Communication Disrupted In Children Suffering Abuse And Neglect

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16th May 2009, 08:01am - Views: 423
Level 2 / 11-19 Bank Place T 61 3 9642 4899 [email protected]
Melbourne Victoria 3000 F 61 3 9642 4922

Media Release

Saturday 16 May 2009

Communication Disrupted in Children Suffering Abuse and Neglect

An explosion of recent research highlights how early childhood experiences have major
implications for ongoing development in all areas physical, emotional, social and psychological

"The importance of a child's relationship with their first caregivers was found to be paramount for
their development, and communication skills are learnt in the context of relationships," said
Narelle Anger, speech pathologist and co-presenter at Speech Pathology Australia's National

"There are many distressing outcomes of child abuse and neglect, however, communication
disorders are the most common developmental outcome. Our comprehensive literature review
found that 50 70% of these mistreated children have some form of speech or language

"Children with communication difficulties are at significant risk of life long disadvantage in terms
of education and future employment opportunities. They are also more likely to suffer social and
emotional impacts, as these young people often struggle to form relationships with their peers
and may use inappropriate `behaviours' in the absence of language skills," said Ms Anger.

Speech pathologists are generally absent from child protection, welfare and treatment agencies.

A British review in 2005 found that young people with communication disorders are three times
more likely to be registered with child protection services than their normally developing peers.

"In the past child protection services have typically focussed on the physical well-being of the
child and family. More needs to be done to improve the psychosocial outcomes for this group.

"We would like to see specialised speech pathology services for young people with a history of
neglect and complex trauma. Studies have identified that even trained paediatric workers
experience difficulty identifying severe language delays in this population. At a clinical level
Speech Pathologists observe changes to young people and their carers with communication
interventions. At present, however, very limited research exists to show the impact of
communication therapy on the developmental pathway of this high risk group.

"An extensive American study evaluating the effectiveness of non specific health promotion and
information services on the language development of high risk children showed no effect on
language outcomes," said Ms Anger.

"Recent Harvard research concluded that children exposed to `toxic stress' (ongoing abuse and
neglect) develop different brain architecture compared to their normally developing peers. This
population is, therefore, at extreme risk for language impairment and the compounding difficulties
of impaired biological, sociological and psychological development," said Ms Anger.

Enhancing early caregiver relationships has become a key goal for national policy makers and
early childhood practitioners and is a key objective of specialist Infant Mental Health programs.

Narelle Anger and others studying this specialised field will present their research results at the
National Conference of Speech Pathology Australia, Aspire, in Adelaide this week.

The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited
ABN 17 008 393 440

Level 2 / 11-19 Bank Place T 61 3 9642 4899 [email protected]
Melbourne Victoria 3000 F 61 3 9642 4922

Media contact

To coordinate an interview with Narelle Anger please contact:
Caroline Huze, Speech Pathology Australia, National Marketing & Communications Officer:
0402 919 839 or [email protected]

About Speech Pathology Australia

For more information visit:

Speech Pathology Australia is the national peak body for more than 4,500 members.
The Association supports and regulates the ethical, clinical and professional standards of its
members. The Association also lobbies and advocates for people with communication and
swallowing difficulties.

The Association's annual awareness-raising week, Speech Pathology Week, will be held 23 29
August 2009, with the theme `Communicate to Participate'.

Speech Pathology Australia's 2009 Conference

Local and international industry experts will examine topical issues at this year's conference.
The Conference theme is ASPIRE Advancing Speech Pathology Innovation, Research and
Held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, the conference will run from May 17 - 21, 2009.

The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited
ABN 17 008 393 440

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