thérèse wishes to remind us that her new mission is dual: “When a patient is welcomed by a doctor at the Jérôme Lejeune Institute, he benefits from full and specific care. The patient is directed towards various specialists of the service. When comes my turn to see the patient, I must first assess his level of language and privileged communication methods.”

Thérèse also plays a role of advisor to the family and carers of the patient. She directs them towards a set of practices which, depending on the age, aims at improving language and communication at home as well as in the rest of daily life.

“We therefore sometimes need to work on questions of orality and diet in the youngest patients.” With patients who are 3 or 4 years old, Thérèse focusses the family’s attention on language development and the quality of speech when faced with articulation problems. From adolescence, the emphasis is placed on autonomy and this despite the different level of each patient. Finally, for ageing patients, which appear as the first generation thanks to the progress made by medicine, “we focus more on the diet and breathing to avoid going down the wrong path. These are specifics related to the patients’ age but the most important remains language and communication”.

Thérèse’s mission is not isolated as she works not only in a team with other practitioners from the Institute but also in relation with outside speech therapists, especially when the patient lives far from Paris.

Our young specialist admits it is a little frustrating to diagnose and advise a patient for one hour and a half knowing that quite often, because of geographical remoteness, he will then be followed by someone else.

To this day, Thérèse has received many people with Down Syndrome, from a couple of months old to 70 years old and from all origins. Some have even come from foreign countries, attracted by the Institute’s reputation. “For me, this confirms how lucky I am to serve in such a true centre of excellence”.

She concludes by insisting on the importance of treating communication and language disorders in patients living with Down Syndrome as early as possible. This comes as true progress and it is why our Institute will certainly have to increase the number of speech therapists working in the team.


*Makaton is a program that helps with communication and language. It is made of functional vocabulary used via speech, signs and/or pictograms.

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