Help for ‘most common disability’

2015-05-12 06:00

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.

Speech-language disorders are the most common childhood disability and affect approximately 1 in 12 children.

Prior to September last year, 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 Hospital had a waiting list of almost 800 children, who would have to wait 12 to 18 months for an appointment.

The department had five staff members and therefore had limited capacity to manage the 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.

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 agreed to donate R168 000 towards appointing a speech therapist locum for a 12-month period. The board donated the outstanding amount towards the locum’s salary.

Since her appointment from 1 September last year, Chantel du Toit has conducted 545 sessions (129 new patients from the waiting list and 398 follow-up sessions) and currently manages 176 patients.

The waiting time on the hospital’s list for children requiring speech-language therapy has improved tremendously with the waiting period currently being between one and three months for an appointment.

The 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 board, says: “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, says: “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 last financial year, the Speech-Language Therapy Department conducted 6254 sessions – 968 of these sessions were new patients. Approximately 1500 children with various speech, language and swallowing disorders were treated

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