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CHI.L.D – Helping children speak…and find their voice

Imagine being in a foreign country, where no one understands you and try as you might, you cannot get your message across – this is what it is like every day for a child with Primary Language Disorder. Primary Language Disorder (or specific language impairment) affects approximately one in 14  of our population. These children look like any other child, they do not have autism and are not intellectually impaired. They have profound difficulty comprehending even the simplest of instructions and structuring their language to tell someone their needs and wants. They can become frustrated, isolated from their peers and have significant difficulty engaging in their education.

CHI.L.D Association has been helping children who have Primary Language Disorder and their families for over 30 years. The Glenleighden School, in Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane, is the only school of its kind in the southern hemisphere, specifically catering to the needs of children with Primary Language Disorder. CHI.L.D also runs a clinic and an outreach service, seeing children all over Queensland, and provides an eTherapy program for remote and isolated children.

People around Australia and the world travel great distances to attend Glenleighden to help their children. Pam and Murray sold their Melbourne home and moved more than a thousand kilometres so their son could attend.

Carolyne and Mick did the same, but in the opposite direction from Cairns. For another family it was even further. Three thousand kilometres in fact. From Darwin. One mother made the move from Townsville. Another sold up too and relocated from Toowoomba. A third drove the 240km round trip from Toowoomba every day for a year until her little boy could be transitioned to a local school. Elena and Marcello said goodbye to their home, their friends and families and shifted too … from Sydney. Julie’s husband couldn’t just sell the family property in Moree in central western New South Wales, so Julie took her little girl and set off for Brisbane to find a place to rent. They commuted back to their home eight hours drive away during the holidays. And so on. One little boy and his mum came from New Zealand. Another family from Adelaide. One grandad drives 1000kms a week to take his grandson to Glenleighden. And has done so for years.

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Dealing with the problem is what CHI.L.D does. They start with a special sign language, which is not an alternative to trying to speak, but a tool. It helps the kids organise their thoughts and the demands of language. Apart from the teachers, there are speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, a music therapist and a psychologist. Progress for some children can be quite rapid and they are transitioned to a mainstream school as soon as they are capable of making the move. But there is no cure. Early intervention is vital and success stories abound, much to the relief of anxious mums and dads. For others the road can be much longer.

Everyday the kids demonstrate their resilience and capacity to learn. They are truly inspirational despite the constant barriers they face. It is up to CHI.L.D to be their voice, to educate and raise awareness for these kids who try so hard to be heard. The children receive no access to early intervention funding and in some states; their disability is not even recognised by the education system. By raising awareness CH.I.LD can advocate for our kids to have access to the vital therapies they need to have the best start to their lives. And not just the few that could make the move to Brisbane to attend Glenleighden, but ALL children who have Primary Language Disorder.

Please visit CH.I.LD’s website for more information on how you can help children with Primary Language Disorder. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter for news and resources about Primary Language Disorder.

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