Mapping speech pathology services to developmentally vulnerable and at-risk communities using the Australian Early Development Census

Jane McCormack, Sarah Verdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a population-based measure of children ’ s development across five domains in the first year of formal schooling. In this study, the AEDC data from two domains (Language and Cognitive Skills and Communication Skills and General Knowledge) were used to explore the extent and distribution of vulnerability in communication skills among children in Australian communities. Speech Pathology Australia membership data was then used to explore the accessibility of services within those communities. Method: The 2012 AEDC data were accessed for 289,973 children, living in 577 communities across Australia. The number of children identified as “ at risk ” (10 – 25 th percentile) or developmentally “ vulnerable ” ( <10th percentile) in each of the domains was calculated, then the location of communities with high proportions (<20%) of these children was determined. These data were mapped against the location of paediatric speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to identify the number of communities with little to no access to speech-language pathology services. Result: Across Australia, there were 47,636 children (17.4%) identified as developmentally vulnerable/at risk in Language and Cognitive Skills and 69,153 children (25.3%) in Communication Skills and General Knowledge. There were 27 communities with >20% of children identified as developmentally vulnerable/at risk in Language and Cognition. Of those, none had access to speech-language pathology services, according to current membership data. There were also 27 LGAs with >20% of children identifi ed as developmentally vulnerable/at risk in the Communication Skills and General Knowledge domain. Of these, three had access to SLP(s) and these were in regional/metropolitan areas. Conclusion: The AEDC provides a means of identifying communities where children are performing well and communities which may benefit from population-based prevention or intervention. Given the number of communities within Australia without access to SLPs, there is a need to reconsider how such population-based services could be delivered, particularly in the communities with higher levels of vulnerability in communication development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-286
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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