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Communication and swallowing are natural processes that are integral to a person’s wellbeing. Yet for many people (e.g., with intellectual and developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries, progressive neurological conditions, and hearing impairment), communication and swallowing can be challenging. These difficulties can trigger a cascade of behavioural, emotional, social, and medical consequences. For example, in a child with expressive language difficulties, feelings of frustration that stem from not being able to communicate effectively may fuel behavioural issues at school, confidence erosion, and social isolation. Language difficulties can also make learning at home and school more difficult for the child and more taxing for their families/care providers. An adult with swallowing difficulties who is at a heightened risk of choking may experience anxiety around mealtimes and may reduce their intake of food (leading to malnutrition) and increase avoidance of social eating situations (leading to social withdrawal).
Speech Pathologists are Allied Health professionals who assess and manage communication and swallowing impairments in people across the lifespan (from birth to older age). They have expertise to help children, adults, their families and carers/professional staff in the areas of: speaking, listening, reading, writing, social skills, voice, fluency, and swallowing. Assessment and management is tailored to a person’s individual needs, taking into consideration their wishes and environment. Speech Pathologists work collaborative with other healthcare, education, and support staff to provide holistic services that align with each individual’s choices/goals for their own lives. Examples of speech pathology interventions include: education, alternative and augmentative communication, exercises and learning programs to improve areas of difficulty, developing compensatory strategies to supplement and support therapy. For NDIS participants, working with a speech pathologist can transform all life areas, from play and social interaction to learning and academic performance, and enable more satisfying interaction with the world around them.