"Communication skills are vital for children who have suffered abuse and neglect"

8 October 2018






When asked why she loves working at Act for Kids, Erika, a speech pathologist from Act for Kids, said “I really believe that by helping children learn how to communicate from a young age, we can give them the skills they need to create a better future for themselves as adults”.

What inspired you to become a speech pathologist?

I knew I wanted to work in a health profession, as I am interested in biology and psychology, and I love working with people! I have also always loved language and reading – so speech pathology seemed like a good combination of different things that I enjoy.  I was selectively mute myself as a child, so that may have subconsciously affected my career path too!

What are you most passionate about in your role?

I am passionate about trying to help break the generational cycle of disadvantage that we often see in our families. It’s heartbreaking to hear that so many of the parents of the children we see have also lived through childhood abuse and neglect, and have not received the help they needed and continue to struggle with many aspects of their own lives.

How does your profession help children?

Speech pathologists work with children on many different things; this can include understanding of language, building vocabulary, using sentence structure and grammatical concepts, social skills, pronouncing different types of sounds, play skills, literacy and fluency of speech (for children who stutter) – to name just a few!

We know that children with communication difficulties are more likely to be the victims of abuse and neglect, and also that abuse and neglect can cause children to have communication difficulties. A speech pathologist is an important part of a trauma treatment team, because learning to communicate is vital for children, in order to engage in education and build healthy relationships.

What does your day involve as a speech pathologist working at Act for Kids?

I work in an Integrated Therapy Team at Act for Kids, which means that we have a speech pathologist, occupational therapist and psychologist all working together. We do lots of team assessments with new families that are referred to us to work out who is best suited to help a child at a particular time. We also have lots of case discussions to make sure that all of our different perspectives are considered in planning support for our children.

I will then work together with our parents and carers during individual appointments for children. We set goals together for developing children’s communication skills. One of the most important parts of my role is to show parents and carers what they can do to help develop their child’s communication skills at home, as they spend much more time with them than I do! We always make sure to make our therapy sessions fun; often it can look like we are just playing with a child when really we have very specific goals that we are working on during a play activity. For example, it might just look like I’m doing a puzzle with a young child, but we could be working on goals like asking for what we want, following instructions or taking turns during this activity. As well as working with families, I will work with teachers, childcare educators, case managers, Maternal and Child Health Nurses, and other professionals involved with the children I see.

I also do school visits once a week to deliver Act for Kids’ protective behaviours program, Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends. I think it’s so important that as well as treating the effects of abuse and neglect in children, we are also actively going out in to the community and helping to prevent this from happening to other children.

Why did you choose to work for Act for Kids?

I have wanted to work for Act for Kids for many years, and was very excited to see that they were opening a service in Melbourne earlier this year! I am passionate about working with children who’ve been abused or neglected, and admire Act for Kids’ drive and passion for this cause. I love the fact that at Act for Kids I have the opportunity to work with children long term if they need it. This is often not possible in other services, and for many of the children we see it can take some time to form a relationship and really trust an adult before progress can be made. So, short term therapy is not always effective! I’m very proud to say that I work for Act for Kids, and really believe that the work we do can help to turn children’s lives around.