Dr Samina Latif is very well known in Qatar as one of the best Speech and Language Therapists. She took out the time from her busy schedule to come over to my studio for a photo shoot and do this interview. We did the shoot with my sons where Dr Samina worked with them as she works with her patients while I clicked away! (and needless to say, my boys loved her! They wanted more stories and more activities!)I have the pleasure of knowing Dr Samina (Samina Apa as I call her) socially in our Pakistani expat community in Qatar for a number of years. And for years I had NO idea that she was a Speech and Language Therapist until one day a friend needed help with her child and mentioned that she asked Samina Apa about it. She is such a humble soul that she would never ever socially talk about how she is the first name that comes up if you ask anyone in Doha for a Speech Therapist!
She has also been a part of Pakistan Professional Forum Qatar and has done a lot of community work for the Pakistanis in Qatar.
She is an absolutely lovely and a lively human being with an infectious smile! This is definitely one of the most informative interviews on my blog till date that would not only help new mothers identify red flags and help them learn when to seek professional help for their child in terms of developmental delays. It would also provide an insight to anyone who wants to pursue a career in this field.
So without wasting any more time, let’s dive right into a conversation with her.
Q.Tell us something about yourself? Who is Samina in real life?
Dr Samina Latif: I received an early education from Lahore, Pakistan, then moved to the UK as a student for further education. I have a degree in Psychology, PhD in Social Psychology from Kent University U.K and finally, a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Therapy from London City University. After working in various hospitals in the UK for about 18 years as a Speech and Language Therapist, I was managing a team of about 30 therapists before coming to Doha in 2006. There was a great shortage of Speech and language therapists when I arrived. I worked in Al Ahli Hospital on a part-time basis but most enjoyed utilizing my spare time to provide treatment for children of all ages as well as training for parents and professionals at various schools, nurseries and homes. I have been working six days a week and often feel it is not enough to cover the demand. I have always loved working with children and am a proud mother of three grown-up ‘kids’.Q: How has your experience of living in Qatar been?
Dr Samina Latif: Qatar provided an opportunity for me to work with a multinational, multicultural and multilingual caseload. I have learnt a great deal from the diverse population I worked with and have developed some amazing relationships.Q. What is Speech and Language Pathology? And what does one need to do become a speech therapist?
Dr Samina Latif: Speech and language therapists (SLTs) provide life-improving treatment, support and care for children and adults who have difficulties with communication, eating, drinking or swallowing.
SLTs assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in people of all ages to help them communicate better. They also assess, treat and develop personalized plans to support people who have eating and swallowing problems.
Using specialist skills, SLTs work directly with clients and their carers, providing them with tailored support. They also work closely with teachers and other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, other allied health professionals and psychologists to develop individual treatment programs.
Getting into Speech and Language Therapy/Pathology requires a degree, the duration of which differs from country to country. In the U.K it’s a four years degree course whereas in the US one has to complete a master’s program before being allowed to practice as a Speech and Language Pathologist. One cannot obtain this qualification online as it requires a lot of clinical placements before getting a license to practice.Q: Are Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy the same or are they related to each other?
Dr Samina Latif: Speech and language therapy and Occupational therapy cater to different needs, though they complement each other. To be precise, Speech-language therapists assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders.
Speech-language therapists/pathologists work with people who cannot produce speech sounds, or cannot produce them clearly; those with speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering; people with voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; those with problems understanding and producing language; those who wish to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent; and those with cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory, and problem solving disorders. They also work with people who have swallowing difficulties.
Speech-language pathologists in schools collaborate with teachers, special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents to develop and implement individual or group programs, provide counselling, and support classroom activities.
Occupational therapists (OTs) on the other hand, help people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments. They work with individuals who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling. They also help them to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills. Occupational therapists help clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities but also to compensate for permanent loss of function. Their goal is to help clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.
In schools, they evaluate children’s abilities, recommend and provide therapy, modify classroom equipment, and help children participate as fully as possible in school programs and activities.Q: What inspired you to become a Speech Therapist?
Dr Samina Latif: During the research for my PhD thesis. I carried out a cross-cultural experiment with special needs children. Part of the experiment was conducted in Lahore, Pakistan where I had the pleasure of working with a well-renowned Psychiatrist. She highlighted the dire need for speech and language therapists, which were virtually nonexistent in Pakistan. I enquired about the course on my return to the UK and found it to be a very challenging, yet rewarding, profession which could provide opportunities to shape behaviour, meet people from diverse backgrounds and needs and make a difference to their lives. Upon graduating, I managed to gain invaluable experience before taking up a post in Pakistan, where I was the first qualified Speech and language therapist in the entire country.Q: What are the early signs that parents should look out for (red flags) to actually seek professional help of a speech therapist?
Dr Samina Latif: It depends on the age of the child, here’s the official advice from the Henan centre:
We strongly recommend that you seek help from a speech-language professional if your child:
By 12 months
- doesn’t babble with changes in tone – e.g. dadada, bababa, mamama
- doesn’t use gestures like waving “bye bye” or shaking head for “no”
- doesn’t respond to her/his name
- doesn’t communicate in some way when s/he needs help with something
By 15 months
- doesn’t understand and respond to words like “no” and “up”
- says no words
- doesn’t point to objects or pictures when asked “Where’s the…?
- doesn’t point to things of interest as if to say “Look at that!” and then look right at you
By 18 months
- doesn’t understand simple commands like “Don’t touch”
- isn’t using at least 20 single words like “Mommy” or “up”
- doesn’t respond with a word or gesture to a question such as “What’s that? or “Where’s your shoe?”
- can’t point to two or three major body parts such as head, nose, eyes, feet
By 24 months
- says fewer than 100 words
- isn’t consistently joining two words together like “Daddy go” or “ shoes on”
- doesn’t imitate actions or words
- doesn’t pretend with toys, such as feeding doll or making toy man drive toy car
By 30 months
- says fewer than 300 words
- isn’t using action words like “run”, “eat”, “fall”
- isn’t using some adult grammar, such as “two babies” and “doggie sleeping”
- doesn’t ask questions by 3 years
- isn’t using sentences (e.g., “I don’t want that” or “My truck is broken”) by three years
- isn’t able to tell a simple story by four or five years
If you’ve noticed one or more of these warning signs in your child, it’s important that you take action right away to ensure that they receive the help they need. Q: What does a Speech Therapist do? How do you work with your patients?
Dr Samina Latif: The therapist assesses an individual, diagnoses and devises a treatment program. The amount and frequency of therapy are recommended based on the individual’s age and intensity of the condition/delay. Therapy is offered on an individual or group basis depending on the child’s need and his/her suitability for any available group. Q: Can parents of children with speech delays help their children at home?
Dr Samina Latif: Parents can play an important role in providing ongoing support and complementing speech and language therapy tasks on a daily basis. I believe parents are the best teachers as they know their child more than anyone else. Parents should watch and observe the therapist during the sessions. I always endeavoured to direct, guide and/or train the parents to implement the program at home. Children make rapid progress when parents/carers are involved with home carry over. Q: Could you recommend where to get good speech therapy services in Doha?
Dr Samina Latif: There are many special needs centres providing good service for children and adults with communication needs in Doha now. Rumaila Hospital has an extensive department that provides free speech and language therapy for children and adults. There are many private centres such as The Child Development Center, Qatar Institute of Speech and Hearing, Step by Step Special Needs Center and Sunbeam Special Needs School. There are a few independent Speech and Language Therapists providing freelance services.Q: You are a mum yourself. Any advice for young mothers?
Dr Samina Latif: My advice to all parents with young children is to spend quality time with them by engaging them in different types of play (indoor, outdoor, imaginative play, construction, rough and tumble, and board games). I know it’s hard this day in age but try to limit screen time as much as possible, electronic devices do not teach communication and social interaction, they can often do quite the opposite. Use devices sparingly as a treat or reward. Arrange play dates with other children so your child learns to develop and maintain friendship and learn social skills as expat life can be very isolating for kids.Q: Can you walk us through a typical day for you?
Dr Samina Latif: I spend 3 mornings a week visiting various schools and nursery to provide, school/nursery based therapy, one morning is allocated for parents/professional training, and clients would attend therapy sessions at my place from 1.30 to 6 pm. I worked in Al Ahli Hospital the rest of the week.
Dr Samina’s Favorites
TV show/Movie: I’m currently watching The Crown and Ertugrul Resurrection on Netflix
Book/Novel: I enjoy reading historical books and autobiographies
Hobbies: Love cooking international dishes and meeting people from diverse backgrounds. I carry out charity work in my spare time
Activity with Family: Don’t get much time to spend with the family, but when I do I love to chill out with family, doing absolutely nothing
Travel Destinations: Far east, looking forward to a trip to African safari
Thank you so much Dr Samina Latif for taking out the time for such an enlightening interview which would benefit a lot of young mothers as well as the new generation who would love to join this extremely challenging yet rewarding field.