Policewoman to speech therapist: graduate's story

How does 25 years in the police lead to a speech therapy career? New graduate Kelly Hayward explains the connection.

Kelly Hayward

Twenty-five years in the police is an unusual background for a speech language therapist.

Or maybe not, since Kelly Hayward saw the frequent links between people’s communication problems and their problems with the law.

She graduated with a Master of Speech Language Therapy this week and her new frontline is the preschools and homes of West Auckland, where she’s helping three- to five-year-olds.

While police officers sometimes switch to law, security work, or private investigation, speech therapy is a rare choice.

A police career gave Kelly an in-depth look at the whole range of communication problems, from misunderstandings turning violent, to youth offenders failing to grasp bail conditions, and witnesses and victims of crime struggling to tell their stories.

It was a big career shift, but so rewarding.

Kelly Hayward

“Communication problems are very common among youth offenders,” says Kelly. “There’s international research to show that youth offenders lag behind their peers in language skills and that over 50 percent of youth offenders have a communication disorder.”

A speech or language disorder can stand alone or occur with a condition such as dyslexia, autism, foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, auditory processing disorder, traumatic brain injury or speech impairment.

For her thesis, Kelly talked to police about their experiences of communicating bail conditions to youth offenders, and their thoughts on why youth offenders broke the conditions.

Her own roles in the police included frontline policing, youth aid, a three-month deployment in East Timor, and investigating minor fraud. The Aucklander largely studied part-time for her first degree, a BA with a major in linguistics.

“It was a big career shift, but so rewarding because I can see the positive difference that speech language therapy makes in the lives of the children,” says Kelly.

Media contact

Paul Panckhurst | Media adviser
M: 022 032 8475
E: paul.panckhurst@auckland.ac.nz