Cape communities embrace speech pathologist /Newsport

Cape communities embrace speech pathologist

Thursday March 20 2014

A far north Queensland health service says a speech pathologist is helping improve Indigenous Australians' quality of life in remote communities. 

Amanda Wilson started work with Apunipima Cape York Health Council in January.

The service says Ms Wilson is the first dedicated, full-time speech therapist to provide services exclusively to Cape York communities.

Ms Wilson has more than than 140 clients already as part of her work and expects that number to grow.

She said the demand for her services in the region was surprising.

"I knew there would be a big need but I didn't realise there would be such a big response straight away," Ms Wilson said.

"A lot of these communities haven't had a lot of access to speech pathologists in the past.

"The response has been very positive."

Ms Wilson said many children referred to her suffered hearing loss from chronic middle ear disease or had foetal alcohol syndrome, causing development delays in learning language.

The challenge is harder when children still speak their traditional language and know little English, she said.

"That makes it very difficult. We need to look into adequate interpreters which means we need to work with the communities," Ms Wilson said.

"We're also looking at how they relate to their peers and how they're developing compared to their children."

Speech pathology played an important role in closing the gap in remote Indigenous communities, Ms Wilson said.

"A lot of the early speech and language development is important to educational outcomes.

"We know that education is a big predictor in terms of health outcomes. 

"There are also flow-on effects as far as life expectancy outcomes and finding gainful employment."

To date, Ms Wilson has visited Mossman Gorge, Wujal Wujal, Napranum, Mapoon, Hope Vale, Laura and Pompuraaw. 

Next month, she'll work with children in Aurukun, Lockhart River, Kowanyama and Coen.