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South Island

South Island ManagerBarrieweb

My involvement with assistive technology began in the 1980s working on the development of environmental control systems for people with spinal cord injuries.  Coming from a background in industrial automation, it was exciting to see how technology could be applied to assist people with disabilities and this soon became a passion for me.

As assistive technology moved from custom built and modified devices to commercial off-the-shelf solutions, the need for formalised assessment became apparent.  This led to the establishment initially of the Southern Technology Assessment and Resource Team (START) which later became the Burwood Assistive Technology Centre where my role was rehabilitation engineer.

During my time with the Burwood Assistive Technology Centre I broadened my engineering qualifications by completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Rehabilitation though Otago University.  I also became very familiar with the processes and requirements for securing funding for equipment through ACC and Enable Funding.  Through these years I had the privilege of working not only with a fascinating range of new technologies as they developed, but also with many remarkable people as they embarked on their rehabilitation journeys.

Some people will know me through other related roles, either as a founding member of the New Zealand Spinal Trust or as Chairperson of the Computers for Special Needs Trust and I keep an active interest in both these organisations.

In 2009 I took up a new position as Team Leader – Bioengineering at Christchurch Hospital, where I managed a small group of biomedical engineers and technicians.  This was interesting work developing innovative high technology solutions for specialised needs in the Canterbury health system.  Alongside this I continued my interest in assistive technology, though with the focus moved to hospital inpatients.

When the position of South Island Regional Manager with TalkLink became available I saw an opportunity to not only use my team leadership experience, but also to return to hands-on work with assistive technology.  Alongside my management role I expect to be supporting the South Island team with technical and engineering expertise.  But most of all my desire is to see our clients achieve fulfilment in their lives through the use of assistive technology.


Devon Millar


Speech-Language Therapist

Paula Daniels

I am a speech-language therapist who first worked for TalkLink in Auckland from 1999 until 2002 where I specialized in assessing clients communication needs and providing high and low technology communication systems. This also involved completing funding applications for equipment and providing training and support for their use when required. While at TalkLink I furthered my experience working with children with communication needs by working part time at Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy.

Prior to joining TalkLink I had worked for 5 years with adults with communication difficulties in hospital, community and rehabilitation settings both in New Zealand and the Uk.

After I left TalkLink in 2002 I moved to Dunedin and then Christchurch with my family. During this time I have worked part time in paediatric settings: Group Special Education in Otago where my caseload was children with very high needs and, Astech in Christchurch where we provided SLT services for children funded mainly through ACC. Most recently I have worked part time at the University of Canterbury as a clinical supervisior for SLT students and provided some lectures for relevant SLT courses.

I am very excited to join TalkLink in Christchurch as a speech language therapist to extend the great service TalkLink has provided in the North Island

Speech-Language TherapistPariya Behnami

Pariya is currently on parential leave.

Prior to joining the TalkLink team in December 2009, I worked as a Speech Language Therapist in an acute hospital setting with clients with a wide variety of neurological and physical disabilities, focusing on assessment and management of their communication and swallowing difficulties. Additionally, I have experience in outpatient rehabilitation with clients in the post-acute phase. I have also completed a BA in Psychology before training as a Speech Language Therapist.

I have had a keen interest in Assistive and Augmentative Communication since university and this has been further strengthened by my experiences with clients on the acute wards. I am particularly interested in the psychological impact of having a disability.

I am looking forward to developing my skills in this specialist area and assisting clients and their whanau in enhancing their communication access. I look forward to working with you.

Anita-WebOct2014Speech-Language Therapist

For the past 6 ½ years as a speech language therapist I have had experience working adults with intellectual disabilities and their support teams with low and high tech strategies for communication, I have worked in a special school with ORRS funded students age 5-21, with ORRS funded students in mainstream classrooms and with teenagers in a special unit at a high school. I have also led regular communication groups for people recovering from strokes.

Prior to completing my SLT training at the University of Canterbury I was fortunate to have a wide range of caregiving experience, with adults with intellectual disability, children with disabilities, and elderly people with a variety of neurological conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia and Stroke. This gives me a good understanding of some of the practical issues facing clients, families and caregivers.

In recent times I have enjoyed working alongside the South Island Talklink team, with several shared clients, learning a lot about assistive technology from this very knowledgeable group. I look forward to continuing to learn more and to using my own knowledge and experience to assist people with communication difficulties to gain the supports for communication which will best suit their needs.

Speech-Language TherapistJackie Hancock

For the majority of my 15 year career as a speech language therapist, I have worked in the community assisting individuals with communication difficulties to reach their full communication potential.

More recently, I have worked at the Canterbury District Health Board with adults (16 years+) with communication and swallowing difficulties as a result of neurological impairment including; stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease.

A considerable part of my early career involved working with adults with an intellectual disability – this was both challenging and rewarding and sparked my initial interest in assistive and augmentative communication.

I have also had the opportunity to work with pre-school and school-aged children with delayed speech and language development in private practice.

I have a particular interest in supporting people with disabilities to become fully participating members of society through positive and meaningful interactions with others.

Joining the growing Talklink team in November 2011, I look forward to continuing to assist individuals to become effective and successful communicators, by providing assistive and augmentative communication support.

Office Administrator and Trainer

Margaret Cuttance

I have 15 years of experience working with students who engage with the world using a range of technology. I began working as a teacher’s aide, as part of a highly skilled teaching team, to support and address the learning needs of

High and Very High needs students in a special school environment. During this time I began to develop a keen interest in technology and the beneficial impact it often had on the learning and communication of the students I worked with. In 2000, I extended my teacher aide role and put my experience and knowledge of technology to work as the resource and technology support person and therapy assistant at Ferndale Special School and Resource Centre. I Joined the TalkLink South team in November, 2009 as an admin person. I have recently began extending this role to encompass making of resources, as well as programming and troubleshooting of devices, training clients and support people around use of their technology, and general support to the other team members here in the South Island.

SONY DSCTechnical Support

I joined the TalkLink South Island team in late 2012. I am currently studying towards a Bachelor of Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Canterbury.

In addition to working part time at TalkLink, I also work part time as the National Manager of Cleft New Zealand to provide support to all those affected by cleft lip and palate, a role which I also thoroughly enjoy.

My background is in radio, computing and IT systems, and my future ambitions lie in the field of Speech-Language Therapy, therefore TalkLink is a perfect fit for me.

I am a firm believer that everyone has a right to access communication, and TalkLink is devoted to making this happen, no matter how difficult the challenges and barriers may appear to be. I thoroughly enjoy working alongside the entire TalkLink team, as well as our clients, to problem solve and develop solutions, and I enjoy working in a dynamic and friendly environment where no two days are the same.

WendyDick15Office Administrator



MerrynGillSep15webOccupational Therapist

After gaining a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing and Management ( 2008),  I worked in the private sector gaining valuable experience and skills in people management.

It was in 2012 that I graduated from Otago with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and have worked since then in a rotational position in the public health system, covering acute wards, rehabilitation and the community.

My interest lies in neurological conditions and their impact on people’s ability to function in daily tasks. I was drawn to this area of OT when I had experience with people who struggled to communicate and control their environment.  I believe the ability to communicate is a core part of gaining and maintaining independence, so I’m excited to join Talklink and specialise in an area that uses technology to potentially change people’s lives for the better.

PaulineLoong15Speech Language Therapist

I joined the TalkLink team in March 2015 and prior to this I worked as a speech language therapist at van Asch Deaf Education Centre. I had the opportunity to work with deaf pre-school and school aged children, their whanau and educators, to support language development and meaningful communication. I supported students receiving ORS funding, both in mainstream classrooms and special units within schools.

During my time studying speech and language therapy at the University of Canterbury, I worked with IDEA services as a home support worker and enjoyed supporting my client as they participated in community groups and social activities.

I am excited to have joined the TalkLink team and look forward to growing my knowledge and skills in this specialist area. I am passionate about working with adults and children to promote and enable communication, through working alongside them and their whanau.

SarahPitcher15Speech Language Therapist

I joined the TalkLink team in June 2015 and prior to this I worked  as a Speech-Language Therapist at the Ministry of Education in Christchurch. During my time at the Ministry I gained experience in working with preschool and school aged children with a variety of communication needs. Part of this work involved supporting the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), which sparked my interest in this area, as I experienced the difference AAC made to their ability to communicate and participate in everyday life.

I am passionate about using AAC to support people’s communication skills, creating positive outcomes and improving their quality of life. I enjoy working with people and their whanau to find solutions which are individualised and meaningful to the person requiring communication support. In 2014 I completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching, endorsed in Autism, which is another area of interest for me.

I look forward to working with you and your family to explore supports for your communication through the use of assistive technology.


Teacher/TrainerHelen Brunner

Kia ora. Having worked alongside TalkLink therapists since I began my role as a Specialist Teacher in 2012, I am excited to now be part of the TalkLink team. Based in Invercargill, I am pleased to be able to provide a more regular presence for TalkLink in the Southland, Otago and Central Otago areas.

I am a registered teacher and completed my Post Graduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching (Complex Educational Needs) in 2014.

After completing my Bachelor of Arts in 1994, I worked in a wide variety of roles before undertaking my teacher training in 2006. In 2012, my principal offered me the opportunity to work as an Additional Teacher for some of our students with special educational needs, including complex communication needs. The experiences I have had working with those students, and the learning and professional development opportunities that have come along with that role, have served to build my passion for working in this area. Many of the students I work with are, or have been, involved with the services provided by TalkLink and I often work closely with the TalkLink staff as I support those students. Moving from working alongside the TalkLink team to working as part of that team is an absolute privilege.

My role as Teacher/Trainer involves assisting users of assistive technology, and their teams, to enable those users to become confident, capable communicators in a variety of contexts. This includes looking at how the technology can be used to support and enhance their presence, participation and achievement in the learning community of their school as well as at home and in the wider community. My particular area of passion is in the development of literacy skills.

Occupational Therapist

Stacey MayesI decided to study to become an Occupational Therapist as I was interested in enabling people to participate in meaningful occupation with a client-focussed approach. After graduating from Otago in 2011 I went on to work for the Canterbury District Health Board in an orthopaedics setting. Through this role I enjoyed assisting my clients to become as independent as possible and return to their homes and day-to-day lives. Seeing people achieve their goals and regain confidence in themselves has been immensely rewarding.

I am excited to implement these skills with my TalkLink clients. Since I was a child I have always gravitated towards technology. Its many uses, in this ever developing field, fascinate me. I look forward to working within the TalkLink team and developing my skills further.



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