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By Aabigayle McIntosh
Dr Shivon Belle Jarvis, who is the Head of the Pediatric Department at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre, recently drew attention to the urgent need for greater resources to address the significant shortage of speech and language therapy services in the region.
According to the doctor, this crucial service is currently being provided by just one Speech and Language Pathologist at the Centre for the Holistic Advancement of Therapeutic Services (CHATS), Mona Gardner.
Dr Jarvis emphasized that the scarcity of trained professionals in this field is a major obstacle to providing adequate care for patients who require speech and language therapy.
“Speech and Language Therapy can assist with feeding difficulties and food refusal. Additionally, it helps with social skills in our children. And for those who are not able to communicate effectively, it helps with alternative methods of communication such as sign language, and all of these systems put together would help provide support and reduce the frustrations at school, in the homes and elsewhere,” Belle Jarvis said.
Jarvis shares the importance of the therapy as she lamented that more and more children are presenting with speech and language disorders. This was evident from a recent clinic that was facilitated at the hospital Gardner whom has been partnering with the hospital for quite some time.
“We continue to observe of the 8 children we saw, at least two had Ear, Nose, and Throat concerns, we had children who had misuse and overuse of technology, we had children who were under and over-stimulated, we had evidence of Intellectual disabilities as well,” Belle Jarvis stated.
In addition to the concerns outlined above some children also have signs of Autism and Sensory disorder. However, the Autism Spectrum requires specialized testing.
“Even though we would have firmly confirmed one child with Autism, of the 8 children we did have red flags suggestive of autism spectrum disorder. We have four children that were re-evaluated and even though there is improvement in their speech, they still require ongoing therapy”.
The medical expert also notes that too much screen time and not enough stimulation contribute to these problems. She said no longer should parents rely on electronic devices to babysit their children, instead, they should be engaged through active play.
She also advise parents, or guardians if they notice early signs of learning difficulty.