Communication and swallowing difficulties affect 4.4 million Australians

Speech Pathology Week is August 20 to 26 (Unsplash).

The ability to be understood and to understand others is a life skill that is compromised for more than 4.4 million Australians who have communication and swallowing disability.

A new online tool can help people decide if a certified speech pathologist can help.

Certified speech pathologists provide much more than their title suggests, offering support in language, literacy, eating and drinking, dramatically improving a person’s physical and mental well-being.

Former scientist Paul Jamieson said he was existing, not living before he began speech therapy following a wake boarding accident six years ago.

“I was pretty much a vegetable I couldn’t walk, talk or eat; I was being peg fed through a tube,” he said.

Mr Jamieson has regained his independence appreciating the simple pleasure of drinking coffee and he has a lot to say about his progress which he credits to his certified pathologist.

“I have found my voice, I can express my needs and opinions and wants, it’s a big deal, it’s huge.”

One in seven Australians have a communication disability, with the majority being primary school children, and people over 60 years old, that through illness or injury require therapy to relearn basic skills.

Speech Pathology Week is August 20 to 26, and encourages those experiencing communication or swallowing difficulty to use the new online resources to help them decide if a speech pathologist can assist.

Speech Pathology Australia president Kathryn McKinley believes the new resource will also give people a greater understanding of how a certified speech pathologist can help to improve quality of life for people with communication difficulty.

“At any stage or age there can be new barriers that affect our ability to communicate and that can be very isolating and affect our ability to participate in life,” Ms McKinley said.

“If you or someone you care for is having difficulties, you are not alone, and help is available.

“The only way to be assured that you are receiving care from someone with appropriate and up to date training is to make sure that they are a certified [speech pathologist].”

A certified speech pathologist is approved for NDIS funding, private health insurers and Medicare.