Board Members

  • Jessamy Bell

    Jessamy Bell

    (chair person)

    I am a Speech Language Therapist. I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to New Zealand in 2001. I graduated from Massey University and worked at Wilson School in Auckland before moving to TalkLink Trust in 2013 and now live in Papamoa, Bay of Plenty. I have been extremely interested in Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) and assistive technology since my final student placement at Wairau Valley Special School and then through working at Wilson School. This interest spurred me on to complete a Post Graduate Certificate in Emergent Literacy for Children with Complex Communication Needs who use AAC to communicate. I then completed my Masters of Speech Language Therapy in 2018 focusing on the perceptions and experiences of children who use AAC and attend an AAC focused camp with their families.

    I joined the ANTAZ BOT in August 2015 and became Chairperson in 2019. I am excited to be a part of ATANZ at this dynamic time, where technology is changing so quickly. I am also excited about the growing number of therapists becoming CAT Level 1 accredited and how ATANZ can support these therapists through supervision and offering professional development opportunities.

  • Hilde van Santen

    Hilde van Santen

    I have worked as an SLT with children with special needs at special schools, rehab centres and in early intervention since 1992 in The Netherlands and since 2004 in New Zealand. I have worked at the Kidz First Child Development Team and Parkside School following many years at Carlson School for Children with Cerebral Palsy. Currently I work at Maitai Special School in Nelson. In my spare time I have done a fair bit of volunteer work overseas as an SLT. I also support other SLTs with supervision.

    Given that I have worked with children with significant communication needs I have always enjoyed the challenge of supporting them with Augmentative and Alternative Communication. I feel that communication is a basic need for any person to connect with others and to express themselves. I have been CAT 2 accredited for several years and am enthusiastic about the new developments within technology that are more flexible, socially acceptable and allow many more communicators to express themselves. I joined the ATANZ BOT to give therapists in the AAC community, such as OT’s and SLT’s at special schools, in Early Intervention and in private practice a voice.

  • Chris O’Hara

    Chris O’Hara

    I trained as an Occupational Therapist in the UK and graduated in 2006, before moving to New Zealand in 2008. I have experience working across a range of acute hospital settings in both the UK and New Zealand, and as a community OT in Gisborne. I joined TalkLink in 2014 to allow me to work and further increase my knowledge in the field of Assistive Technology. I have completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Accessibility & Inclusive Design, and have a strong passion in the use of technology and environmental design to increase independence, communication and community inclusion. As part of my role at TalkLink I have presented lectures to student OT’s on Assistive Technology to increase knowledge of this area of practice.

    I am excited to join the ATANZ BOT to help support the important work it does, in an ever developing area which can be of significant benefit to people’s lives. I am also motivated to increase the knowledge around, and use of Assistive Technology, within the wider Occupational Therapy profession.

  • Shannon Hennig

    Shannon Hennig

    Shannon Hennig is a speech-language therapist who has been working in the area of AAC and assistive technology since 2003. Her preservice training in AAC included internships and coursework with John Costello at Boston Children's Hospital. She has worked at TalkLink as an assessor (2006-2009), an AAC consultant in rural schools (Easter Seals of Massachusetts 2003-2006), and she founded her own private practice specialising in autism, AAC, and literacy in 2014 in Wellington. In 2013 she completed her PhD investigating expressive speech synthesis for AAC applications. She frequently attends and presents at ISAAC and AGOSCI and in years past at the ASHA conferences. She is currently on the board of the New Zealand Speech-language Therapists' Association. Shannon is also often involved in disability advocacy work including providing training around communication accessibility, writing submissions to parliament, and participating in Education reform consultations.

  • Vanessa Parmar

    Vanessa Parmar

    I trained as a Speech-Language Therapist in the UK and moved to New Zealand in 2009. I have over 15 years experience working as an SLT. I currently run a private practice in Hawkes Bay, providing SLT input for children and adults with disabilities and complex communication needs. My interest in AAC began in my SLT student days whilst working in a Special School. My enthusiasm for AAC and in particular Assistive Technology has grown over the years and I feel very strongly about empowering individuals to have a voice.

    I am passionate about supporting marginalised populations to access SLT services, so I work closely with government organisations and funding providers. I strive to provide support to those that typically may experience difficulty accessing SLT services, including adults with Intellectual Disability and Maori. I have CAT level 1 accreditation and I am pleased to be part of the ATANZ board, to further support other SLTs, and to represent the Assistive Technology needs of individuals in Hawkes Bay.

  • Helen Bayldon

    Helen Bayldon

    I am an SLT passionate about Augmentative and Alternative Communication and literacy. Having worked in medical rehabilitation, special schools and private practice for more than 20 years I have experience working with people with a range of abilities. I currently work at Central Auckland Specialist School with students who have complex communication needs. I have recently completed my Masters in Speech Language Therapy. This involved research on literacy intervention with children with complex physical, cognitive and sensory needs who use partner assisted scanning to access augmentative and alternative communication. I have presented at international conferences on partner assisted scanning. I believe communication is a fundamental human right and am excited about assistive technology, AAC and access to communication for people with complex communication needs. I am excited by the ATANZ mission to promote excellence in assistive technology service provision in New Zealand.

  • Stella Karaman

    Stella Karaman

    I graduated Speech and Language Therapy from Massey University in 2012, and went on to complete a Masters in Speech Science at the University of Auckland. During this time, working in Specialist Schools around Auckland opened my eyes to the needs and skills of children and young adults with complex communication needs. Volunteering as an SLT in Samoa and Tonga training early intervention and school teams further solidified my commitment to ensuring everyone has a voice. Transitioning to Adult Community and Inpatient Teams in 2017, I found a passion for supporting those who have experienced a change in communication ability. I was nominated to join the ATANZ Board in 2018 and founded the national Adult Acquired AAC Special Interest Group. I currently enjoy working with the youngest of our clients, in Community and Inpatient Child Development Teams in West Auckland. As a bilingual SLT I have relished opportunities to learn and share my experience across the lifespan, with AAC naturally and fluidly becoming a special interest area. Communication is a fundamental human right, and I endeavour to support people of all ages, stages and abilities to reach their communication potentials. In a rapidly changing environment it is the strings of connection between communities, families, clients, professionals which ATANZ aim to strengthen, and I am thrilled to be a part of this.

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C/- TalkLink Trust,
Po Box 44053 Pt Chevalier,
Auckland 1246