An organization representing speech-language pathologists and audiologists in B.C. says children are waiting more than a year for publicly funded access to speech and hearing assessments.
“If a child is two or three years old and they are not speaking yet, then they get a referral, but there is up to a year and a half year wait to see a pathologist unless the family accesses a private therapist,” said Becca Yu, president of Speech and Hearing B.C.
“They may not get seen until they are almost four.”
Yu said there were also long delays between a doctor assessing that a child has a hearing problem and the child getting to see an audiologist in order to get hearing aids.
“I have had families where the wait for an assessment was a year,” she said.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists in B.C. must have a master of science degree and belong to the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of B.C. in order to practise.
There are 10 post-secondary institutions in Canada that offer these M.Sc. programs, including UBC that takes 40 students a year.
Yu said that a report from the Speech-Language and Audiology Canada found B.C. and Ontario had fewer of the professionals per capita than any other province or territory in the country.
“B.C. is falling behind other provinces in providing timely access to speech and hearing services for children, hearing-aid coverage, and speech pathology access for people living in long-term care facilities,” she said.
“Federal comparison on access to supports for everything from early childhood intervention, to hearing aid funding, to accessing speech language pathology services for seniors recovering from illness outline that British Columbia is not keeping pace with other parts of the country.”
Yu said the “massive backlog in timely access to early childhood intervention” could be overcome by creating more seats in M.Sc programs and by offering training outside large metropolitan areas.
May is Speech and Hearing Month in Canada.
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