Western Australian speech pathologists are concerned that WA school children are among the most disadvantaged in Australia when it comes to accessing speech therapy, leaving them vulnerable to social isolation and poor learning outcomes.
“Twelve per cent of students have speech and language disorders that impact on the way they acquire literacy, their everyday learning and their school performance and outcomes,” Speech Pathology Australia’s Western Australian Branch spokesperson Brooke Sanderson said.
“Students currently don’t have access to direct speech pathology intervention through the Department of Education, with access to Language Development Centres hit and miss at best.”
“Without the support of speech pathologists in the education system, many children won’t be able to reach their potential and some won’t even be able to participate meaningfully in school or society.”
In the lead up to the WA General Election, SPA is lobbying candidates from all parties to commit to improve access and equity in the provision of speech pathology services in the education system to make sure all Western Australian children have the best start in life.
SPA estimates that less than half the speech and language needs of school students are being met, with a shortfall of over 30FTE speech pathologists across the education system.
The negative impacts of communication difficulties are well documented and include a higher risk of literacy problems, lower academic acheivement, low self esteem and behavioural problems.
Studies have also shown that communication difficulties can lead to increased vulnerability to participation in criminal behaviour, with over 50 per cent of adolescents in the juvenile justice system diagnosed with a communication impairment.
SPA will approach candidates from all political parties to gain their support for increased speech pathology services in schools, as well as more collaboration with teachers to ensure students are able to participate fully in their education.