Donation helps Speech Therapist transform Children’s Lives
Being able to communicate effectively is essential to a child’s success. Poor communication skills can have a serious and detrimental effect on people’s lives. To minimise the damage, therapy should begin as soon as possible.
Prior to September 2014, Speech-Language Therapy services were limited at primary and secondary healthcare facilities, therefore most children with speech, language or swallowing disorders were being referred to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. At that stage the Speech-Language Therapy Department at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital had a constant waiting list of almost 800 children, who would wait 12 to 18 months for an appointment.
“The Speech-Language Therapy Department had five staff members and therefore had limited capacity to manage both the inpatient and outpatient caseloads. Speech Language Therapy is a rehabilitative service and patients often require long-term therapy which means that therapists were often unable to accept new patients at the same rate as discharging follow-ups,” said Lezanne le Roux, Chief Speech-Language Therapist at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
The Hospital Facility Board recognised that children who are enrolled in therapy early (before the age of five) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later and called on donors to help the hospital address its long waiting period.
Islamic Relief answered the call and agreed to donate R168 000 towards appointing a speech-therapist locum for a 12-month period. The Hospital Facility Board donated the outstanding amount towards the Speech Therapist locum’s salary.
Since her appointed from 1 September 2014, Chantel Du Toit has conducted a total of 545 sessions (129 new patients from the waiting list and 398 follow-up sessions) and currently manages 176 patients on her caseload.
The waiting time on the hospital’s waiting list for children requiring speech-language therapy has since improved tremendously with the waiting period currently being between 1 and 3 months for an appointment.
“The support provided by the additional speech therapist, the employment of a second community service therapist at the hospital, as well as the employment of four Speech-Language Therapists through the Child Speech and Hearing Programme has helped improve the functioning of our department,” added Le Roux.
The Hospital Facility Board continually strives to improve patient and employee experience at the hospital and could not overlook this worthy cause. Penny Gill, Deputy Chairperson of the Hospital Facility Board, said: “Thanks to our generous donor, we were able to significantly reduce the waiting times for children with speech-language disorders.”
Yusuf Patel, Country Director at Islamic Relief, said: “It was a privilege to become involved in such a worthy cause and seeing the difference that this donation has made. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Hospital and getting involved in more such worthy causes.”
- During the 2014/15 financial year, the Speech-Language Therapy Department conducted 6 254 sessions, 968 of these sessions were new patients. Approximately 1 500 children with various speech, language and swallowing disorders were treated.
- Speech-language disorders are the most common childhood disability and affect approximately 1 in 12 children.
- The time between birth and 36 months is a critical developmental period in a child’s life. These months offer a window of opportunity that may not be available later; therefore early intervention is essential to provide effective outcomes.
- Speech-language experts agree that parental involvement is crucial to the success of a child's progress in speech or language therapy. Parents are an extremely important part of their child's therapy programme and help determine whether it is a success.
- Children may need speech therapy for a variety of reasons:
- Language delays
- Articulation/phonology and motor planning disorders (errors in the development and/or planning of the production of sounds or sound classes)
- Feeding and swallowing disorders
- Voice disorders
- Cognitive or development delays
- Hearing impairments
- Birth defects such as cleft lip or palate
- Speech- and language delays relating to traumatic brain injuries or neurological disorders
- Provision of augmentative or alternative communication