Frequently Asked Questions
Below we have tried to answer a range of frequently asked questions so parents can make informed decisions. If in doubt about whether you should make an appointment please call our office by phoning (08) 8255 7137 and ask any questions you need to assist you in making your decisions to support your child. If we think somewhere else is a better option for your child to be seen we will advise you honestly. Children receiving the support they need is our number one priority.
It's never too young to get your child the help they need. Our therapists are able to see children from as young as 1 month old. Assessment for all children includes gathering information from parents and carers, and for younger children also includes observation of children in play based activities rather than formal assessments designed for older children. Therapy is also tailored to children’s age and developmental level. For younger children this involves play based activities as well as support for parents to help them develop their child’s skills in daily activities at home.
Kids who need extra help are not lazy. It's actually harder for them to make people understand them when they aren't communicating clearly. Sometimes parents who bring their child for an assessment ask "Is my child just lazy?" Parents may find that if they break a skill down into steps and help their child that their child can do the activity. Later the child may not be able to do that skill correctly again when they are trying to do it by themselves. This does not mean the child is lazy, it means the skill is hard and not yet automatic. There are a number of steps in learning a new skill and the child is only part the way along.
Therapists help children learn to do new skill independently by moving children through a number of stages. They ask parents to help children practice at each of these stages because like any skill practice is needed to achieve a level of mastery. Playing games and activities as you practice means kids want to practice more and so learn quicker. With this support children learn to do the new skill "all by themselves".
Some of us are good at some things and not so good at others. We may be good at sport and less skilled as a handyman, or good at spelling and hopeless at cooking. Children are the same. Smart children may still struggle with speech sounds or handwriting. Some children are good at maths and poor at spelling. Younger children may walk early but talk later. Therapists will work out which areas your child would benefit from support with and target those areas specifically.
Schools have a limited amount of money allocated to spend on helping children who have additional needs, so they have to prioritize. Children therefore receive funded support based on their scores on specific tests. Children who have mild or moderate difficulties in these tests may still have severe difficulties in other areas, but not qualify for extra school funded support.
Schools provide students with an educational opportunity. They typically work very hard to help their students learn, but some children have learning challenges that require specialist help. Many children need the support of trained professionals who can help them to learn so they can benefit from the opportunities presented at school. If your child has additional learning needs, a professional in that field is the best place to go for assistance. Teachers are trained how to teach a class full of typically developing children and then do the best they can to accommodate those that need something different.
Schools and Government funded services have a limited budget and guidelines for qualification. There are thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of children who NEED help that aren’t going to meet criteria for funded support. We believe people who work with children and families all wish they could spread themselves further, but they are typically already stretched to capacity. Would we like to see every child who needs help get it for free from the Government? The answer is a resounding YES! However the reality is that there aren’t enough resources to go around. Only the most severe or those who fit into specific groups will get some services. Whether those services are enough is another question. Again, sometimes parents need to step in and say "My child deserves more and I’m going to do my part to make sure they get it!"
Our therapists use techniques that are “evidence based” when there is evidence available. This means that they have been scientifically researched and found to be effective in improving children’s skills and development. There has been research completed that shows that speech pathology intervention makes a significant difference in children's lives, especially when provided from a young age while their brains are still developing.
Therapists assess a child’s needs and plan therapy targets to develop the skills which are of the highest priority for that child’s individual needs. Clinicians also draw on what they have learned in their study and experience in working with other children to choose the most effective methods and techniques to help children develop the skills they need in the most efficient way possible.
Not all children who come for an assessment will get a "label". Often an assessment simply provides a description of a child’s skills and challenges. Some children may receive a diagnosis to describe their pattern of development. Parents often worry about “labelling” their child however a label will not change a child. They will still be the same person with the same mix of skills, challenges and personality.
A label can however help others such as educators to understand the child better, and can sometimes help the child to access more appropriate support. Sometimes when children do not have a diagnosis they are incorrectly labelled because of their challenges. If a child has a diagnosis parents do not need to share this with everyone. A child’s diagnosis need only be shared when there is an advantage for the child to do so, such as to help school understand and support a child. For older children, understanding their diagnosis can help with self-understanding and acceptance. It is often a relief for them to understand why they are having challenges in areas they see their peers managing more easily. If parents are unsure on how to discuss this with their children they can receive help to talk to children about their diagnosis in a positive way.
Some children may show slower development or difficulty with learning a specific skill and then may seem to "catch up by themselves". Often though, children who are developing slower than others their age continue to develop more slowly without extra help to "catch up". If a child’s development continues to be slower than their peers they will fall further behind. This may have an impact on their future learning as well as their social interactions, self-esteem and sometimes behaviour as well. It is hard to tell which children will grow out of their challenges and which will not so if you are at all concerned about your child’s development it is best to check with a professional about what may help.
There can lots of demands on kid’s time with swimming lessons, music lessons, sport, dance and more. But therapy is not the same as these "extra" activities. Therapy is for children with a specific need and so is an essential service like going to the doctor if you are sick, getting glasses if you need them or going to school to learn. If your child needs a therapy service it is something that is vital to their development and learning as well as their future and not an "added extra".
The best time is NOW! A child developing 25% slower than his peers at 2 years of age will be six months behind and need to make 18 months progress in the next 12 months to "catch up". Without assistance if this child continues to develop at this slower rate by four years he will be 12 months behind and need to make 24 months progress in the next 12 months in order to catch up to his peers and be ready for school. As children make rapid advances in development between three and five years this will be difficult and it is likely that the child will begin school at risk of developing difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and learning. By contrast early support can help a child develop the necessary skills to lay the foundations for future learning and help parents learn how to best support development at home.
Families are able to refer themselves for assessments and therapy. While a doctor’s referral is needed to access rebates through Medicare it is not needed for rebates through private health funds.
Children's need vary. Some children may only need a few sessions while others may need long term support over a number of years. It is hard to predict how long therapy will take for an individual child. It depends on their needs, their learning capacity and the amount of practice that parents can do at home. Your therapist will keep you informed about what progress your child is making.
That depends on your child's needs and your family commitments. Most children come weekly or fortnightly but attendance is negotiated with each family individually.
There is a cost associated with getting support from a trained professional, but this is an investment in your child's future. Research has shown that each dollar spent on early intervention saves $13 in the future through savings in social security, health costs and juvenile detention. Some families really may not be able to afford private therapy for their child however others if they were honest should say "It's not a priority for us" rather than they can’t afford it.
People make choices about how they spend their money and sometimes children's educations are sacrificed for more tangible, touchable items. We understand the financial burden of paying for therapy or tutoring with specialists as some of us have children with additional needs. We too have made sacrifices to pay for the support our children need, just like our clients do, and can now see the benefits this has provided for our own children.
We work hard to make our service as affordable for families as possible. There are also some options that may assist some families financially including government funding through NDIA, Medicare and private health funds. We try to ensure families are informed about any funding support they may be able to access. There is more information about a range of options under the 'funding' tab on the Talking Matters website.