INCREASING numbers of WA children have speech problems that can impair their lives unless they get early help.
The WA Primary Principals Association has told a federal inquiry the difficulties are “common and pervasive’’, but teachers do not have enough specialist support to help them.
The PPA said in its submission there was a two-year waiting list at some government speech clinics.
Mundaring child speech pathologist Lynne Middleton, who has 35 years experience, said children now were not getting the oral language experience of children in the past.
“There used to be chatter in the car,” she said. “Now there are DVDs being played in cars. A lot of kids that come in here have their iPads and while that’s fine, they actually don’t teach kids language. Children need conversation with their parents, and play, to help them learn language.’’
Ms Middleton said children with speech and language delay were often targets for bullying and struggled to keep up in the classroom. “You need a good oral language foundation, and then the early literacy and numeracy is built on top of that,’’ she said.
Education Department acting statewide services executive director Martin Clery said it was estimated between three and six per cent of students in WA public schools had speech and language difficulties.
“The Statewide Speech and Language Service helps teachers address the needs of individual students,” he said. “The service is provided through five metropolitan language development centres that run early intervention programs for more than 1100 students.”
A Child and Adolescent Health Service spokeswoman said the current wait time for metropolitan speech pathology services was nine months, about half the average waiting time four years ago.
FIVE WARNING SIGNS FOR SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES
- A child not talking by 12-18 months
- A child not greeting, using words like hello and goodbye or waving
- Children with frequent ear infections or hearing difficulties in the first 18 months of life
- A family history of speech and language delay
- A child who can’t put two or three words together to say something by two years old
Source: Lynne Middleton, Talk to Literacy (Perth speech pathologist)