- Charles Sturt and Western NSW Local Health District developed a new website of evidence-based ideas to support children and families waiting for speech pathology services
- The website is part of the research project ‘Waiting for speech pathology solutions’ which was trialled in rural Australia, and is using solutions applicable to similar services in Australia and internationally
- Face-to-face speech therapy is best for improving children’s speech and caregiver satisfaction
- It’s never too early to contact a speech pathologist if parents are concerned about their child’s speech and language
World-first research by Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) and the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is informing best practice while children wait for individualised speech pathology services.
The ‘Waiting for speech pathology: device versus advice?’ (2017-2019) research received a two-year NSW Health Translational Research Grant of $291,000.
The research was conducted by Professor of speech and language acquisition Sharynne McLeod in the Charles Sturt School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt PhD student Mrs Nicole McGill, and speech pathology managers at WNSWLHD Ms Emily Davis and Ms Katrina Rohr, alongside a team of other researchers and five partner organisations.
They developed a family-friendly evidence-based website titled ‘Waiting for Speech Pathology’
(https://wnswlhd.health.nsw.gov.au/our-services/speech-pathology) that contains many free downloadable resources and information.
Two randomised controlled trials were conducted involving over 150 children and families to evaluate the website and other strategies to support children while they were on speech pathology waiting lists:
- Advice/Device Waiting Study was conducted in rural NSW comparing the website, an advice session, and face-to-face speech therapy;
- Active/Passive Waiting Study was conducted in rural Victoria comparing the website and a control condition.
Professor McLeod said the research provided helpful insights for health services to support families while they wait for speech pathology services.
“This research is directly applicable and translatable to clinical settings in NSW Health, particularly in rural areas, and similar services in Australia and internationally,” she said.
“We found that face-to-face speech therapy was best for improving children’s speech and caregiver satisfaction.
“Similar gains were found for the website, advice and control conditions and the research informs clinicians and caregivers on ideas to support families while waiting.
“It is never too early to contact a speech pathologist if parents are concerned about their child’s speech and language.
“They can also contact their local community health centre, or see Speech Pathology Australia’s website for other speech pathologist locations.
“Families can also talk, play, read and sing with their children, and ideas can be found on the website, from local libraries, early childhood education and care groups, and playgroups.”The research was presented at the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in Brisbane in June 2019 and was awarded the ‘Best Scientific Poster Award’.