Churchill Fellowship recipient lending her voice to children with speech disorders

Congratulations to Angela Morgan, Professor of Speech Pathology and Co-Director of the Speech Genetics Clinic at the RCH, who has recently been awarded the Sir William Kilpatrick Churchill Fellowship to develop a best practice approach to treating child speech disorders across Australia.

A Churchill Fellowship affords everyday Australians with the life-changing opportunity to travel overseas and explore a topic or issue they are passionate about. Recipients of the prestigious award meet and work with leaders in their fields to gain and exchange knowledge for the benefit of themselves, their industry and their community.

Although one in 10 preschool children develop a speech or language disorder which places them at risk for literacy impairment, poor education and limited job opportunities, Angela recognised that research into proven therapies to treat these disorders was lacking.

“Speech and language disorders can be chronic and debilitating conditions. Although communication is critical to almost every aspect of our daily lives, these disorders have a very low profile in the community. This is often because the conditions are not considered ‘life threatening’ compared to the many other significant health conditions we face.”

Angela Morgan, 2020 Churchill Fellowship recipient

“Currently, around 50 per cent of children have unmet clinical needs and this is partly because our practice is inefficient. We have so few clinical trials or proven therapies in this field,” Angela said.

While COVID-19 has temporarily put her travel plans on hold, Angela will travel to centres of excellence in Britain and Netherlands, which have large scale speech pathology clinical trials embedded in their existing health and educational services, so that she can bring this knowledge back to Australia.

“We do not have a culture of national level clinical trials in speech pathology in Australia and have much to learn from our British and Dutch colleagues – specifically in creating a culture of running large scale clinical trials in this discipline.”

“Building this culture in Australia involves training the next generation of speech pathologists. Learnings from the fellowship will be translated into curriculum for the Masters of Speech Pathology course at the University of Melbourne and other academic speech pathology training courses nationally.”

“I hope this research will assist in engendering a culture of clinical trials in speech pathology in Australia, with a long-term view to improve clinical care and outcomes.”

Angela’s passion for shedding light on speech and communication disorders is ultimately home grown.

“I grew up on the north-west coast of Tasmania where there is a very poor rate of literacy and education. I saw first-hand the impacts that these conditions can have on someone’s life. These early experiences catalysed my passion for the field,” Angela said.

“Children and adults who live with a communication disorder do not speak out, because they quite literally don’t always have a voice to do so. I hope the fellowship will help raise awareness of speech, language and communication conditions and improve clinical care for children across Australia.”

This year’s Churchill Fellowship was awarded to 112 Australians to create positive change in the community. For a full list of this year’s recipients, please click here.

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