Region's speech therapists meet to brush up their skills

MEETING: Speech therapists meet at Bathurst Hospital on Tuesday to improve skills while working with children. Photo: BRADLEY JURD
MEETING: Speech therapists meet at Bathurst Hospital on Tuesday to improve skills while working with children. Photo: BRADLEY JURD

Speech pathologists from throughout the Western NSW local health district have benefited from training aimed at improving their skills while working with children who have a range of speech disorders including cleft palate.

Sydney-based speech pathologist David Fitzsimons provided training at Bathurst Hospital on Tuesday.

The training focused on managing speech and communication issues experienced by children he has treated at the Cleft Palate Clinic at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. 

“The speech disorder we looked at was velopharyngeal insufficiency, which is the primary speech disorder for kids who have cleft palate,” he said.

“There are other speech disorders that sound like velopharyngeal insufficiency that speech therapy can correct. 

“Children that have velopharyngeal insufficiency need surgery, but children who have speech issues that sound like that can be treated with speech therapy. 

“The Western NSW local health district is very supportive of children who have cleft palate and when we ask them to do therapy they are very keen.

“The speech therapists that are based around the region are the ones who do the hard work and help the kids enormously.”

Mr Fitzsimons said about one in every 650 babies are born with some sort of cleft palate order.

“We get about 100 new babies born each year and another 100 patients born with suspected speech problems that are similar to cleft palate,” he said.

Children who can’t separate their mouth from their nose will required reconstructive plastic surgery.

These children will then require speech therapy, as they learn to speak again.

Children who suffer from other speech problems which are not related to cleft palate, will only require speech therapy instead of surgery. 

Mr Fitzsimons, who has worked as as speech pathologist for more than 20 years, said the Children’s Hospital’s Cleft Palate Clinic has a great relationship with the speech therapists in the Western NSW local health district. 

Acting speech pathology manager at Bathurst Hospital Emma Davies said she was excited to welcome Mr Fitzsimons.

“Providing regular training and support to our staff is an essential part of ensuring they are up to date with industry best practice,” Ms Davies said.

“We are glad to welcome Mr Fitzsimons from Sydney so he can share his knowledge with our staff, ensuring local Speech Pathologists receive ongoing professional development, supporting contemporary speech pathology practice.”