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More than 200 delegates at speech therapy conf.

Media release – April 6, 2006

More than 200 delegates will hear about critical NZ speech therapy issues at national conference

More than 200 delegates will hear about critical speech issues at the New Zealand Speech Language Therapists' Association’s (NZSTA) annual conference in Christchurch starting Sunday night.

The conference will look at links between clinical realities of speech language therapy in New Zealand and concerns about dealing with people with communication and swallowing disorders.

A total of 530,000 New Zealanders, including 120,000 children, have a communication and or swallowing disorder according to the 2001 Census.

About 600 NZSTA members work as speech language therapists, though around 1000 therapists are employed in health, education, ACC and private services.

``We have one speech language therapist for every 953 New Zealanders suffering from a communication and or swallowing disorder,’’ NZSTA president Stella Ward said today.

``About 7000 people suffer strokes every year and as many as 74 percent have swallowing and/or communication disorders.

``We have been a hidden profession. The public do not exactly know what we do or about the academic, scientific and evidence basis that informs our work.

``SLT's work with all people with swallowing and or communication disorders. We are trained to assess, diagnose and treat all areas of communication across the lifespan, including the development of speech and language, use of signs and technology as an alternative form of communication. ‘’

The four day conference will hear about the latest research and New Zealand’s serious shortage of speech therapists.

Many employers have vacancies that are difficult to fill which has an impact on service delivery.

``We are crying out for more therapists and greater public recognition of the role of the speech language therapists,’’ Ward said.

``Many therapists have bulging caseloads and there is a limited amount of funding set aside for providing therapy services across the age range.’’


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