Tuesday, 06 August 2013 23:55

Katey Blehm: Aquatic Speech Therapy Evangelist

Written by Stephanie Johnson

katey blehm slp photo“Language happens everywhere,” says Katey Blehm, M.A. CCC-SLP.

    When working with children, making therapy fun is one of the top concerns, if not the top. Blehm, of Colorado Springs Speech Therapy in Colorado has been taking steps the last four years to do just that with her patients.

    “I told a couple of parents of the kids I was working with I wanted to try (water therapy) out and see them in the pool,” she explained. “I was shocked at the therapeutic qualities!”

    Blehm rents space at Donna’s Dolphins in Colorado Springs where she does aquatic-based speech therapy for three ten-week sessions in the Summer, Fall and Winter. There she has access to two 90-degree pools for therapy. Her typical patient will have a land-based therapy session followed by a therapy session in the pool.

    “It’s just been almost magical what we’ve gotten out of some of these kiddos,” she said.

    Most of Blehm’s patients are pediatrics, but she does have a few adults and young adult patients, from mild articulation disorders to severe apraxia of speech. Putting yourself in your patient’s mindset, especially if that patient is a child, can make a difference.

    “When you’re working with peds, think about motivation. Where would that child be motivated?” she said.    For a lot of kids, that place is the pool.

    “A lot of the kiddos I have have autism and (the water) seems to be an outstanding setting for them,” Blehm explained.

    She has also seen the pool be very useful in feeding therapy and oral motor therapy, and in many cases, pool therapy is better received than land-based therapy.

“Kids can be so free; it’s a fantastic place to get them to move, be happy and comfortable,” Blehm said.

    Blehm recently attended Aquatic Therapy University’s Aquatic Therapy for the Speech Therapist two-day class in Wisconsin. There she worked with ATU’s staff to further develop her skills for treating patients in the water and was able to connect with other speech pathologists with similar interests.

Blehm discovered ATU from searching online for aquatic therapy resources, especially those geared toward speech pathologists. She completed an Angelfish Training workshop where ATU was strongly recommended to her if she wanted to learn more about aquatic speech therapy techniques.
Since the ATU class, she said, “I have new and wonderful ideas to satiate (my patients’) need for pressure and motion.”

    Blehm was able to add several new skills to her repertoire as well as several great new games and ideas to incorporate new therapy techniques for her patients. After working with patients in the water for years, she has seen the benefits of the water and has new skills to increase those benefits.

“What I’m coming back from that class with is a lot more confidence in what I’m doing,” she said. “I have a new sense of (the water) being a fantastic therapeutic setting and it’s not just me.
Blehm said knowing there are other therapists out there who believe in and have seen the benefits of aquatic speech therapy has given her additional confidence in her work.

Her interest for speech pathology sparked after teaching and working with deaf children at a school in Colorado Springs and a camp in Aspen, Colo. To continue to teach, a master’s degree was necessary and she chose to pursue speech pathology, a degree she earned from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.

She is the only speech therapist in the Colorado Springs area who does aquatic speech therapy, and the only aquatic speech therapist she is aware of in the state. Colorado has a shortage of SLPs according to Blehm, and it’s been that way for a while. She said there are often waiting lists for speech therapy services.

    “Most of my referrals come from people seeking pool therapy,” she said. “I like that I can offer something new and innovative to my patients.”

Blehm encourages fellow SLPs, especially new graduates, to be open-minded to new techniques.

    “There is a variety of settings we can see kids in,” she explained.

    A new environment can make a difference in a child’s therapy success, and make it much more enjoyable.

    “It’s lots of fun and amazingly therapeutic. It’s a great combination,” she said.

 Visit Katey's website at http://colorado-springs-speech-therapy.com/


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