The Ministry of Children and Family Development is starting to unravel more aid for children and youth with support needs, but Speech and Hearing BC is still concerned about what this could mean for patients.

Speech and Hearing BC is a not-for-profit association that works with over 1,200 speech pathologists and audiologists in the province but has been advocating for more professionals in BC.

“We welcome the change to a needs-based model that will allow families to access services without a formal diagnosis such as autism. This will allow children showing signs and symptoms of developmental delay or disorder to access services, and diagnoses such as apraxia, development language disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome to access supports that they did not have before,” said President Becca Yu.

“Our concern, however, is the current shortage of professionals such as speech-language pathologists to fill these positions to provide quality therapeutic services.”

Waitlists, caseload size, autonomy of therapist selection, and accessibility (particularly in rural areas) are some of the main concerns for the association.

Wendy Duke, Speech and Language Pathologist, and Clinical Director said there’s a shortage in all age ranges for speech pathologists.

“There aren’t that many speech pathologists in the province relative to the population. That’s not just in our clinic, that’s certainly BC-wide. It crosses all the age ranges.”

“So for instance, if you have a child with a speech problem who is maybe three years old, you might wait so long to get them into a public health care unit, that by the time they work through the waiting list they’re practically into kindergarten,” said Duke.

She adds once they hit kindergarten they get discharged and turned over to the school system.

Duke adds areas in long-term care are also struggling to provide care.

“A lot of those people have conditions resulting from stroke, or neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis, or they have dementing conditions, or they have trouble with related musculature for safely swallowing and eating.”

“All of those conditions should be addressed and treated by a Speech and Language Pathologist, but there’s just no way that there’s absolutely not enough in the population,” added Duke.