Children's speech therapy: Call for wider support in Wales

A baby boy
Image caption Flying Start provides dedicated therapists to help with speech and language

Speech and language support should be more widely available for children in Wales, according to therapists.

One in 10 children in Wales can struggle with speaking, according to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

It said a programme for children under four should be "rolled out further" than targeted areas.

The Welsh Government said it was working on a new approach to early language development.

Nearly 70% of children are "school-ready" after receiving the Flying Start programme's support, according to Alison Stroud, of the royal college in Wales.

"We're getting great results in these areas where we've got this special targeted funding.

"But we're calling for it to be rolled out further, so that it's not just in these very targeted areas," she said.

Targeted areas, such as Bethesda in Gwynedd, have dedicated therapists to help with speech and language so that children avoid problems later on in life, with weekly sessions for families, carers and health visitors.

Amy Starkey, who attends one of the baby groups there, said it makes a big difference to her daughter.

"I get to know how their kids are developing and see if she's similar or if she's missing out on anything - even if it is just babble."

Image caption Families with children under four can take part in the speech therapy

Kathryn Luckock said it was good for her daughter to "hear other babies making noises and listen to other people's voices that aren't just mine or her dad's".

Miriam Lloyd Williams, who has been a health visitor in the Bethesda area for many years, said the frequent assessments helps to identify if there is "a slight delay in development".

More than half the children who live in poverty in Wales or England start school with weaker speech and language skills, and those who have poor vocabulary at five years old are more likely to develop mental health problems as an adult, according to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Flying start speech therapist Lowri Burgess said language development is "crucial" for behaviour, mental health, the ability to socialise, school and later parts of life.

"But unfortunately this isn't available in every area in Wales and maybe the need is still in those other areas," she added.

The Welsh Government said their new approach to early language development and support for young people is being worked on in conjunction with therapists from the royal college.

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