Bundaberg Hospital speech pathologist Sarah Terry urges adults with literacy problems to seek help.
Bundaberg Hospital speech pathologist Sarah Terry urges adults with literacy problems to seek help. Max Fleet

Literacy the key to a happy life

DIFFICULTY with reading and writing can hold plenty of adults back from succeeding in many parts of life, including finding a job.

The importance of being able to communicate properly has become the focus of this year’s Speech Pathology Week, which started on Sunday.

Bundaberg Hospital speech pathologist Sarah Terry said almost half of Australians aged between 15 and 74 did not have the literacy skills needed for day-to-day living.

At the hospital, Mrs Terry deals with the most acute cases of poor literacy, often brought on by strokes or other severe medical problems.

“For our patients that we see with communication difficulties, for them to read and write properly is essential because they may not hear some words correctly,” she said.

Mrs Terry, who has worked at the hospital for about six months after moving to Bundaberg from the United Kingdom, is one of four full-time and one part-time speech pathologists at the facility.

The team sees about 30 patients a day.

Mrs Terry said a lack of reading and writing skills could be problematic after a hospital stay.

“From a hospital perspective, we do send a lot of people home with a lot of written information about medication and what they need to do,” she said.

“If we do get people who struggle with literacy, they are going to need help interpreting that.”

Mrs Terry said those with difficulties would also struggle to fill out forms, access the internet or use a mobile phone.

“Relationships, work, education and everyday tasks such as buying groceries or ordering a coffee can be challenging for someone with a communication difficulty,” she said.

Mrs Terry said Speech Pathology Week was a perfect time to encourage those in need to try to get some help.

“While our hospital speech pathologists generally help patients with more serious communication and swallowing difficulties, there are a number of options available for people who just want to brush up on their literacy skills,” she said.

“Phoning the Reading Writing Hotline on 1300 655 506 is a great first step to improve your literacy.”

For more information about the services provided by speech pathologists, call your GP or 13 43 25 84.