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Project to Give Half a Million Kiwis Voice

Project to Give Half a Million Kiwis Voice

Up to half a million Kiwis are faced with significantly reduced quality of life because they aren’t given the support to simply communicate, the New Zealand Speech-language Therapists Association says.

The association estimates that one in ten New Zealanders have a communication disorder or communication difficulties.

Despite the high numbers, the NZSTA says this group of Kiwis is largely ignored.

“Communication should be a fundamental human right,” president Helen McLauchlan says.

“But it is never on the agenda. From policy makers to the general public, you would think these disorders didn’t exist. To sufferers these disorders, it feels like no one understands.

“These people are invisible and the results are devastating.”

The lack of awareness and support for people with communication disorders is the focus of the International Communications Project (ICP) being launched at Te Papa this Wednesday (April 9).

The ICP is a global initiative spearheaded internationally by Dr Dean Sutherland, a senior lecturer in speech and language therapy at the University of Canterbury.

The group aims to take the issue to the World Health Organisation in the hope it will recognise the importance of communications disorders when considering health and disability matters.

Communications disorders include anything that affects a person’s ability to communicate. They range from children who have language or speech difficulties to elderly people who have suffered strokes or have dementia.

Ms McLauchlan says her clients face challenges every day because of public ignorance and a lack of awareness.

“There are many examples of people being refused service because people think they’re drunk, despite having information explaining they have a speech problem.

“Children become frustrated and act out in classrooms. You would be surprised at the number of kids who are labelled as naughty and disruptive when actually they have an undiagnosed or untreated communication disorder.

“10 per cent of Kiwi kids have communication disorders, but just the most severe 1 per cent receive any intervention. This has a lifelong impact on the quality of life of these children. Early intervention is the key and it’s just not happening.”

As part of the International Communication Project, a number of events will be taking place throughout New Zealand through the year.


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