News

Students fill gap in speech therapy services in Broken Hill


22 June 2009

Speech Pathology students from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney are currently completing the faculty's first clinical placement in schools in Broken Hill. Three master's students and their clinical supervisor will be filling a much needed gap, with the region having been without any substantial speech pathology services for many years.

Students Chamali, Divija and Megan
Students Chamali, Divija and Megan

"Speech and language difficulties impact negatively on childrens' ability to interact with their peers and teachers in the classroom, literacy development and the development of social skills. The failure to provide speech pathology services to assist in these areas can lead to long term consequences such as poor educational outcomes, social difficulties and lack of career choices," said Associate Professor Michelle Lincoln, Head of Speech Pathology at the university. "Recent research suggests that approximately 12% of school age children in Australia have a communication disorder (McLeod & McKinnon, 2007) but we expect this to much higher in Broken Hill as a result of the chronic, long-term lack of access to speech pathology services in the area."



Students and schoolchildren interacting
Students and schoolchildren interacting

Divija Paramatmuni, Chamali Nagodavithane and international student Megan Haas are currently working with Broken Hill North Public, Alma Public and Railway Town Public schools. Their role includes conducting screening assessments, seeing children individually for therapy, running therapy in small groups and liaising with school staff including teachers and teacher's aides.

"The benefits of the program are two-fold," commented Lincoln. "The children receive the support they need in terms of improving their communications skills and in turn our students gain exposure to, and hopefully a passion for rural and remote practice."



The Government's creation of the new portfolio of Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery with the appointment Minister Warren Snowdon at the beginning of June is testament to the importance of rural and remote service provision. The Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Sydney is committed to giving students experiences that promote these career pathways.



In the classroom
In the classroom

The speech therapy placement program, known as Spin a Yarn (SAY) is an initiative of the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health in collaboration with the regions primary schools, the University of Sydney and the Remote Cluster Greater Western Area Health Service. The program aims to have groups of students visit the region once a term to provide these valuable services.


McLeod, S. & McKinnon, D. (2007). Prevalence of communication disorders compared with other learning needs in 14 500 primary and secondary school students. International Journal of Language and Comunication Disorders. 42 (S1) 37-59.