Since some of the earliest days of Hear and Say’s history, telepractice appointments have meant children can access specialist speech therapy services regardless of where they live.
Telehealth means that families don’t just come from around the centres’ physical locations in Ashgrove, Varsity Lakes, Nambour, Toowoomba and Townsville.
As Listening and Spoken Language Specialist, Emma Heberlein explains, the past three decades have seen Hear and Say supporting children to listen and speak in towns everywhere from Weipa to Barcaldine to Tully; across the globe; and hundreds of places in between.
How does telepractice speech therapy work?
“Just like Hear and Say’s in-centre sessions, families can access specialist speech therapy, visits to their day care, kindy or school, and some speech and language assessments – all from the comfort of their own home,” said Emma.
“Before an appointment, we work with the family to plan the lesson and advise on any resources needed. We also have a number of telepractice kits which can be sent out to families, full of supplies, books, toys and games to assist with interactive activities that nurture speech and language development.”
All Hear and Say’s listening and spoken language specialists are trained in delivering lessons online. Similar to an in-centre session, typical telepractice-based lessons include:
- Discussion about the child’s progress since their last appointment
- The Seven Sounds listening test
- Play-based activities focused on specific speech, language and listening goals
- Coaching and support for the parent
Twice a year, rural families are also invited to attend a three-day telepractice intensive camp at the Hear and Say Brisbane and/or Townsville centres. These provide a special and much-anticipated opportunity for in-person speech and language assessments and lessons, audiology appointments, Group Social Skills programs and parent education sessions.
Telehealth a lifeline for rural families
For mum Kerryn, whose family lives on a property north-east of Longreach, telepractice-based services have meant her eight-year-old daughter, Emily hasn’t missed out on critical support for her hearing loss.
“We first started utilising Hear and Say’s services when Emily first started Kindy. We’re around 1,200 kilometres from Brisbane and have three other children, so the convenience of being able to have speech therapy appointments online makes a huge difference,” said Kerryn.
“Emily’s speech was quite below her peers when she first started at Hear and Say, but she gradually caught up to everyone and now she’s essentially on par with her classmates.”
Emily continues to have fortnightly speech therapy sessions via telepractice, as well as in-centre audiology services in both Townsville and Brisbane for her cochlear implants.
“It really makes you feel not so isolated, to have that support and know that there’s someone there to answer any questions along the way. Living rurally, we don’t have anywhere else we can access that’s right here on our doorstep,” said Kerryn.
“We wouldn’t change where we live and it’s a great lifestyle, but it does make it challenging at times – so to have that ongoing, easy-to-access support from Hear and Say is a huge weight off our shoulders.”