Children benefit from early speech therapy

Alysia Revell, Shaun Townsend, Susannah Jennings, Patrick Townsend, Jo Collier and Caitlin Ivanovksi are involved in a new KidzWish speech therapy program. Picture: GREG ELLIS

Alysia Revell, Shaun Townsend, Susannah Jennings, Patrick Townsend, Jo Collier and Caitlin Ivanovksi are involved in a new KidzWish speech therapy program. Picture: GREG ELLIS

Every week Susannah Jennings, Alysia Revell and Jo Collier provide 160 Illawarra preschool children access to an Australian first - a mobile speech therapy service.

The KidzSpeak program is one of three initiatives the three speech pathologists are involved with and they see them all as important.

All are run through Illawarra-based charity the KidzWish Foundation, with funding from various sources, such as the Greater Building Society and NSW government.

This week the importance of such work is being highlighted as part of Speech Pathology Week.

Ms Jennings, Ms Revell and Ms Collier know the importance of timely and specialist intervention from a speech pathologist.

They are aware how much being literate throughout every stage of life is vital to maintaining, understanding and creating a connection with the world.

That is why they see reaching as many children as possible with such programs as so important.

There is also a speech therapy program run at KidzWish Place, some schools and in homes for children age 0-8 with a disability.

The NSW government has funded it for 18 months and it aims to reach 48 children. About 30 children have already been involved.

As part of the KidzSpeak initiative, funded by the Greater Building Society, they have reached hundreds of children in many Illawarra preschools.

The program reaches five preschools in each 20-week round. There are two rounds each year.

The program recently moved into Albion Park Early Learning Centre, Avondale Early Childhood Centre, Barrack Heights Community Centre, Green-meadows Preschool in Albion Park and Wollongong Lollipop Kidz.

The total number of children helped by the KidzSpeak service since it was established in 2012 is now almost 600 children in 17 childcare centres and preschools.

The recent expansion of the services resulted in KidzWish employing Ms Jennings and Ms Revell as two additional speech pathologists.

Each weekly session at a preschool runs for 1½ hours and involves the children, preschool teachers and parents.

Ms Collier said the program filled a major need in the community. She said more than 70 per cent of children demonstrated progress during the 20 weeks.

An average of 35 per cent of participating children have been recommended for further speech pathology assistance.

Ms Collier said KidzSpeak had a longer benefit because her team educated preschool teachers to carry on the work and provided workshops, information and resources for parents.

"We are currently in our last round which is the final round we are funded for in 2014," she said.

A KidzSpeak blog was recently launched at blogkidzspeak.kidz wish.org.au where the three speech pathologists provide information and tips for parents and early childhood educators when they physically can't be present to help them.

A KidzWish Orange All Stars fund-raising dinner at the Lagoon Seafood Restaurant is helping fund a new program combining speech, occupational and physiotherapy. It aims to help Illawarra children with Down syndrome reach their full potential.

It is seen as a first of its kind in the Illawarra.

KidzWish is still raising funds and hopes to launch the program in 2015.

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