Telehealth a promising option for families seeking speech pathology services

Seymour-based speech pathologist Claire Salter Parry is encouraging parents to consider telehealth to give children the support they need.

Claire is the clinical services manager at Umbo, a registered NDIS provider that connects speech and occupational therapists to families regardless of where they live.

Families in Seymour and district and other regional areas can wait up to 18 months for speech pathology or occupational therapy services.

Umbo aims to reduce the waiting times experienced across the country and give families access to quality speech and occupational therapy when they need it.

Using a person-centred approach and an online platform, Claire and her team are helping children get the support they need rather than waiting

months or years for an initial appointment. 

“A lot of our clients have been sitting on waitlists for months or even years. We want to get them access to services, so we customise our approach to suit them,” Claire said.

“Telehealth is not just an option when face-to-face is not available during lockdowns. Telehealth doesn’t always mean your child sitting in front of a computer or on the phone.

“We make it work for the individual. Some children do sessions at school with the help of a teaching assistant and sometimes we do a coaching phone call with the parents.

“A lot of our work is coaching parents and families about strategies to help their child. We are flexible and can use different methods to suit the individual.

“We’ve seen great progress with telehealth sessions and I encourage people to consider it for their child.”

Claire said Seymour is unique because it doesn’t have a major public health provider of speech pathology or conventional therapy for children.

“Services an hour away have a wait list and some of those wait lists are closed because they can’t meet the demand,” she said.

“There is a need for services in the area but there isn’t a way to meet the demand, so Telehealth is a viable option for Seymour and district.

“Unfortunately, we see a poor trajectory for children that don’t get early support. Research out of Melbourne shows a lot of children in juvenile justice have language impairments.

“If children start on the back foot with speech and language development it makes reading and writing hard.

“That makes it hard to engage in school and when they don’t see success there, they disengage and can go down the wrong paths.

“We want to give kids as much support as possible and get them ready to learn the same as their peers when they get to school.”

Claire said there were some general signs to look for to decide if a child could benefit from speech pathology services.

“When a child is one, they should be saying some single words. When they’re two they are putting together two words like ‘dad, help’ and ‘mum, shoe.’

“When they’re three they start to put together small phrases and can follow basic instructions and interact with others.

“When five we expect them to speak full sentences, have a fairly wide vocabulary and have conversations with people they know and don’t know at an adult-like level.”

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