Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Western NSW Branch Meeting 2023-1

Professor Sharynne McLeod “Children should be seen AND heard: the importance of communication so children can thrive”

Professor Sharynne McLeod FRSN FASSA

Professor of Speech and Language Acquisition, School of Education
Charles Sturt University

Date: Thursday, 20 April 2023, 6.00 pm
Venue: Engineering Building, Building 1305, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst
Video presentation: YouTube video
All are welcome

This meeting is a joint presentation of Charles Sturt University and the Western NSW Branch of the Royal Society of NSW

Summary:  Communication is a human right for everyone – including children. Being an effective communicator is essential for children’s belonging, being, and becoming – and their ability to thrive. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes our right to freedom of opinion and expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. This right is echoed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, Australian health, education, and disability legislation and policies rarely mention children’s communication.

This presentation will draw on extensive large-scale evidence regarding Australian children’s communicative competence and capacity. Children’s drawings, personal insights, and data from 10,000 children within the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) will be described and the communicative competence of multilingual and Indigenous children will be celebrated.

Approximately a quarter of parents of Australian 4- to 5-year-olds in LSAC were concerned about how their child talked and made speech sounds. Longitudinal analyses of LSAC data demonstrated the negative impact of preschool children’s speech and language competency on their subsequent literacy, numeracy, and socialisation. While there are many evidence-based speech pathology interventions to support children’s speech and language skills, “long speech pathology waiting lists” have been identified by an Australian Government Senate Inquiry for almost a decade. Innovations (e.g., websites, computer programs) to reduce the impact of these long waiting lists have been funded by the Australian Research Council and NSW Health; however, most have demonstrated limited improvements on children’s speech and language. This presentation will conclude with a range of policy solutions for interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral change to enable Australia’s children to be seen AND heard so they can thrive.

Sharynne McLeod PhD is a speech-language pathologist and professor of speech and language acquisition at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Royal Society of New South Wales, was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and has received Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Life Membership of Speech Pathology Australia. She has co-authored 13 books and 250+ peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters primarily focusing on children’s speech acquisition, speech sound disorders, and multilingualism and has free resources in over 70 languages on the Multilingual Children’s Speech website. She has provided expertise to the World Health Organization and has presented at the United Nations about communication rights. The Australian Newspaper named her Australia’s Research Field Leader in Audiology, Speech and Language Pathology (2018, 2019, 2020, 2022) and Best in the World based on the “quality, volume and impact” of research in the field (2019, 2023).

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