Waiting to speak

Shawn Hayward
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Language pathology list 21 months long

A woman in Clarenville fears for the future of her two-year-old daughter because she won't get the help of a therapist for nearly two years.

Treshana Gosse at her office on Manitoba Drive in Clarenville. Gosse says her two-year-old daughter shouldn't have to wait 21 months to see a speech language pathologist. 

The ability of Treshana Gosse's daughter to speak is behind that of an average child her age, and she will need professional help to catch up. However, with a 21-month waiting list for speech language pathology in Clarenville, Gosse is worried her ability to talk will be damaged for the rest of her life.

"There's a massive gap for speech language pathology in Clarenville, and something needs to be done about it quickly," she says.

A month ago Gosse's daughter took the Receptive Expressive Emergent Language Test III and scored in the 23rd percentile in receptive category (meaning the ability to hear), putting the two-year-old at the same level as an average 19-month-old child.

In the expressive category, which is her ability to speak, the test found she had the same level as an average 10-month-old child.

The professional's conclusion was that her daughter "presents with severely delayed disordered expressive language."

Gosse says her daughter can use single words but has difficulty making complete sentences.

"She could not communicate that she's hungry," says Gosse. "She could name a piece of food, but she can't say 'I want an apple.' She's not meeting the milestones. It's very sad."

Gosse had to pay for the evaluation herself and now she gets training in speech pathology that costs $70 a month so she can try to help her daughter while she waits for professional treatment. Hiring a private speech pathologist is not an option, Gosse says, because they're extremely expensive.

As of May 1 there were 107 children on the waitlist for a speech language pathologist at Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital, according to Eastern Health. Gosse says she's aware of two Eastern Health language pathologists based in Clarenville right now but the health authority needs to hire more.

"If you had a stroke tomorrow and lost your speech, and you could understand what people are saying to you but couldn't communicate your basic wants and needs, isn't that a basic right?" she asked.

"If someone explained to you they're going to make you wait two years because you can't afford private services ... totally inappropriate."

Gosse says she's spoken to many other parents who are worried about their child's future because of the nearly two-year waiting list for a pathologist.

"Early intervention is key for anyone with an exceptionality," she says. "If your speech is behind, you need to get access to speech services as soon as possible. Families have a choice: they can go with private services and spend a lot, or wait 21 months."

A shortage of speech language pathologists isn't unique to the Clarenville area. Parents were waiting up to two years for professional help in Alberta in 2009, according to a CBC report.

While other places have experienced shortages, Gosse says she's heard Clarenville has the longest waitlist for speech language pathologists in the province. Eastern Health couldn't confirm whether or not that was true.

No matter where Clarenville ranks compared to other towns, Gosse says Eastern Health needs to put more resources into speech language pathology, to reduce a waitlist she says has parents fearing for the future development of their children.

Children going to school in September are prioritized to see a speech pathologist that summer, according to an email from Eastern Health. Gosse says that's too late for her child, who won't be attending school for another two years.

"The earlier you can get speech services, the better," she says. "If you get it fast enough, you can get the child caught up quickly, but the longer you wait, the harder it is. What happens is a child will probably always be behind, if they don't avail of the services as fast as possible."

Organizations: G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital, CBC

Geographic location: Clarenville, Eastern Health, Alberta

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Recent comments

  • Mary
    June 15, 2013 - 10:15

    I will be honest, my son was really behind in his speech. It was a nightmare to bring my son to speech therapy. I really wanted to help him, but he was not ready i could not wait for his block of therapy to be finished. No one could understand him right until he went to school. He received weekly therapy in school and we worked hard every night. I was told that with his speech, therapy would follow him for years in the school system. I am very happy to report at the end if grade one he is finished his therapy. They say early prevention is the best, but it my case it was just brought more stress to the situation. Thanks you to all the therapist that helped me and my son.

  • Heather
    June 10, 2013 - 09:25

    It is not only Clarenville that has a gap in services. My son attends rehab at the Janeway regularly and there is only one SLP there. We get a 10 block session and then there is often 8-10 months before we can see the SLP again. Its terrible that children are not able to get the professional help they need.

  • Darlene
    June 09, 2013 - 15:36

    My son waited 16 months for his appointment, and even then I had to call the Janeway myself to find out where he was on the list. Turns out the hearing specialist who originally referred him told me that somehow he wasn't on the waiting list for an appointment, even though she did send the referral!!!! If I hadn't followed up, he never would have seen the speech pathologist we finally did get (who appears not to work full time hours anyway). All said and done, we made more progress with daily exercises at home than in the office anyway, because he would get bored and/or frustrated there. Treshana, you are to be commended for taking your child's care into your own hands and taking the courses necessary to help your daughter YOURSELF! That is the only way to make progress in this province, no matter where you live!