JULIA Medew (The Age, 22/8) highlighted the need for speech therapy for children with autism. But speech therapy is an issue for all children with disabilities and their families. Children with autism actually have access to more than twice the funding for therapy than those with other disabilities.
Children who are unable to walk or talk, and who have profound learning and/or physical disabilities have about one-quarter of the service provided to them 10 to 15 years ago. The autism funding is a great start, but all the other children have been left behind. Parents have lobbied to get the additional autism funding but those I work with are too tired to get political, so their children miss out.
Government funding for a preschool child with a disability pays for about one hour of therapy a fortnight - a drop in the ocean for the child needing physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and specialist teaching support.
Therapists and teachers no longer have time to do detailed assessments, to spend time developing a rapport with the child, and to provide a good service to families. Thus, staff leave this area of therapy in droves, as it is so unsatisfying to be doing so little to meet the needs of children and their families.
Meredith Fordyce, occupational therapist, West Heidelberg