Operation Smile speech pathology volunteers offer ‘comm boards’, teletherapy services in the time of COVID-19


One of the problems hospitals face in the battle against COVID-19 is the difficulty in communicating with patients especially those who are intubated. To help address this difficulty, the speech-language pathology volunteers of Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) came up with a speech communication board for the medical staff and COVID-19 patients.

Operation Smile, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive care to children and young adults with cleft lip and cleft palate deformities, shifted its efforts towards frontliners and COVID-19 patients as the world deals with the pandemic.

OSP partnered with the Speech-Language Pathologists of Cebu (SOC) and Siwala Pampangueña as it followed the lead of the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists – Alternative Augmentative Communication Special Interest Group (PASP AAC-SIG) to spearhead the communication board support. Through this, the medical frontliners can exchange messages with patients and properly assist them on their needs.

Communication boards or “comm boards” are picture-laden boards featuring functional words used by individuals who have difficulty speaking due to physical limitations. The boards have words such as “pain,” “yes/no,” “hungry,” “thirsty,” and others that can convey the needs of the patient directly.

“The ‘comm boards’ have been translated into several languages and dialects such as Kapampangan, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Filipino and Chinese. These are used by patients who have been intubated and are hooked to a ventilator, which make it difficult for them to talk,” Bal Ligot, one of the lead volunteers of OSP and the current chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the PASP, said.

“These boards became their mouthpieces to communicate their needs to the doctors, nurses and caregivers,” Ligot added.

The speech pathology volunteers from Cebu, Davao, Pampanga, and Manila have distributed over 300 communication board kits to various hospitals nationwide.

OSP’s speech pathology volunteers also launched “Teletherapy” to provide essential speech therapy services to children and adults with communication difficulties such as cleft lip and palate, aphasia and language disorders. The volunteers use various internet and media platforms and apps to engage patients in speech activities just like how they would do it during face-to-face sessions.

Operation Smile’s Manila Cleft Care Center in Sta. Ana Hospital is currently implementing this center-based “Teletherapy” as part of the services for patients during this quarantine period.

About the Writer
Grace C. Diez

Grace Diez started as an AM/FM radio traffic reporter and broadcast supervisor of Trapik.com before pursuing a 5-year career in advertising and a 9-year (and counting!) career in public relations. With 17 years of experience as a writer, her works have been published on People Asia, Metro.Style, ABS-CBN Lifestyle, Star Studio, Metro Magazine, Manila Bulletin, The Philippine Star, Working Mom, Chalk.PH, League Magazine, Sense & Style, Woman Today and Manila Standard with editors entrusting her with cover stories and CEO/celebrity profiling assignments. She loves IU, Taylor Swift, coffee, milk tea, Dr. Pepper and cookies.

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