Grey Street Sparks Success with Speech Pathology

A newly introduced Speech Pathology Program at a Traralgon primary school, funded by The Little Village Project, is revitalising student engagement in education.
Grey Street Primary School Disability and Inclusion Leading Teacher Andrew Simpkins believes the Speech Pathology Program funded by The Little Village Project has quickly led to positive outcomes for students.

Although Grey Street Primary School is new to The Little Village Project, it’s taken no time to make a positive difference for its students.

The LVP is all about removing barriers to learning for the Latrobe Valley’s most vulnerable children and at Grey Street, Kindred Spirits Enterprises (KSE) is channelling funds to provide speech pathology services on a weekly basis. This helps with literacy and language acquisition for children of primary school age.

The Traralgon school’s Disability and Inclusion Leading Teacher, Andrew Simpkins, said they recently lost the services of a speech pathologist who was available to help students as part of their regular support program with allied health professionals.

Traralgon speech pathologist Kara Di Dio was available to step in but Grey Street needed funding to pay her. Conversations with KSE executive officer Shaun Mallia and LVP founder Ben Tunks opened up the possibility of the payment of Ms Di Dio’s fees through the LVP. Once the partnership was formalised, the skilled speech pathologist was on board for a two-hour block each Tuesday, to work with staff and students. 

“Kara provides speech and language assessments of students, professional learning for teachers to help students with learning or language difficulties, and small group interventions,” Andrew said.

“The biggest impact for us though is for kids who we’ve been unable to support and whose parents can’t help for financial reasons.  The funding allows assessments to be made in order to obtain a diagnosis. Parents can then take the diagnosis to the NDIS to receive their support.” 

Funding provided by project key partners Latrobe Health Assembly and AGL Loy Yang makes this possible. Additionally, with LVP increasingly attracting the interest of the general public, support is also coming from members of the broader community. 

Andrew said Kara is currently working one-on-one with three students. She is also assessing another three and is meeting with groups of students. 

“Most of this work is in our junior school, Prep to Year Two. The earlier you can get in to support kids, the better the outcomes for them will be,” Andrew said. 

“Students’ literacy, comprehension and communication skills are at the foundation of all their learning in any area. It’s important because of the opportunities that open up for them later in life.”

PARTNERSHIP HELPS BREAK THE SILENCE

The partnership between Grey Street and KSE is still in its infancy but positive changes are already happening.

“One student who came to us with very little clear spoken language can now ask for help in the classroom. Because he couldn’t say the words, he had no confidence whatsoever. He is now talking to people in the yard, waving hello, doing beautifully,” Andrew said.

He also pointed to another speech outcome unfolding, thanks to Kara’s expertise.

“A student with significant complex needs came to us in Prep. They have no ongoing access to speech pathology due to very long waiting lists,” Andrew said.

“From a meeting with the student’s mum, Kara can see that speech services are provided and cut through that six to 18 month waiting list.

“This student, who is autistic, has very little verbal communication and is tricky to communicate with. That’s not going to improve without a speech pathologist.

“Funding through the Little Village Project is providing an opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

“The results will come over time.”

FUNDING IS A ‘GAME-CHANGER’

Funds through The Little Village Project also help provide cognitive assessments by psychologists and ongoing therapeutic counselling.

“Any of this kind of work has a dollar figure attached to it, so funding through the Little Village Project helps to provide, say, a Year Two student get an assessment, which can then lead to more funding through to Year Six,” Andrew said.

“This is a game-changer for families who don’t have the capacity to finance it themselves.”

Support is coming not only for students with speech challenges but also behavioural.

“We have seen an extremely violent student who was being suspended every week just not getting suspended anymore,” Andrew said.

Help for this student came from a childrens counsellor and the provision of a cognitive assessment.

“We have a goal for this boy of being safe for himself and others at school.  It wasn’t about his academic learning, it was about his emotional learning,” Andrew said. 

“At one point it was ‘we got through another day without any injuries!’. Now it’s been weeks.

“His single mum felt she was on her own in this and was being ground down with nowhere to turn, no answers, no feeling of support. Just a very violent, unhappy child. Now, that parent just looks like a human again. They know that we’re backing them and there are some answers. 

“They’ve got those supports to take to the paediatrician to get medication happening. That sort of thing.”

THE LITTLE VILLAGE IS GROWING

Four primary schools in the Latrobe Valley are currently part of the Little Village Project. The initiative began with Ben Tunks at Stockdale Road Primary School and has since grown to include Grey Street, Kosciuszko Street in Traralgon, and Tanjil South Primary School.

Interest in the Little Village Project is growing, with more schools expressing a desire to join. Plans are in place to expand the project over the next two years, bringing its benefits to even more students.

Across the current four schools, 85 students have so far been supported and 383 direct interventions have been provided.

Shaun Mallia, executive officer of Kindred Spirits Enterprises, highlighted how The Little Village Project aligns with their mission to support and connect communities, especially young people.

“Our role is to connect those with needs to the right funding and partnerships, creating a strong foundation for their growth,” Shaun said. 

“With the Little Village Project, we’re witnessing life-changing outcomes that reflect our commitment to fostering the well-being of young people at a crucial stage in their development.”

If your school is interested in learning more about The Little Village Project, contact Kindred Spirits Enterprises here.

The Little Village Project is an initiative of the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone and funding has been provided by the Latrobe Health Assembly in partnership with the Victorian Government.

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