Who is Shareka Bentham?
I’m a speech and language therapist, which means I provide assessment and intervention for children and adults with a range of communication challenges. I gained my Masters in Speech & Language therapy from the University of Auckland New Zealand, which was an amazing experience both professionally and personally. I run a private practice called Easyspeak Enterprises, where in addition to providing direct services, I offer consultation and training to parents, teachers and allied professionals, as well as clinical supervision to speech therapy students and new graduates. Outside of my profession I’m a group fitness instructor, a Sunday school teacher and parent of a 4 year old social butterfly.
What does a typical day for Shareka look like?
To sum it up in one word “crazy!” I can go from being a clinic therapist to a school therapist, straight to a hospital to see patients, or do home visits all in the same day.
A typical clinic day would find me starting at 7:30am doing mostly play based therapy (yes I play with toys all day, play is essential for learning and cognitive/language development) and offering parent support for the very little ones. With our school-aged children we push more for functional and higher language skills (such as reasoning and problem solving). Many also have literacy goals, so we teach them how to read and understand what they’re reading. Within the school setting I provide direct intervention as well as work closely with teachers to ensure that targets are met and skills are carried over to the classroom environment. On the days I work with adults, you can find me doing mostly stroke rehabilitation, where we engage in various activities to try to get their speech and language skills back to a level as close as possible to what they were pre-stroke, and focus on successful return to everyday activities. My day usually finishes around 3:30/4:00 when mummy duties begin, and on some days my group fitness classes carry me to 7:00pm.
What made you decide to open a business in this field?
I’ve always had an interest in working with children with special needs. From a teenager I volunteered in Special Olympics and other programs. As I got older I ran summer camps for children with special needs, held reading and homework clubs in my living room, and worked closely with a Clinical Psychologist. However after shadowing a Speech Therapist for a few months, I fell in love with the field and decided that this was THE profession for me. I’ve never looked back since.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of this field?
I think the greatest challenge or barrier I would call it, is the lack of support for children with special needs in Barbados. We are still probably decades behind when it comes to Support in special education, access to services and the necessary resources, and an attitude of inclusion within our society. We as therapists can only do so much in terms of support, education, building awareness, and advocacy for the clients we see, but it calls for a greater mindset shift for the community, the Ministries and country as a whole to make more impactful change. I’m still having tough conversations when it comes to choosing schools that can “accommodate” children’s needs appropriately. We’re still in a society where a child with autism can be kicked out of a supermarket because he/she is too “disruptive"
What is your most memorable achievement to date?
Goodness I feel like every day has a memorable achievement. My days are filled with so much joy in seeing my clients make amazing progress. Every time a child starts to talk or an adult regains his/her speech it brings tears to my eyes. It never gets old. Outside of direct therapy my most memorable achievement is being recognized by a very well known Australian speech pathologist, in an article, for playing a part in connecting and engaging therapists across the world in online professional discussion via social media.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a similar business?
I would say to make sure it’s your passion. Speech therapy is an amazing field, but you have to really love it, because it can be physically and emotionally exhausting sometimes. You also have to be willing to fight for your clients, to make sure they’re getting the support needed to meet their true potential. I would recommend shadowing a speech therapist for some time to get a better idea of what we do and to make sure this is the field for you.
Where can our readers connect with you online?