Standing up for speech

With school budget cuts looming, parent Jennifer Henrie decided to be proactive in her quest for funding for speech and language services

Jennifer Henrie

Jennifer Henrie

With school budget cuts looming, parent Jennifer Henrie decided to be proactive in her quest for funding for speech and language services in the district.

As she did last year, Henrie, who is the parent of a child with a language disorder, approached the board to draw attention to the need for speech and language services before cuts show up in the budget.

She pointed out there is an increasing demand for speech referrals but a decreasing amount of funding — which means some children are not receiving the supports they need.

Henrie used the example of Bastion Elementary School, where of the 420 students approximately 50 are referred for speech and language services, but only 20 to 25 will receive services.

“Communication delays and disorders have an impact on all aspects of life. Difficulties with understanding language and with expressing one’s ideas interfere with academic learning, social interactions, behaviour choices and functional life skills,” Henrie wrote in a brief to the board.

Then she spoke about a child who needs speech supports so he can learn to say his own name properly.

“I’d like you to take a stand,” she told the board, “The numbers and the need are there, so I’d like you to commit to funding this worthy program.”

Board chair Bobbi Johnson noted the need, pointing to her own grandchildren, who had accessed the services, but she did not make any promises when it came to the board’s funding for speech services, and put the focus on the government to fund these programs for children.

“The government needs to understand this is a top priority. If children can’t speak, or have trouble speaking, they can have trouble their whole life,” she said.

Budget discussions for the school district have already begun and an in-camera budget meeting has been set for trustees on March 3.

To support the drive for speech services and to connect with other parents, Henrie has also started a Facebook page, “Support for Speech and Language in SD83.”