If you are worried, you are probably right

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Monday, October 13, 2014

Oct 13

A recent government study found that 20% of preschool children aged between 4-5 years had a speech sound disorder- this is one in five children.  

When parents were asked what they would do now that  they knew this information, many responded that they would wait until their child started school- that is they would not seek intervention earlier.

What many parents don't realise that a speech sound disorder, left untreated can have serious implications for their child's literacy development and their ongoing learning.

A speech sound disorder can start out as a late talker, or an unintelligible late talker, then can change to become a 4 year old talker who is hard to understand, who then arrives at school with a number of speech sound challenges and develops literacy problems. A very large percentage (up to 70%) of children with literacy problems were once preschoolers with speech sound disorders. This underscores the importance of seeking help early. Waiting until a child gets to school to seek help is too late.

What the study also showed, was that most parents of children who were found to have a speech sound disorder, were actually worried about their child's speech before the diagnosis was confirmed. That means their worries were well founded. So if you are concerned, booking your child for an assessment is an important thing to do.

At Eastside Speech we conduct preschool screenings at many local preschools, to give parents  the information they need to act early so they can reduce the risk of their children developing literacy difficulties.

Here are two websites that are very helpful for parents with information and ideas about young children's speech & language development. to your baby

"The thing is- I stutter" Megan Washington TEDx

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jul 27

A number of parents at our clinic have watched the Tedx talk by Megan Washington. She is a well known Australian singer/song writer who gave the talk - "The things is I stutter".

Typically Megan doesn't stutter when she sings, and loves singing for that reason - "it's the only time that my words come out like I intend them to".

The parents from our clinic have come in, stating that although the talk was inspiring and funny, it also really helped focus them to do therapy using the Lidcombe program with their pre-school aged children. 

If stuttering is  treated in the preschool years, most children go on to live stutter free lives, not plagued by the impact of stuttering in adulthood.


Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nov 19

An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald this year has prompted much parent discussion and some hand wringing in our clinic.

In her article on June 15, speech pathologist Annemarie Laurence described a the detrimental effects of having kids “attached” to their iPads. Spending hours glued to a screen certainly gives parents peace and quiet whilst shopping, driving and having a coffee- but for many preschoolers this means lost opportunities to learn and develop the social, speech and communication skills that are foundational to their future learning and development.

Deft iPad skills, far from being a marker of a child's intellectual capacity, may well be diminishing it- as children’s attention spans, persistence at tasks, and speech and language skills are not challenged or fostered. I wont argue that some apps and some screen time (far less than we all allow) may certainly have some benefits, but they are vastly diminished, compared to the conversation and questioning embedded real world experiences and reading books. In her article Annemarie Laurence reported that up to 40% of children are arriving at school with delayed speech and language which has flow on effects into literacy and the other aspects of the curriculum. Discovering this problem in kindergarten is really 2 years too late. At Eastside Speech Solutions we visit all our local preschools to screen children early to help parents be on the ‘front foot’ when it comes to helping their arriving at school with the best foundation possible.

Why not use this Christmas an an opportunity not to spend vast sums of money on technology, but smaller sums on quality toys and books? In October Speech Pathology Australia announced their book of the year awards. Authors Claire Saxby (Seadog), Alison Lester (Sophie Scott Goes South), Morris Gleitzman (After) and Melanie Prewett (Two Mates) received Speech Pathology Australia’s 2013 Best Books for Language and Literacy Development awards.

To read about the winners and those shortlisted, as well as previous winners go to

Wishing you all the best for the Holiday Season.


Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jan 20

I had fun watching the movie Parental Guidance with my kids over the holidays. Every member of the family found something that was funny. 
I was of course transfixed by poor Turner, the school aged kid who had a debilitating stutter. It's really uplifting at the end when he "overcomes" his stutter when he follows his grandfather and starts sports commentating.
I have heard of a number of adult stutterers who are actors report a similar phenomenon- they don't stutter when they're acting/public speaking. It seems that taking on a different persona/using a slightly different voice enables stutterers to use a different "speech pathway" which is stutter free- the same mechanism is thought to be the reason that very few stutterers stutter when they sing. Unfortunately when people revert back to "themselves", their stutter returns. It is particularly important to watch this issue when treating preschoolers using the Lidcombe Program - we need to make sure that they practice "smooth speech" using their regular voice, not "in character".
So unfortunately, it's actually unlikely that Turner in Parental Guidance was "cured" of his stutter but it made a nice ending to the movie, and food for thought for speech pathologists:)

We have every reason to help these kids...

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sep 09

What group of school aged children will progress to adulthood and be: 

* 7 times more likely to have any form of anxiety disorder                                                                                                    
* 4 times more likely to have generalised anxiety disorder                                                                                                    * 34 times more likely to have a diagnosis of social phobia                                                                                                  * 3 times more likely to have a personality disorder?
Answer: School aged stutterers
That's why it's so important to treat their stuttering ASAP!
Whilst the ideal time to treat stuttering is overwhelmingly in the preschool years, those children identified as stuttering when they are school aged can still be successfully treated. The benefits are priceless, especially given the statistics above. Numbers of studies have also shown that the more severe your stuttering is as an adult, the poorer your educational and occupational achievement.

There are a number treatment options available for clinicians to use with the school aged population. The use of technology has now made therapy even “cooler”. Having therapy via Skype is a very attractive option for teenagers, giving them more independence and flexibility than if they needed to come into a clinic.

So if you know a school aged stutterer, take the opportunity to make a huge difference to their quality of life and enable them to get them help they need.

Speech Training makes a difference- RailCorp thinks so:)

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Monday, August 27, 2012

Aug 27

I'm sure I'm not the only one that shouted "hooray", when they read "Sydney rail staff to get speech training" in the Sydney Morning Herald today.

 The article stated that "rail staff were going to be sent to speech classes to make their announcements on stations easier to understand", in a bid to eradicate "muffled and incomprehensible announcements". The NSW transport minister said that customers have indicated that quality train announcements make a real difference to their journey. It’s just fabulous when employers like RailCorp realise there is a mismatch between what their staff can deliver and what customers expect, and do something about it.

This is a very delicate matter in many smaller organisations. At Eastside speech we have numerous calls from employers wanting to help their valued staff “step up” to more senior roles in their organisations, but the employees poor English pronunciation is preventing it. Customers avoid calling these employees due to the frustration they experience in communicating, potentially resulting in a loss of business. Employers find it a difficult matter to discuss for fear of causing offense, or being accused of being discriminatory.

 On the flip side, we also have numbers of professionals who come, knowing that their English pronunciation is not “up to scratch” and know that ultimately it will impact negatively on their careers. English pronunciation or accent improvement tuition is enjoyable, effective and pays dividends in the long run- whether you’re the employer or employee- a great investment.

What is the story with a lisp?

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Friday, August 24, 2012

Aug 24

I was recently discussing with a friend how the Barcelonans actually call themselves “Barthelonans”. He then regaled me with an amusing story as to why, saying “TH” for “S” is actually peculiar to Spanish speakers in that region of Spain. The phenomenon is called Ceceo. Very few Spanish speakers in other parts of the world use this form of pronunciation. Legend has it that Pedro of Castile lisped, and that the population - either to ingratiate themselves to the king or not offend him, adopted the lisp! Great story really, but unfortunately when I looked into it, a legend.
The use of the Ceceo pronunciation actually predates Pedro of Castile, and no one really knows its origins for sure.
In Australian English (and all other English forms) pronouncing “s” as “th” is referred to as lisping.
Until about 3-3.5 years of age lisping is considered developmentally normal - that is, it’s not unusual for children under this age to lisp. However, if this speech pattern persists after 3.5 years of age, children usually require help from a speech pathologist to assist them to pronounce their “s” sounds correctly.  It is certainly important to seek some help before children start school, because sounding out “s”, but saying “th” makes learning phonics in spelling very confusing! Also having children essentially practice the incorrect pronunciation for a number of years, often makes learning the correct way more difficult and time consuming.
That said, at Eastside Speech we also successfully treat a number of adults that didn’t have the benefit of speech therapy as children- they tell us that they are “tired of speaking with a lisp”. So it’s never too late, but as with most things, the earlier you seek help the better.

The importance of reading

Posted by Ainsley Poulos - Monday, August 20, 2012

Aug 20

I think Sam DeBrito’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald SMH 19/8/12  tapped into every parent's greatest fear when their kids struggle with literacy. Literacy is the key to the door of participating in life - even looking for a job is virtually impossible without it. Sam’s experience of looking for literacy help also showed that even finding help with reading as an adult devastatingly requires a certain level of reading competency. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that getting onto reading problems early is so important.

In clinic, we all feel so fabulous when kids start to “get it” with reading. We use the Lizzy Literacy program developed by speech pathologist Judy Armstrong. She told me that teachers begged her to write down what she was doing in clinic because "whatever she was doing with her kids in clinic “worked!” It certainly does. I find that its attributes of physical movement, colours, and not relying on writing in the early stages, means that even children with significant developmental challenges make progress.

The simple rules that you learn that govern all the words we spell (but none of us can articulate) make the program terrific for both children and adults.

Did you know that you always use a K (instead of C) when e, i or y comes next - kite kick, keg (except for Australian animals and 3 other exceptions)?; or that after a short vowel, we always use CK instead of K (duck trick, back)?