Awareness Week 2019 NZSTA press release – 4th September 2019

04 Sep

Press pause and give 400,000 Kiwis time to speak

“Communication is a fundamental human right – and just like the right to air, food or water, it is taken for granted.” 

Kiwis are being encouraged to support the 400,000 people in New Zealand who have a communication disability, in a week-long campaign by the NZ Speech Language Therapy Association, called “Press Pause, Please Give Me Time To Talk”.

With activities nationwide between 9-15 September the campaign aims to continue growing awareness about speech and language difficulties, one of the most common disabilities for all ages, but one that is often ignored.

Annette Rotherham, President of the NZSTA, says while there’s awareness about children having speech or communication disorders, communication disabilities affect people from preschool to adolescents to older adults, and there is a need for more recognition and understanding: 

“We’ve become more aware and inclusive of people with disabilities in general but we still have challenges about how to respond or manage a situation where someone finds it difficult to speak,” she says.  

“A lot of us simply don’t know what to do – quite often there’s an uncomfortable pause and we fill it with our own voice rather than wait for the other person to respond in their own time.  As you can imagine this can be incredibly disheartening for the person struggling for words.”

The purpose of this campaign is to ask people to be patient, press pause and give that person time to speak and communicate in their own way – “this is the best gift anyone can give someone who has this type of difficulty,” she says.  

This year’s campaign reflects recent comments made by Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero, supporting the role of speech language therapists in promoting the human right to  communication:

“Speech-language therapists have a key role to play in helping to promote a human rights-based approach to inclusion and participation of people with communication disabilities as we work to build an inclusive New Zealand; one in which all children can thrive and reach their potential.” She said

Paula Tesoriero acknowledges the breadth of the role of speech-language therapists:

 “For many people, communication can be an everyday challenge, not only for children and across their life span, but for people who develop communication difficulties as adults”

Speech language therapists work in a variety of educational and health areas with people who have communication and swallowing disabilities. Getting your message across in whatever way works for you- verbally, using sign language, writing or technology are all acceptable ways of communicating and expressing oneself- we want to emphasise this to society. 

In a world where communication is such an important part of life, we need to ensure that people who communicate in different ways are included. This can be achieved by stopping and listening or pressing pause.

“This allows people to take part, be confident and live a more fulfilled life, which is so important to them, their family and whānau, community and places of work.  Being able to communicate, and being heard, supports self-esteem – without it, people can withdraw, and this sometimes results in social, psychological, health and mental health, and economic issues.” Annette Rotherham says.

The “Press Pause, Please Give Me Time To Talk” theme is part of Giving Voice Aotearoa, a campaign raising awareness of Speech-language Therapy and all the  people who live with communication disability.

The NZSTA is the national body representing speech-language therapists, the professionals who work with and advocate for people who have communication and swallowing impairments.

It was established over 65 years ago and has over 900 members who support the well-being, confidence, social participation, economic contribution and health of around 400,000 Kiwis who have a difficulty with communicating and swallowing. 


A recent report on the global impact of communication disability, by the International Communication Project, indicates:

Impact on society and healthcare:

  • Children with hearing loss and neurological conditions had a 2-8 times increased likelihood of having additional health and medical visits (Boulet, Boyle, & Schieve, 2009) 
  • Increased health costs are associated with children with communication difficulties (Cronin et al., 2017; Ha et al., 2017); and substantial excess population healthcare costs (Sciberrras et al., 2015)
  • Adults with communication impairments had a three–fold increase in the risk of experiencing an adverse healthcare event than those without communication impairments (Bartlett, Blais, Tamblyn, Clermont, & MacGibbon, 2008) 

Impact on socio-economic status:

  • Research has demonstrated a correlation between the levels of communication disability present in communities and socioeconomic status
  • People with communication impairments were twice as prevalent in areas of social disadvantage (Reilly, Harper & Goldfield, 2016)
  • Children with pervasive language problems were more likely to live in economically disadvantaged circumstances and at 25 years had lower occupational status than their peers (Beitchman et al., 1996; Johnson et al., 2010)

Impact on Educational attainment:

  • Lower literacy and numeracy outcomes over time for children with speech and language concerns compared with peers (McLeod, Harrison, & Wang, 2019)
  • Lower academic achievement throughout school and extending into higher education (Beitchman et al., 1996)
  • Poorer outcomes in educational attainment for young adults with a history of language impairment (Johnson et al., 2010)