The findings of a major Australian study about speech impairment in children were presented at a national conference in Melbourne last week by Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers who highlighted the predicament of many families that have trouble accessing speech pathology services.
The research, Children with speech impairment: A population study of prevalence, severity, impact and service provision
, was led by Professor Sharynne McLeod, from the School of Teacher Education
in Bathurst. The research team included Associate Professor Linda Harrison, Associate Professor Lindy McAllister, and Ms Jane McCormack, and their findings were detailed in several papers presented at the 2010 Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in Melbourne (16-19 May).
Professor McLeod said speech impairment is one of the most common forms of communication impairment in early childhood and often co-occurs with other impairments.
“The reason that speech impairment diagnosis and treatment is so important is that it impacts on a child’s ability to learn, and to enjoy school and a range of other social development activities,” Professor McLeod said.
“Children with speech impairment comprise a large portion of paediatric speech pathology cases, and intervention has been found to be effective, particularly when conducted before a child starts school. While the number of children with speech impairment who do not receive or have access to speech pathology intervention is unclear, we now believe it is substantial.
“Despite speech impairment being one of the most common forms of communication impairment in early childhood, there is limited research that considers the impact and experience of speech impairment from the perspective of the speakers (the children) and their listeners ( their families and teachers).
“The study also indicated that there are significant implications for Indigenous children and their families because speech impairment often co-occurs with other impairments, typically language impairment, hearing impairment and pre-literacy impairment. The majority of previous research investigating speech impairment has focused on Caucasian, monolingual, middle class, English-speaking children, and there is a marked lack of research regarding speech impairment in Indigenous Australian children. This is of concern, as dialectal difference may have an effect on assessment and intervention decisions and outcomes,” Professor McLeod said.
Children with speech impairment: A population study of prevalence, severity, impact and service provision
, was funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant.