Meet the team: Jess

Hi. My name is Jess, and I am a Speech Pathologist at Royal Far West.

What does your role involve? 

My role is to provide assessment and therapy to children with communication difficulties. Communication involves speaking, hearing, listening, understanding, social skills, reading, writing, and using voice.

Communication difficulties for the kids I work with might look like speech sound errors (where a child has difficulty saying the correct sounds in words), or language difficulties (where a child might find it hard to get their message across to someone, or they may find it hard to understand what other people are saying to them). Or it may be that the child stutters, and/or has social communication impairments.

It’s so important for these children to get support with their communication skills. Communication impairment can have a significant impact on how a child functions in their daily life, such as speaking in the classroom and asking for help, building friendships, and learning how to read and write.

Statistics from Speech Pathology Australia show: 20% of four-year-old children have difficulty understanding or using language; 14% of 15-year-old children have only basic literacy skills; children born with an intellectual disability such as Autism or Down Syndrome often begin their life with a communication impairment; and children with a language impairment are six times more likely to have reading difficulties than children without this impairment. There is also a high correlation between communication difficulties and poor mental health.

I work in our Telecare for Kids program and our Windmill Telecare Program for children living rurally in NSW and Queensland. In the Telecare Program, the children I see are aged between 3 and 12 years old, and I have a zoom session with them for 30 minutes each week at their preschool or school. The Windmill Telecare Program is a bit different, as the children have NDIS funding and I see them with their parent or teacher’s aide for approximately 45 minutes a week either at their home or school.

Since you’ve been here, have you seen any changes in the sorts of issues children have?

I was lucky enough to complete my final student placement at RFW in my last year of University. I loved it so much that I applied for a job, and now I have been working here for 18 months! During this time, I have seen the programs and the teams grow at RFW.

We have also experienced a lot of changes due to COVID, which has been a crazy journey with lots of learning and adapting to working from home as well as supporting our clients in learning from home. One fun adjustment occurred when we were starting to work from home… I got a puppy (as shown in the picture!). It was a lot of fun, but he was distracting at times! Sometimes the kids are lucky enough to see Teddy over the computer as a little surprise at the end of their sessions (it works a treat every time!). Teddy is also very much part of our speech team (they celebrated his first birthday in February. Too cute!).

What led you to work at RFW?

I have a passion for working with children, especially children living rurally and remotely who are unable to easily access services. I spent some of my childhood living in Wagga Wagga, and it is so exciting to me that I can now work with kids in Wagga and other places like Wagga via telecare.

Describe your typical day

A typical day for me includes planning for my sessions, which may include making some fun resources that target the child’s therapy goals. It also includes doing the therapy sessions and linking in with teachers and parents. There will often be a couple of meetings with members in my team, or from our wider multidisciplinary team.

What’s the best thing about working with families from rural and remote Australia?

It’s so rewarding to provide services to children and families who are otherwise unable to access it, often due to distance.