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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.

Occupational Therapist

Devon Millar

Speech-Language Therapist

Paula Daniels

I gained a Bachelor of Speech Language Therapy from the University of Canterbury in 1993 and then worked primarily with adults in hospital and community settings in NZ and the UK. I first worked for TalkLink in Auckland from 1999 until 2002. While at TalkLink I gained experience working with children with significant communication needs through working part time at Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy.

I left TalkLink Auckland in 2002 following a move to Dunedin and then Christchurch with my family. During this time, I worked in paediatric settings: Group Special Education in Otago and Astech in Christchurch where we provided SLT services for children funded mainly through ACC.I also provided some lectures for the Speech Language Therapy Programme at the University of Canterbury.

When TalkLink services expanded to the South Island in 2008 I joined the team again and have been working part time for the Christchurch office ever since. After a varied career in different areas of speech language therapy, I feel I have found my niche. I really enjoy the challenge of using technology to help those with communication difficulties and working as part of a dynamic, passionate and knowledgeable team.

Speech-Language TherapistPariya Behnami

I joined the TalkLink Trust team in 2009 after working at Middlemore Hospital on the acute wards. I started out working in the Upper North Island office, before moving to Christchurch in 2010.

My training involves a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology (2002), A Bachelor of Speech Language Therapy (2008) and a Post Graduate Certificate in SLT (2014).

I have experience working with clients for all ages and a wide range of disabilities, across multiple regions within NZ. I have a particular passion for early intervention and for working with clients with profound and multiple disabilities. I enjoy the challenge of finding appropriate low & high-tech AAC systems for my clients, and helping to build confidence and competence with internal and external team members.

I look forward to continuing to work in this exciting and ever changing field, and most importantly, in helping our clients find their voice.

Anita-WebOct2014Speech-Language Therapist

I have been part of the TalkLink team since 2011. Before I joined TalkLink I spent 6+ years as a speech language therapist in other settings. I have had experience working alongside adults with intellectual disabilities and their support teams introducing 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.

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

I joined the TalkLink team in November 2011. For the majority of my  career as a speech-language therapist, I have worked in the community assisting individuals with communication difficulties to reach their full communication potential.

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

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.

Kenny16Speech Language Therapist / Technical Support

I joined the TalkLink South Island team in late 2012 in a part-time Technical Support role. I completed my Bachelor of Speech Language Pathology at the University of Canterbury in December 2015 and started full time with TalkLink in a Speech Language Therapist and Technical Support role in early 2016.
My background involves working in both the computing and not-for-profit sectors, and my own life experiences have taught me both the importance and fragility of communication, a keystone to human existence that so many who have never experienced difficulty communicating take for granted. Working with our clients to assist them to have a usable means of communication is something which I thoroughly enjoy and therefore my combined Speech Language Therapist and Technical Support role at TalkLink is a great fit for me.
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

I joined Talklink in 2014 as a finance/admin officer for the South Island office working alongside the finance team in Auckland. I’ve had fifteen years in admin and finance roles. Previously I had positions as credit officer, accounts receivable and accounts clerk for Boc NZ and Australia. After completing the NZ National Diploma in Business I worked for two small business in a part time role as Office Manager after my son was born.

My part time role at Talkink involves processing invoicing, general admin including referrals and supporting the clinical staff in the south island. I enjoy the challenge of a varied role and the great mix of people we work with makes everyday interesting.


Speech 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.


Occupational Therapist

I joined the TalkLink team in January 2012, having qualified as an occupational therapist in York, England in 1996 and then working with people over the age of 60, with a spectrum of acquired conditions and injuries. In recent years, prior to working for TalkLink, I specialised in injury management and rehabilitation, helping people of all ages to return to work or just maximise their independence in every-day activities.

Through my previous roles, I became increasingly aware of the potential role that technology could play in increasing people’s independence, by enabling them to communicate and connect with others, as well as perform tasks they would otherwise be out of reach. Like my TalkLink colleagues, I am passionate about harnessing the power of technology to increase people’s autonomy and independence.

My role as an occupational therapist for TalkLink, is focused on supporting clients who have challenges in independently accessing technology, such as computers, communication devices, tablets or telephones, needed for written or spoken communication. Ergonomics and the physical positioning of the device is crucial to enable it to be optimally accessible, e.g. by mounting a communication device to a wheelchair.

Other access difficulties that an occupational therapist might address, include those related to physical restrictions, learning challenges or a visual or tactile impairments. These challenges can sometimes be addressed with specific pieces of hardware or software, that for example, allow head instead of hand-movements to be used to control a computer, or rate enhancement software to increase typing speed. More typically, a variety of strategies need to be put into place, so we often spend a lot of time liaising, not just with the client, but with all those who play a supportive role in their life. I enjoy my job here, particularly having the opportunity to help find solutions that make a positive difference to people’s lives and working with other  dedicated and supportive people, who care about making a difference.

Occupational Therapist

I joined the TalkLink team in July 2016, covering a parental leave position.  Since graduating with a Bachelor of Occupational therapy in 2007, I have mostly worked in physical rehabilitation settings with the adult population.  I initially gained experience in Orthopaedics, before heading to England in 2009 where I worked as a locum in a variety of settings, both acute and community based.  In 2011, I returned to Christchurch and spent the next four years working at the Burwood Spinal Unit with a focus on rehabilitation and wheelchair and seating assessment and prescription.

I was first introduced to the TalkLink service when working at the spinal unit and I am now excited to be a part of this team.  I am dedicated and motivated to work alongside individuals in the community, to help increase their independence and quality of life through the use assistive technology.

Occupational Therapist

I trained to become an Occupational Therapist after I had a career as a Hairstylist for approx. 13 years. I completed my OT training at Otago Polytechnic graduating in 2001. Initially I worked at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch in Vocational Rehabilitation with people who had an acquired brain injury. From there I went to work as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist in Early Intervention at CCS Disability Action where I spent the next 14 years working with children with a variety of disabilities from 0 to 5years. While there I had many different hats; being an ENABLE assessor to issued equipment for daily living (such as bathing etc, wheelchair seating and 24hour positioning), working with children who had sensory regulation issues, with delays with their fine motor skills and self-care skills. I worked in the community visiting families in their homes and also the children at their early childhood setting.

I joined the TalkLink team in September 2016, in order to work in a setting that allowed me to continue to develop my interest and passion to work with children with a variety of conditions, focusing on support to access and participate in meaningful activities. I am also excited about developing new skills in working with a variety of ages and diagnoses. I am excited to expand my experiences further, working with assistive technology, to promote client-centered therapy.  I feel it is a rewarding experience to empower people to communicate, which will therefore impact on their overall motivation and well being.

Occupational Therapist (parental leave)

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.

MerrynGillSep15webOccupational Therapist (parental leave)

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.

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