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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 3 - May/June 2011

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Speech Pathology Enhancing Your Child's Learning, Communication & Social Skills

By Amy Pollitt & Michelle Santarelli

Children often encounter communication and language difficulties that in turn impacts upon their learning and socialisation. An important source of help is available through communication and language specialists, namely, the Speech Pathologists. They are able to help with the understanding and use of language, speech sounds, oral speech, the social use of language and the development of literacy skills in general.

Michelle Santarelli and Amy Pollitt from EDUCARE Specialist Services have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: My son is in year one and seems to be behind in his reading, what can be done?

First of all it is important to figure out where there is a breakdown with his literacy skills. Some children have difficulty reading because:

  • They are struggling to learn the letter/sound combination
  • They may have difficulty with working memory so they have trouble remembering & building on their sight words
  • There could be an underlying language disorder which may be impacting their ability to comprehend & process what they are reading
  • There may be a breakdown with their phonemic awareness skills
    in which they have difficulty hearing & manipulating sounds.

Listen to your child read every day. It's really important to be patient with your children when they are learning to read. They need opportunities to practice their reading skills so they can become independent readers. They may need explicit instructions in any of the above areas by a speech pathologist to help further develop their skills.

Q: My child is about to start school but still can't say some sounds clearly. She is saying "tat" for cat. I know what she's saying but sometimes other people don't. How can this be treated?

Children who are still having difficulty producing sounds at Kindergarten need intervention. Not being able to produce correct sounds puts them at risk of being delayed in their literacy skills. Often children who are having difficulty with some persistent articulation patterns will have trouble hearing the sounds when learning to read. All children have some articulation errors when learning to talk. If these errors persist beyond the age of four they could have an articulation or phonological disorder and require assessment and intervention by a speech pathologist. It's always a good idea to get your child's hearing checked if you are concerned. They may not be hearing the sounds.

Q: My child has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He has difficulty socialising and has been the subject of bulling at school. How can I help him navigate the social world?

Speech pathologists who have specialised in Autism Spectrum Disorders can help with developing children's social understanding and social language. In addition to individual therapy sessions with children, one of the better approaches includes social group therapy. Such an approach creates a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn and practice their skills with peers who are at a similar age and skill level. We have developed such a program at EDUCARE for this specific purpose and have found children readily adapting such skills at school.

Q: Do I need a referral to see a Speech Pathologist and are there sources of funding for treatment?

Teachers, doctors and other health workers may suggest that your child would benefit by seeing a speech pathologist but you do not need a referral letter from them to make an appointment. You can do so directly yourself.
However, your child may be eligible for support under medicare with a referral from a Doctor. Private Health Funds may also provide limited financial support; and the Commonwealth Government (FaHCSIA) provides funding for early intervention treatment of children under six years who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Michelle Santarelli is the Coordinator of Early Childhood Intervention Services at EDUCARE Specialist Services, Charlestown. Both Michelle and Amy Pollitt are highly trained and very experienced speech pathologists. Their experience includes working with children who have language difficulties - spelling, writing, comprehension and oral communication, Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and cognitive impairments. They use a variety of evidence based techniques and therapy approaches and work directly with parents, teachers and other professionals.


EDUCARE has an interdisciplinary team of clinical, educational and developmental psychologists, speech-language pathologists, paediatric occupational therapists, dietition and specialist teachers who support children's learning and development.

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