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Establishing a Speech Pathology Clinic in Kuwait

Khadeejah Buabbas

Originally published by MyLaTrobe as “La Trobe graduate Khadeejah Buabbas on establishing her own speech pathology clinic”.

Watching on as speech pathologists helped her little sister improve her language skills at home in Kuwait, La Trobe University alumna Khadeejah Buabbas’ wondered how therapy could look just like play. It was in this moment Khadeejah’s interest in speech pathology was sparked. Little did she know, that this spark would soon grow into a flame that would drive Khadeejah to establish her own clinic, just three years out from graduation.

“My sister has Down syndrome and since she was young, we’ve been seeing speech pathologists, who used to come to our home,” Khadeejah said.

“I was fascinated by the way they worked. It looked as though they were playing, but they were helping my sister. I had in my mind that I wanted to do something similar. I didn’t know the term ‘speech pathologist’ back then when I was a kid, but growing up I started looking it up and became interested in the field.”

Khadeejah studied a Master of Speech Pathology at La Trobe University (Australia), graduating in 2015, launching a career with a trajectory she couldn’t have imagined. Her success isn’t the result of a roll of the dice, Khadeejah has worked hard on the passion that began during her childhood in Kuwait.

Launching a speech pathology clinic just one year after graduating

Overwhelmed by options after graduating from her Masters at La Trobe, Khadeejah was torn between continuing on in Australia and returning home to begin a career in Kuwait.

“The opportunities were massive and I started narrowing down all my options, ultimately deciding to go back home,” Khadeejah said, feeling a sense of responsibility to help others in the same way the speech pathologists had helped her sister as a child. “There are not many speech pathologists there, so there’s a huge need and a huge demand for speech pathology services in Kuwait,” she said.

Waving goodbye to Melbourne, Khadeejah returned to Kuwait and began working in a clinic as a qualified speech pathologist. She initially planned to form her own private practice, envisioning a five year timeline to make her dream come true. In reality, it took just one year.

“The impact I see from working with children, watching how they react, their development and how parents see their children grow – that feeling is so rewarding for me.”

“It was about five years earlier than I was planning,” Khadeejah said. “I’m three years out now. It’s been almost two years in my private practice now. It was just how things worked out. I wasn’t planning on starting this early, but the field in Kuwait is new and it’s still developing.”

Khadeejah works mostly with children in pediatrics, but has also worked with adults in her private practice.

“I’m passionate about working with children,” she said. “The impact I see from working with children, watching how they react, their development and how parents see their children grow – that feeling is so rewarding for me.”

Khadeejah hopes to contribute to speech pathology research in the future.

What comes next?

Many of the children Khadeejah works with are bilingual, and she’s noticed a gap in speech pathology research in this area. “I think this field really needs a lot of research,” she said. “There’s a lot to do, especially with the population that I work with in Kuwait, in terms of the different culture and language. There’s not a lot of research.”

Khadeejah speaks two languages, English and Arabic, both of which have been beneficial to her career. Transferring from practicing in one language to another hasn’t been without its challenges.

“It’s really great to be able to speak two languages, but it was really difficult to transfer my skills from English to Arabic in the beginning,” she said. “Since there are not a lot of resources in Arabic, it meant that I had to do a lot more research, and translations, as well as working under supervision by other experienced speech pathologists in the field. It got easier as I went and gained more experience.”

Khadeejah is interested in pursuing a PhD in the future and potentially opening another branch of her clinic.

“There are still so many options available for the future. I do still want to be based in Kuwait and continue with my private practice, but I’m planning on growing it and hopefully expanding, opening a branch in Melbourne. That would give me the flexibility to work in two different places, and I love living in Melbourne,” she said.

Real-world experiences on placement

Studying at Bendigo Campus [of La Trobe University] meant Khadeejah was able to gain real-world experience working in the Bendigo community, as well as travelling to towns such as Echuca and Heathcote for placement.

“I had so much work experience during my Masters,” said Khadeejah. “They were all great in terms of improving my knowledge and skills. They really prepared me to work in different settings with diverse populations. I got a lot out of those experiences.

“Doing my placements somewhere else wouldn’t have been the same. The workplaces were actual clinics, hospitals and schools. I was seeing clients there, so it didn’t feel like I was in a student clinic or a simulated environment. I got an actual real experience with more responsibilities.

“There was a moment when I was working with a student at a school while I was on placement, and I was really challenged. It was a testing experience. But then, on the last day, this student came over and gave me a flower and it was so rewarding. I was able to reflect on how much he had grown and it was just a really nice moment to see that he appreciated all of my work with him.

“I was also working in the hospital with a patient with apraxia of speech for six weeks. After those six weeks, my patient was able to sing me ‘Happy Birthday’. That was a moment that I will never forget. It meant so much.”

Khadeejah Buabbas
Speech pathologist