Speech therapists assess and treat children with a range of difficulties and help to improve communication. We asked the team of speech therapists at Eden Health in Salt Rock, exactly what the therapy involves.

How would you describe the role of a speech therapist?
We have many roles, involving assessing and treating children with a variety of communication difficulties. The most common we encounter in our practice are articulation, phonology, language delays and disorders, auditory processing difficulties as well as phonological awareness, reading and spelling difficulties. Many of these children present with more severe disorders such as dyslexia, apraxia and autism spectrum disorders. A very important part of our role is collaborating closely with teachers to ensure everything we work on transfers into the child’s academic performance. Our role also involves educating and training parents and teachers about the vital importance of early intervention.
Our title as speech-language therapist is often misleading as we work on so much more than just speech and language. For example, we also work on the written form of language, as well as stuttering, voice disorders, feeding and swallowing difficulties, and adults who have experienced head trauma or had a stroke.

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What are the potential benefits of early intervention in speech therapy for children? Can it positively impact academic and social development?
Early intervention is key and the ‘let’s wait and see’ approach does not help children with early communication difficulties. The reason for this is that they remain on the back foot and their early communication difficulties start impacting later development such as early literacy skills and phonics, reading, spelling and comprehension. Early intervention can result in difficulties being remediated before they impact the child on social and academic levels.

Do speech therapists ever collaborate with other healthcare professionals, educators or caregivers?
We do. Working in isolation is not the way to holistically treat a child. We work closely with physiotherapists and OTs, even sometimes doing joint therapy sessions with them. We also collaborate closely with class teachers, carers and many other medical professionals, including audiologists, ENTs and paediatricians.

What role does ongoing support play?
Very often, once a child has completed an initial therapy programme, a lot of consolidation is needed to ensure they integrate all their newly learned skills into their development. School-age children need to keep up with age-appropriate reading and spelling. Ongoing support is advised and very beneficial. Premature termination of therapy often results in children being re-referred, often with far greater difficulties than what they were originally referred for.

Eden Health speech therapists Roxanne Grey, Annalize Gould and Sharisha Ramkissoon

Details: Eden Health; 087 460 0026; www.edenvillage.co.za/eden-health

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