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When you suspect that your child might need some help with their speech, you might not be sure exactly what the problem is.
You might not know who to ask for help, either.
Vickie Leung, Speech Pathologist and former director of the Multi-Lit Literacy Centre at Macquarie University, offers answers and information for worried parents.
Often a doctor, a health professional or a friend might suggest that your child see a speech pathologist (another name for a speech pathologist is ‘speech therapist’)
In Australia, you don’t need a referral from a teacher, doctor or therapist to see a speech pathologist. Many families simply make appointments themselves. This is called ‘self-referring’ and is very common when parents have concerns for children.
What is a Speech Pathologist?
Speech Pathologists are university trained health professionals who assess, diagnose and provide treatment for children and adults with communication difficulties.
Speech pathologists work in many different settings. Some, like the team at Kids First Children’s Services here in Sydney’s northern beaches, work in private practices. Others work in hospitals, aged care facilities and community health centres.
Could a Speech Pathologist help your child?
Speech Pathologists have different areas of specialty, so when you are looking for a speech pathologist to help your child, it’s important to know what kind of support they might be able to offer.
The table below details the kinds of communication problems that speech pathologists often help children with.
|Area of Communication Difficulty||Definition||Examples||Statistics from Speech Pathology Australia|
|Speech||Saying sounds in words.||A preschooler who isn’t easy to understand.
|Language||Understanding and using language.||A child in primary school who has trouble comprehending the teacher’s instructions.
|One in every five preschool children has difficulty understanding and using language.
46% of young Australian offenders have a language impairment.
|Literacy||Trouble with reading and writing.||A child who struggles to learn new words through reading or is on the same book level for two terms.
|Children with a language delay are six times more likely to have reading problems too.
In Australia, 14% of 15 year olds have only basic literacy skills.
|Stuttering||Speaking fluently without repetitions or interruptions.||A high school student with a stutter who is practicing a speech for school.||About 80% of children aged two and a half to four will naturally grow out of a stutter. The remaining 20% will need help to overcome their fluency problems.|
|Social Communication||Understanding social rules of communication, such as taking turns and reading body language.||A child with Autism who has difficulty reading other’s emotions.|
|Swallowing||Difficulties with feeding and swallowing.||Giving feeding advice to a Mother whose baby has swallowing difficulties.||Swallowing intervention helps those at risk of poor nutrition that is required to support growth and brain development.|
|Voice||Problems with the voice, such as loss of the voice or poor quality of voice.||Teaching a child with vocal nodules safer use of their voice.||There is a high correlation between communication difficulties and poor mental health.
Our voices are used to express our emotions, personality, physical and emotional health.
Why ask a Speech Pathologist?
Communication difficulties can impact every aspect of your child’s life.
Just think about how often you, as an adult, need to communicate!
Good communication is needed for:
- Everyday interactions (e.g. ordering food over the phone),
- Work (e.g. carrying out instructions),
- School (e.g. writing and presenting a group project) and
- Relationships (e.g. making friends and play)
If your child has ongoing communication difficulties, research tells us that this can lead to poor academic achievement as well as increased risks of problems like mental health issues, reduced employment options and social isolation.
How can a Speech Pathologist help?
With early identification and intervention, a Speech Pathologist can help you identify the main areas of your child’s difficulty and give you strategies to prevent or manage the problem.
Worried about your child’s speech or language?
The experienced paediatric speech pathologists at Kids First Children’s Services can help.
We’ve helped hundreds of children to overcome speech, language and literacy problems so that they can be more confidence and successful at preschool and school.
Want to have chat about your child’s needs? Call our children’s health centre in Sydney northern beaches today