Our services

SoundSkills specialises in helping children and adults with communication and/or learning difficulties associated with auditory processing problems. We are unique in having a multidisciplinary team of audiologists, education advisers, a speech language therapist, and an autism adviser. Many of our child clients also have other developmental difficulties. Our services include diagnosis, treatment, management, advice to schools, and referral to other services when needed.


Audiologists

Our audiologists specialise in assessment and management of auditory processing disorders in children and adults. Many of our clients have other conditions such as head injury, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or dyslexia. Our audiologists provide the following services:

  • assessment and diagnosis of auditory processing difficulties/disorders
  • assessment of hearing and listening problems associated with other conditions such as autism
  • preparation of management plans
  • auditory training
  • amplification including Remote Microphone Hearing Aid systems and hearing aids with remote microphones
  • referral to other services if needed.

Our audiologists are available for phone consultations if required.


Education Advisers

Our Education Advisers specialise primarily in supporting students with auditory processing disorder (APD) in the classroom. Our Education Advisers work alongside students, parents and caregivers, Learning Support Coordinators, Special Education Needs Coordinators, and teachers to provide:

  • information on what APD is and how it affects the learner
  • guidance on amplification systems for students with APD, including remote microphone hearing aid (RMHA) systems, and hearing aids with accessory remote microphones
  • advice and guidance on the use and management of amplification systems for APD
  • RMHA funding advice
  • information on strategies to support students with APD
  • facilitation of privately funded trials of amplification systems.
  • development of trial plans including individualised trial goals that are used to measure the effectiveness of amplification systems in assisting students
  • ongoing support for students using amplification systems for APD in the classroom, such as meeting with parents/caregivers and school staff, conducting classroom observations and being available for ‘trouble-shooting’.

Speech Language Therapist

Our Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) specialises in working alongside children with language and literacy difficulties associated with auditory processing disorder (APD). She completes an evaluation, provides programmes for school-aged children, and has specialist training in remediating reading and spelling through a structured literacy programme. Many children need multisensory and individualised programmes to meet their range of needs and our SLT provides fun sessions to enhance their ability to understand and express ideas in all modes of communication.

Our Speech-Language Therapist can provide assessment and therapy in the following areas:

  • dyslexia/literacy difficulties
  • phonological awareness
  • language difficulties associated with APD
  • sound discrimination difficulties
  • speech sound disorders in older children.

Specialist Adviser and Researcher

SoundSkills has an autism specialist adviser with a background in Psychology and extensive research experience in the fields of autism and hearing disorders. The Specialist Adviser and Researcher’s areas of responsibility include the following:

  • provision of information and resources for autism-related services available in New Zealand
  • triaging of client information from various sources (such as paediatricians, psychologists, speech language therapists, educational psychologists, occupational therapists) to help plan services for individuals with special needs
  • working with SoundSkills audiologists on personalised APD assessment sessions based on individual children’s needs with the aim of making them effective and positive experiences
  • attending APD assessment sessions with audiologists and families as required to provide extra assistance
  • coordinating clinical research projects within SoundSkills, some of which involve giving clients the opportunity to trial new technology or treatment plans in a structured manner with objective, measurable goals.

Clinic Administrators

Our Clinic Administrators are the first point of contact at SoundSkills. They guide clients through the referral process, answering queries and advising on options for audiological assessment and treatment for hearing and listening difficulties. Our Clinic Administrators assist with the following:

  • booking and managing all appointments
  • ensuring pre-assessment paperwork is completed and relevant reports and forms are collected and forwarded to clinicians before client appointments
  • guidance on services and associated costs at SoundSkills
  • advice on troubleshooting and maintenance of hearing technology equipment.

Our people
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Dr Bill Keith QSO PhD MNZAS

Director

Dr Bill Keith is an audiologist with over fifty years public and private sector experience.

Bill was Principal Audiologist, National Audiology Centre, Department of Health, and was involved in establishing many hearing services and policies in New Zealand including the University of Auckland School of Medicine audiology training programme and New Zealand's first cochlear implant service. He has continued to consult on various national hearing policy issues.

He established the hearing aid company Phonak New Zealand Ltd (a subsidiary of the Swiss Sonova group) in New Zealand and managed it for eighteen years, earning a number of business awards during that time.

Bill has carried out hearing research in New Zealand and the United States. He is also the inventor of an automated paediatric audiometer that was manufactured and exported from New Zealand for a number of years.

With Phonak colleagues Bill was closely involved with Team New Zealand for over ten years in the development of specialised on-board crew communication systems for their Americas Cup yachts.

Bill has been awarded the honour of Companion of the Queen's Service Order for Public Service, a Fulbright Travel Award for his graduate studies at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and Life Memberships of the NZ Audiological Society and the Hearing Association, Auckland Branch. In 2011 he was awarded the International Award in Hearing by the American Academy of Audiology.

Over the past fifty years Bill has served on numerous health, research, deafness, professional, business and voluntary organisation committees and Boards. He chaired the Northern Cochlear Implant Trust which manages government-funded cochlear implant services and was Deputy Chair of the associated Pindrop Foundation. He served on the Board of the Abilities Foundation Charitable Trust, the National Steering Team for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (Project HIEDI), and the Scientific Committee and Board of the Deafness Research Foundation. He is also a Past National President of the Hearing Association and is on the Board of the Hearing Association, Auckland.

Bill currently runs SoundSkills, a specialist clinic for children and adults with auditory processing disorder (APD), which he has established to redress the lack of APD services in New Zealand; and carries out APD teaching and research at the University of Auckland.

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Oriole Wilson MAud (Melb), MNZAS, CCC

Audiologist
Clinic Manager

Oriole Wilson is a clinical audiologist and also the manager of the SoundSkills APD clinic. Over the course of her career she has worked with people with Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) on several occasions, and this has now become her speciality. She finds this area to be a very satisfying part of audiology practice. Undetected APD can have a major impact on people’s lives and this is particularly noticeable for children in school settings. It is also exciting to see the benefit that clients – both adults and children - can achieve through the treatments that are provided by the team at SoundSkills.

Oriole has been a practising audiologist for over 30 years in the public, private and university sectors in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. She is a fully certificated member of the NZ Audiological Society. She did her postgraduate audiology training at the University of Melbourne and has a master’s degree in audiology. Oriole has worked clinically in many different areas of audiology and this gives her a broad perspective on her field. She was the Clinical Director of the National Audiology Centre for four years. She was also the leader of the Classroom Acoustic Research Project some years ago that culminated in minimum acoustic standards for NZ classrooms.

Oriole was part of a team of clinicians that travelled to Kiribati for seven years where they were helping to provide hearing aid and ear nursing services to Deaf children in the Special School on Tarawa. The team worked collaboratively with the Ministries of Health and Education in Kiribati to set up a Hearing Screening and Ear Health Programme in primary schools on Tarawa. This programme is ongoing.

Several members of Oriole’s family have hearing problems, and this has given her some special insights into the issues that hearing loss causes on family dynamics. Through her work at SoundSkills she knows that this also applies to the effects of APD on families. Oriole enjoys working with clients of all ages.

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Janene Houghton MA DipAud

Audiologist

Janene Houghton is an audiologist with considerable and varied experience in her professional career. This has included general clinical practice within the Auckland District Health Board and private audiological work while living in Hong Kong for 14 years, where her roles included clinical tutor in the Hearing and Speech Sciences programme and Senior Research Assistant at the University of Hong Kong. She established a neonatal hearing screening programme as part of a joint research and clinical services development project between the University and the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital at which facility she was also instrumental in setting up a private audiology clinic.

Janene developed a special interest in APD upon her return to New Zealand and has worked in the area of auditory processing for the past 11 years. This includes a specialist APD clinical role at the University of Auckland Hearing and Tinnitus Clinics and tutoring students from the Master of Audiology Programme in APD clinical practice.

Janene continues to support specialised APD educational and clinical initiatives for audiology students and has a particular interest in the benefits of active musical training for auditory processing, enjoying her own involvement with a cappella singing.

Janene embraced the opportunity to take her diagnostic skills into developing further specialised APD services at SoundSkills and enjoys working collaboratively with our multi-disciplinary team to help children and clients overcome challenges.

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Joanna Wallace MAud, MNZAS, CCC

Audiologist

Joanna Wallace is an audiologist with specialised skills for assessing and treating those with auditory processing difficulties. Joanna has a strong interest in enabling children to meet their potential.

Joanna has experience working with children of all ages and abilities. She has worked extensively in the areas of diagnosis and rehabilitation in the public and private audiology sectors. She has a Master of Audiology degree with first class honours.

Joanna has worked alongside ENT specialists, paediatricians, speech-language therapists and Ministry of Education Advisers on Deaf Children. She has a particular interest in working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, behavioural concerns, and those with specific learning difficulties.

Joanna is a member of the New Zealand Audiological Society and holds a current practising certificate. She is a registered ACC provider.

Currently Joanna enjoys working collaboratively with children and their whānau, helping children to overcome barriers to learning by better understanding their individual needs.

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Jenny Coutts Dip Tchg, BEd, Grad Dip Lit Ed

Education Adviser

Jenny Coutts is an Education Adviser at SoundSkills. She specialises primarily in supporting children with auditory processing disorder in the classroom. Jenny works alongside children, parents and caregivers, Learning Support Coordinators, Special Education Needs Coordinators, and teachers to provide guidance and advice on the use, management and trialling of amplification systems for APD, and strategies to support the student.

Jenny has more than 30 years’ experience as a primary school teacher, the last six years of which she served as Deputy Principal and Special Education Needs Coordinator for her school. As a Special Education Needs Coordinator, Jenny was responsible for services and care for all children with sensory, learning, and behavioural challenges in the school. Previously, Jenny had trained as a Resource Teacher for Literacy, assisting children with reading difficulties. Jenny has undertaken additional special training in the management of auditory processing disorder.

Jenny has always had a passion for helping children meet their potential. Jenny enjoys working alongside the other team members at SoundSkills in supporting the children who come to us, and their families.

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Karen Blackall PGDip Ed – Learning and Behaviour, B A, Dip Tchg Hearing Impaired, Dip Tchg

Education Adviser

Karen Blackall is an Education Adviser. She seeks to ensure that the parents, SENCos and teachers of SoundSkills’ child clients have a better understanding of APD and its impacts on learning. She provides advice and guidance on the use of Remote Microphone Hearing Aid (RMHA) systems, the funding eligibility criteria and the trial process. Karen is the link between SoundSkills’ clinic and the school, ensuring optimal learning opportunities for students.

Karen has over 30 years’ experience in the education sector, having held a range of teaching positions that are specialised in nature such as Resource Teacher, Learning and Behaviour (RTLB); and Resource Teacher, Deaf (RTD). She has held leadership positions within schools, working across the primary, intermediate, secondary, and tertiary education sectors. Karen has worked alongside students, parents, and teachers to collaboratively devise interventions to meet students’ individual needs – adapting class-based programmes, scaffolding learning, and using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to promote inclusion.

Karen has presented at conferences and facilitates professional learning for schools in a variety of areas including sensory, learning and behaviour challenges.

Karen enjoys working collaboratively as part of multidisciplinary team both at SoundSkills and within schools to ensure that students reach their learning potential.

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Sarah Lawton GradDip: Psych, MSLT(Hons), MNZSTA

Speech-Language Therapist

Sarah Lawton is a speech-language therapist with specialist skills in promoting change in young people with auditory processing disorder and literacy difficulties.

Sarah has extensive experience working with complex communication and learning challenges. She worked at the Ministry of Education – Special Education and as an Education Adviser at Soundskills, so is familiar with current education practices and especially the practicalities of APD and literacy difficulties in the classroom. She has a Master of Speech Language Therapy Practice degree (first class honours) and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology. Her thesis on APD has been published.

Sarah’s experience also includes working creatively alongside children with autism spectrum disorder/condition who find it difficult to demonstrate their abilities in a typical classroom setting – particularly in the written modality.

Sarah is a qualified Sounds-WriteTM Practitioner. The Sounds-WriteTM programme is a gold standard phonics programme to teach and remediate reading and spelling. Sarah is a certified member of the
New Zealand Speech-language Therapists' Association.

Sarah enjoys collaborating with families and young people to create supportive learning environments.

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Dr Joan Leung PhD

Specialist Adviser and Research Fellow: ASD and APD

Dr Joan Leung is a Specialist Adviser and Researcher: ASD and APD at SoundSkills. She is also a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Psychology in the University of Auckland.

Joan has extensive research experience that spans many fields, but primarily in the hearing sciences, and with a special interest in neurodevelopmental disorders and in particular autism. For her doctoral research, Joan helped autistic children improve their speech perception and social communication by providing auditory training plus hearing amplification with remote-microphone hearing systems.

Joan currently splits her time between working at SoundSkills, and on various research projects based at the Universities of Auckland and Otago. She also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate Psychology courses, as well as some modules for the Master of Speech-Language Therapy Practice programme at the University of Auckland.

Joan finds it very rewarding to work alongside the clinicians at SoundSkills with an aim to better serve their ever-expanding and diversifying client base, including children with more severe challenges.

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Sam Marsh

Reception and Administration

Sam Marsh is a Clinic Administrator. She enjoys interacting with clients and their families.

Sam has worked in various administration roles prior to joining SoundSkills in 2011, including working as a school administrator and volunteering for Riding for the Disabled at Ambury Park helping with the riders, and also assisting their administration team.

Analysing information and data for APD research is Sam’s speciality. She is skilled at matching SoundSkills services to client needs and responding to queries from the SoundSkills website. Sam is also responsible for the account management with clients at SoundSkills.

Sam finds it very rewarding to see how SoundSkills can assist clients to be the best they can be.

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Sandra Olliff

Reception and Administration

Sandra Olliff is one of the Clinic Administrators. She enjoys fostering relationships with all SoundSkills clients.

She has worked in HR, Sales, and Service Administration, but it is her experience in the primary school sector as an administrator for 11 years that is especially helpful when assisting families.

Sandra prioritises the client’s needs at SoundSkills, selects which SoundSkills services best meet a client’s requirements, responds to queries, and problem solves any issues with equipment to ensure that client experience at SoundSkills is always a positive one.

Sandra enjoys the role of coordinating all the services and personnel at SoundSkills.

Our purpose

SoundSkills' vision is to assist people with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) to achieve their optimal communication ability by;

  • offering comprehensive, expert and up-to-date diagnostic and treatment services for APD
  • translating scientific research on APD into clinical practice
  • carrying out research into APD
  • developing model APD services for others to follow
  • advocating for better funding and services for people with APD, and
  • increasing awareness of APD.

SoundSkills strives to provide;

  • ethical and professional services
  • a supportive and caring culture, and
  • expert knowledge and advice.

Our story

SoundSkills was started by audiologist Dr Bill Keith to provide an expert comprehensive service for the management of APD, a neglected and under-funded area of hearing services. Having studied APD at Baylor College of Medicine in the United States, and dismayed at the lack of APD services in New Zealand, Dr Keith set about bringing together a specialist multi-disciplinary team to develop better APD services in New Zealand.

The SoundSkills APD Clinic opened with one clinician and one clinic room alongside the audiology and speech-language clinics of the School of Population Health at the Tamaki Innovation Campus of the University of Auckland under the University’s policy of encouraging synergistic start-ups to locate on campus. Pre-used equipment was donated by a hearing aid company. When we outgrew the available university space we built a new clinic in The Parenting Place, Greenlane. More equipment was donated by a retail audiology chain. Eventually, bursting at the seams again, we were fortunate to become a foundation tenant in the ideal location of the new purpose-built Hearing House facility, the Stichbury Bidwill Centre. The Centre is the home of The Hearing House, provider of children’s and adult cochlear implant services; and other organisations involved in clinical services and research in communication disorders.

Today our SoundSkills team of specialists in audiology, special education, speech-language therapy and autism operates a model clinic serving clients from all over New Zealand, participates in APD teaching and research, disseminates information and knowledge about APD nationally and internationally, advocates for better APD services and funding, and fields inquiries about APD from all over the world.


Our supporters and collaborators

SoundSkills is supported financially by William Keith (founder) and Judith Keith, and has received project and research grants from a variety of organisations including:

  • the Hearing Research Foundation
  • the Eisdell Moore Hearing and Balance Research Centre, University of Auckland
  • the William Demant Foundation, Denmark
  • Sonova AG, Switzerland
  • Intelligent Hearing Systems
  • the NR and JH Thomson Charitable Trust, and
  • Lottery Health Research.

SoundSkills collaborates with the University of Auckland and University of Memphis on research into APD.

SoundSkills is most grateful to its supporters and collaborators who make it possible for SoundSkills’ services to continue.

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