A Child's Right to Communicate; Mission Statement: Kamini Gadhok Is Determined to Help More Children with Speech and Language Needs

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Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

At a time when around 2.5 million people in the UK have a speech or language difficulty, the need for highly trained speech and language therapists (SLts) has never been greater.

according to the Royal College of Speech and Language therapists (RCSLt), half of children in some socio-economically disadvantaged populations have speech and language skills that are significantly lower than those of other children of the same age.

Nearly 40,000 children (approximately seven per cent of five-year-olds) entering school in 2007 in england had significant difficulties with speech and/or language and more than 5,500 children (approximately one per cent of five-year-olds) entering school in 2007 in england had severe speech, language and communication needs.

an estimated 60 per cent of the 7,000 children and young people aged under 18 who pass through young offender institutions struggle with speech, language and communication.

Published earlier this year, the Bercow Review report highlighted that the needs of these children are not being met because of weak planning and poor coordination of services across health, social care and education. the result of an independent cross-government review chaired by John Bercow mP, the report identifies that the children's workforce is not trained to ensure early identification of speech, language and communication difficulties or to deliver prompt intervention to deal with them.

Crucially, the report says there is a lack of specialists, particularly of speech and language therapists, who are essential support for parents and teachers.

RCSLt CeO Kamini Gadhok says parents expect early access to services that will provide tangible and sustained opportunities for children with speech, language and communication needs.

"the Bercow Report demonstrates that although there are services for children with speech, language and communication needs, not all families in all areas have access to the same quality or range of services," she emphasises.

"it is every child's basic human right to be able to communicate. Unless children develop effective communication skills, many will not achieve their best at school, will struggle to make friends and find employment, and will be at serious risk of developing offending behaviour.

"Speech, language and communication needs are not well understood and parents should not have to fight the same battles year-in, year-out to get support for their children from health, education and social services." the role of a speech and language therapist (SLt) is to assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in people of all ages to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability. they may also work with people who have eating and swallowing problems and work closely with teachers and health professionals including doctors, nurses and psychologists.

they will also work with people who suffer from a stammer, who have a learning or physical disability, neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, cancer of the mouth and throat, head injury, hearing loss and deafness, cleft palate, dementia, psychiatric disorders or have had a stroke (30 per cent of stroke sufferers have a persisting speech and language disorder). …