Democratising access to speech language therapy

An initiative by

Tātai Aho Rau | CORE Education

in Partnership with EPIT

14 November 2023

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In an initial teacher-led research pilot project undertaken over 18-months in 2017 - 2018 in the Hornby community in Ōtautahi | Christchurch, Tātai Aho Rau identified that over 50% of the 250 four- to six-year-olds who took part could benefit from specific communication support.

The second iteration of the project was carried out in South Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland. It involved digitising the resources and tools created in the pilot and training teachers and whānau how to use these to support oral language and communication in children. By democratising the knowledge, tools and know how, usually reserved for communication and speech-language therapists the project aimed to flip the power balance from specialists towards those who are closest to the child.

The drive behind this initiative

Currently less than 5% of tamariki in Aotearoa | New Zealand have access to free in-depth speech-language and communication support. Assessments and support rely on specialist services which are currently difficult to access. With the right support, resources and training, teachers and whānau have the potential to address this lack.

Approach to change

Tātai Aho Rau | CORE has created their own theory of action, He Aria Kōkirikiri. This begins with listening to understand the situation, followed by using knowledge and frameworks to design and test ideas for change. This is a collaborative process designed to generate and implement powerful, innovative solutions.

Impact for Equity

•Co-design resulted in resources and tools that are relevant and accessible.

•Ensuring children were involved in reviewing tools made them more effective for use.

•Teachers and whānau can assess and support the speech-language needs of learners more quickly than waiting for access to speech-language therapy.

•Children received the speech-language assessment and support they needed to thrive at school.

Learnings & Outputs

Outcomes for kaiako(teachers)

The training and support gained from working with a speech language therapist both face-to-face and online has improved kaiako the awareness, knowledge and confidence:

•Of phonemic learning, which has shifted how thinking about when and how to intervene in children’s oral language learning. 

•To engage whānau in learning conversations about their children’s oral language learning.

•To use more strategies to support tamariki communication.

The number of referrals to speechl anguage therapists have reduced and when made are now more detailed and specific due to increased kaiako knowledge, reducing waiting times for intervention. 

Outcomes for tamariki(children)

Through the intentional increased support for oral language development tamariki:

•Have an increased sense of wellbeing evidenced by less frustration and more positive and constructive behaviour. 

•Are talking and communicating more often and with more confidence.

•Have increased competence including more deliberately attempting correct pronunciation.

•Are learning from each other.

Outcomes for whānau

•The knowledge and information shared with whānau has resulted in strategies being used at home.

•An increase in confidence has resulted in whānau initiating more conversations about their children’s oral language learning. 


Tātai Aho Rau | CORE Education

Tātai Aho Rau | CORE Education was established in 2003 to provide professional learning and research in the educator sector. Their vision is for an equitable and thriving Aotearoa | New Zealand through learning.