In recent years as more parents choose to send their children to mainstream schooling, speech pathologists are dealing with more complex cases of students with significant disabilities, Mala Ferdinando writes.
It is not uncommon for schools to choose to employ their own speech pathologist in order to meet the diverse needs of schools and students. In many states in Australia, once a student is at school, a school based service is the only free speech pathology service the student can access. While not saying a/th sound correctly may not necessarily affect spelling, it can still limit a student’s potential if untreated.
A stutter may not limit a student’s ability to learn in the classroom but may lead to social isolation and anxiety and other long term mental health issues. Most school vision statements include a focus on more than just the student’s learning outcome. Schools generally include a comment about fostering self worth and enabling students to achieve their full potential and become engaged and responsible members of the local and global community. Good communication skills are essential in this. It is therefore vital that comprehensive speech pathology supports are readily available in a school context.
The work of a speech pathologist in schools is engaging, rewarding, challenging and diverse. Speech pathologists work with a range of student needs including articulation, voice, fluency social skills, language and literacy. The role may involve directly working with students and parents as well as training and planning with teachers and learning support officers (LSOs). The focus of a school based speech pathology service is often on improving student learning outcomes however the social and future potential outcomes for each student should also be considered. Communication disorders can have lifelong implications so intervention for students with speech and language disorders is vital.