IASLT calls for additional speech and language therapists for children with intellectual disabilities

A new paper published by the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists  – and one which Down Syndrome Ireland has been heavily involved in authoring – will strengthen parents’ positions when trying to access public speech and language therapies for their child. The IASLT reminds the Government that SLT support to help develop communication skills is essential and calls on the HSE to increase numbers of therapists so that the service can be provided more effectively.

The Speech and Language Therapy Service Provision for Children with an Intellectual Disability paper (View Here) highlights the needs for additional SLT posts in disability teams, including SLT for children with Down syndrome in mainstream primary and secondary education settings.

“We are happy to report that the Department of Education and Skills has very recently begun to acknowledge the importance of SLT provision in education settings.”

The IASLT has also recommended that SLT be more integrated into educational settings, including mainstream schools. This is common in other countries, but less so here, where SLT provision is the responsibility of the health sector.

The position paper also clearly states the need for direct therapy – not only parent training, or signing courses, although these are a useful part of therapy – for children who have specific speech and language difficulties.

DSI’s Speech and Language Consultant Nicola Hart (pictured) was part of the Working Group and is one of the authors of the position paper.

She said: “It calls on the Government to considerably increase the number of therapists within HSE disability teams and it also recognises the need for SLT provision in mainstream schools to support children with Down syndrome. This paper is a valuable step forward for our children.”

DSI has long campaigned for the improvement of public SLT services for children with Down syndrome and this paper is an important advancement as it highlights in no uncertain terms the wholly inadequate number of therapists in the public services, which impacts on the therapy children with Down syndrome receive.

We will continue to lobby for the Department of Education and the HSE to come together and look at a more holistic way of supporting children with Down syndrome in education settings.

We are happy to report that the Department of Education and Skills has very recently begun to acknowledge the importance of SLT provision in education settings.

Nicola added: “This is a significant departure for the Department. We’ve long argued that SLT cannot be confined to the Department of Health and the HSE as speech and language affects every aspect of a child’s interaction with people. Our aim is to continue to advocate for improved public services and this paper is a valuable step on that road.”

DSI supports SLT therapists looking for additional training about specific SLT issues in children with Down syndrome. To find out more, please contact our SLT Consultant nicola.jayne.hart@icloud.com

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