Speech pathologist Rany Chou

Communication is a human right

A skill many of us take for granted, around 1.2 million Australians are affected by a communication disability. Often considered an invisible disability, half of all people who need formal assistance with their communication are not having these needs met. The majority of these are children and older people.

HealthWISE speech pathologist Rany Chou is determined to ensure everyone has the ability to communicate their wants and needs. “Communication is a basic human right,’ said Rany. This is the theme of Speech Pathology Week, held between 22-28 August.

“Communication, by definition, involves at least two people. It is important that everyone understands that communication is more than speech,” Rany explained.

Australians with speech or language difficulties communicate in a number of alternate ways, including boards or books filled with pictures and words, sign language, gestures and spelling. Assistive technology such as electronic communication and speech generating devices, voice amplification and computer access aids (including eye-gaze mouse control and head tracking devices); is playing a growing role in communication.

“Communication is fundamental to a person’s ability to participate fully in the social, educational, economic and sporting aspects of our community,” said Rany. People with communication disabilities are less likely to have a non-school qualification than those without, and just 38% participate in the labour force compared to 80% of the rest of the population.

HealthWISE speech pathologists travel far and wide across the North West New England region to help people find ways to communicate. “Many Australians with communication disability cannot maximise educational, health and social outcomes, without the intervention of a speech pathologist,” said Rany.

HealthWISE speech pathologist Anna Haire
HealthWISE speech pathologist Anna Haire travels far and wide to help people with communication difficulties.

Recognising that access to a speech pathologist is not always available, the HealthWISE team have created an online program to help reach children in the early years before school.

HealthWISE integrated care manager Anne Williams and speech pathologist Linda Foskey designed ‘Sounds good to me’, a course for early educators, and a companion course for parents “Many children start school without the skills they need to learn to read and write in kindergarten,” said Anne.

Children are more likely to have profound or severe communication disabilities than anyone else, and three in five of people with an unmet need for formal assistance with communication are children. “By working with children in their early years, we’re not only getting them ready for school, we’re influencing their ability to be healthy adults,” explains Anne.

To learn more about the Sounds good to me school readiness courses visit www.soundsgoodtome.com.au. For information about Speech Pathology Week click here.

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