Purpose: Natural disasters can significantly impact children’s health, development, and wellbeing, as well as their access to education and support services (including speech-language pathology). Children’s needs are often overlooked in the urgent aftermath of natural disasters. This is especially true for children with communication difficulties. This commentary explores the impacts of bushfire on Australian children, to propose a sustainable, community-based approach to supporting children’s health, wellbeing, and communication. Result: The Royal Far West Bushfire Recovery Program, a multidisciplinary allied health program, supported children's recovery, resilience, and development in the aftermath of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires in 2019–2020. Children learnt coping strategies and were more able to communicate with adults and peers about their feelings and experiences, but residual impacts of bushfires remained for some children. Allied health telepractice services, including speech-language pathology, enhanced access for vulnerable children, highlighting the potential for technology to provide high-quality services to support recovery, particularly in remote areas. Conclusion: Climate change increases the frequency and severity of bushfires and other natural disasters with significant consequences for vulnerable and at-risk communities. Children with communication needs are particularly vulnerable during and following these disasters. High quality, evidence-based interventions are needed to support the health, wellbeing, and communication needs of children, with opportunities for involvement of speech-language pathologists. This commentary paper focusses on SDG 1, SDG 3, SDG 4, SDG 9, SDG 10, SDG 11, SDG 13, and SDG 15.
|Journal||International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology|
|Publication status||Published - 2023|