Caregivers’ and clinicians’ perspectives of speech pathology services for children with SLCNs

Robert Wells, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work, & Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Australia (
Suze Leitão, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work, & Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Australia (
Mary Claessen, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work, & Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Australia (
Peta Dzidic, School of Psychology Curtin University, Australia (

Background: Speech, Language, and Communication Needs (SLCNs) have the capacity to impact a child’s quality of life, academic success, workforce engagement, and communication with peers. While supports are available to children with SLCNs, barriers exist which can make accessing services difficult for families. As our profession moves towards Speech Pathology 2030 it is important that we involve families along with professionals in the way we understand these barriers and improve services.

Aim: To build a framework for improving access to speech pathology for children with SLCNs that draws equally on the experiences of both caregivers and clinicians.

Method: A Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT) approach guided the collection and analysis of 35 semi-structured in-depth interviews (17 caregivers, 11 speech pathologists) focussed on exploring their experiences and perspectives of accessing speech pathology services in Western Australia for young children.

Results: Adopting a CGT approach gave voice to caregivers as decision-makers for paediatric speech pathology services, integrated with the more commonly sought voice of the clinician. Analysis of interviews identified that service access is multifactorial. Families needed a range of resources to initiate and maintain services, each of which presented different barriers for different families. The factors impacting service access in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas was similar, however some factors, such as travel more burdensome in non-metropolitan areas.

Conclusions: Through identifying the factors that act as facilitators and barriers to paediatric speech pathology services we can advocate for changes to the policy and provision of services in a way that is meaningful to our clients.

Implications for children: Going to speech can make it easier for you to talk and play with your friends and family. But not every family is lucky enough to go to speech. We’re trying to find out what makes it tricky to go to speech, so that more kids can go along.

Implications for families: We understand that taking your child to a speech pathology service can be emotional, logistically difficult, and expensive. By asking caregivers and clinicians ‘What makes speech pathology services difficult to access? …Or easy to access?’ we can better understand how to improve services into the future.

Implications for practitioners: As our profession moves towards 2030 it is essential that we include our clients’ families in decisions not only about their intervention, but also about the provision of the services. While families are accessing services for their child/ren’s SLCNs it is important that we as clinicians appreciate that the stressors and barriers in each families experience are different, and that these can look different in the clinic room.

Funding: The researchers would like to acknowledge the contribution of an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship in supporting this research.

Key words: families’ voices, professionals’ voices, workforce issues, communication, government, community services, regional/rural communities, qualitative methods

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: