New website developed to support children and families waiting for speech help
Charles Sturt University and Western New South Wales Local Health District (WNSWLHD) have collaborated to develop a new website featuring evidence-based ideas to support children and families waiting for speech pathology services.
Part of a broader research project trialled in rural Australia, the website is not intended to be a substitute for face-to-face speech therapy, but rather to “bridge the gap” in waiting to access services, which can be especially challenging in rural and remote locations.
The world-first research is informing best practice while children wait for individualised speech pathology services, and builds on a previous project,‘Waiting for speech pathology: device versus advice?’ which ran from 2017-2019, funded by a two-year NSW Health Translational Research Grant of $291,000.
The research was conducted by Charles Sturt Professor of Speech and Language Acquisition Sharynne McLeod, Charles Sturt PhD student Mrs Nicole McGill, and speech pathology managers at WNSWLHD Emily Davis and Katrina Rohr, alongside a team of other researchers and five partner organisations.
They developed a family-friendly evidence-based website titled ‘Waiting for Speech Pathology’
that contains many free downloadable resources and information. The website formed part of two randomised controlled trials that involved over 150 children and families to evaluate the website and other strategies to support children while they were on speech pathology waiting lists:
- Advice/Device Waiting Study was conducted in rural NSW comparing the website, an advice session, and face-to-face speech therapy;
- Active/Passive Waiting Study was conducted in rural Victoria comparing the website and a control condition.
Professor McLeod said the research provided helpful insights for health services to support families while they wait for speech pathology services.
“This research is directly applicable and translatable to clinical settings in NSW Health, particularly in rural areas, and similar services in Australia and internationally,” she said.
“We found that face-to-face speech therapy was best for improving children’s speech and caregiver satisfaction. Similar gains were found for the website, advice and control conditions, and the research informs clinicians and caregivers on ideas to support families while waiting.”
Professor McLeod said families with concerns about a child’s speech should contact a speech pathologist, or their local community health centre.
The research was presented at the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in Brisbane in June 2019 and was awarded the ‘Best Scientific Poster Award’.