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Have a word with your local speech pathologists

16 August 2019

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service speech pathologists are keen to get the word out about their services around the region.

“With Speech Pathology Week coming up in the region from 25–31 August, we want to let Torres Strait, Cape York and Northern Peninsula Area residents know about our services and what we can do for them,’’ Senior Speech Pathologist Tanya Govey said.

“My colleagues and I are here to help adults and children with any swallowing and communication problems.’’

Ms Govey said the Torres and Cape HHS employed three speech pathologists who delivered services right across the region.

“There’s myself here on Thursday Island for the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area, along with Mia Hosking in Cooktown and Emily Witten in Weipa for the two sides of the Cape,’’ she said.

“On Thursday Island, I also enjoy the support of my Education Queensland speech pathologist colleague Emma Trimble in providing services right across the Torres Strait region.

“We’re all here to help adults and children with any communication and swallowing problems.’

This year’s Speech Pathology Week theme is “Communicating with Confidence’’.

Ms Govey said more than 1.2 million Australians had a communication or swallowing disorder that impacted on their daily life and could affect their confidence in day-to-day activities and interactions.

“Only 38 per cent of Australians with communication disability are participating in the workforce compared with 80 per cent of people without communication disability,’’ she said.

“People with communication disability are also less likely to have a non-school qualification (42 per cent), than those without communication disability (61 per cent).

“Like mobility or wheelchair access, communication access allows people with communication disorders to get their message across by removing barriers to effective communication or providing extra support and strategies.

“That’s what speech pathologists are trained to help people with.

“Our speech services begin with initial screening for communication and swallowing disorders.

“We then continue with assessment and diagnosis and then consultation to provide advice
regarding management, intervention, and treatment.’’

Ms Govey said it was vital to tackle problems early.

“Early talking skills are important for success in school as we know that weak language skills in the preschool years will likely cause lower achievement in later years,’’ she said.

“Early interventions to increase talking and understanding skills can significantly increase later success in school.

“As speech pathologists, we all try to encourage and show families how to play, read and yarn with their children to help prevent some communication problems from developing.

“In a hospital setting, where we also work, we can help people with eating, drinking and swallowing problems that might arise with certain conditions.

“We also provide counselling and follow-up services for whatever related problems clients are experiencing.’’

Ms Govey said speech pathologists could help with the following:

  • Communication. You need to be able to make sounds, words and then sentences. You need to know the rules of putting words together and also when to talk or not.
  • Saying sounds. Some children take longer to learn to use the right sounds in words. Some adults have slurred speech or dysarthria as a result of neurological conditions.
  • Reading and talking. It is important to identify difficulties early as these skills are essential at school and for life.
  • Listening. When children have ear infections, they may develop hearing problems which can affect how they learn to talk.
  • Talking. Some people have difficulties effectively using their voice and producing fluent speech (e.g. stuttering).
  • Alternative communication. Some people are born with or acquire conditions that make it very difficult for them to talk. We can help these people find ways to communicate other than talking.
  • Eating and drinking. Some people are born with conditions such as a cleft palate, autism, or cerebral palsy; have an accident or a condition like Parkinson’s which affects their ability to safely eat, drink and swallow.
  • Babies and children feeding. Some babies have difficulties feeding. A child may have trouble transitioning to solids or have sensory difficulties which make them avoid eating. We can provide strategies and support for helping these little ones to eat safely and enjoyably.

Ms Govey said Torres and Cape HHS residents could ask her or her colleagues for ideas to help with any of those issues.

“As you can see, we do a lot more than just help people get their words out and we are always happy to chat about any concerns you may have,’’ she said.

  • Tanya Govey on Thursday Island can be contacted on 4030 6188, Mia Hosking at Cooktown on 4043 0170, Emily Witten at Weipa on 4082 3987 and Emma Trimble at Tagai Primary School on Thursday Island on 4030 6504.

For information about Speech Pathology Week visit

PHOTO CAPTION: Weipa Integrated Health Service speech pathologist Emily Witten – reading helps build speech and communication skills.

Last updated: 18 September 2019