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[Opinion] Quebec students deserve better

In the context of the current election campaign, the Association québécoise des orthophonistes et audiologistes is particularly concerned that education and educational achievement rank low in the various commitments of the political parties, while Quebec continues to lag behind in terms of secondary school completion. in Canada, especially among boys.

In this regard, speech therapists and other specialized professionals play a primary role in the school environment in detecting different types of learning disabilities, such as dyslexia-dysorthography, which accounts for approximately 25% of all learning disabilities. among elementary and secondary students in Quebec and to intervene appropriately.

It is important to remember that almost 80% of learning disabilities are directly related to language difficulties. Without the optimal deployment of speech therapists in schools, several hundred Quebec students with language problems who are learning to read and write will not have all the support they need to maximize their chances of educational success. This, of course, harms their educational and professional careers.

In a survey conducted by AQOA earlier this month among speech-language pathologists practicing in Quebec schools, too many schools assigned to each speech-language pathologist was the main cause of problems in recruiting and retaining speech-language pathologists.

For example, a speech pathologist may be responsible for up to eight schools with little or no access to adequate tools to transport materials needed for speech therapy assessment or intervention. Instead of a constant presence in schools, speech therapists are dependent on sporadic appearances and running around.

In addition, in some school service centers (CSS), assignments vary from year to year, creating a great deal of uncertainty and instability for speech therapists and the thousands of affected students. The presence of speech therapy services is not standardized and varies according to the budgetary possibilities of the schools.

It is therefore no surprise that the difficulties in recruiting and retaining speech therapists are directly related to the difficulties CSS have in filling positions and securing replacements in schools. We were told that several CSSs were to fill more than five positions or substitutes.

Currently, waiting times for access to a speech therapist in schools range from six to twelve months on average, or even more!

Even worse, in many schools, speech therapists do not even have access to a private office, which prevents them from having confidential meetings with students. In such conditions and in a constant context of uncertainty and professional uncertainty, how can we optimally deploy specialized resources in the school environment for the benefit of students?

Finally, despite the resolution to maintain equity in pay that occurred in the summer of 2021, too little pay remains a major cause of dissatisfaction among speech and language therapists practicing in schools. In order to fill vacant positions, remuneration must be comparable to that found elsewhere in the public or private sector. We estimate that there is a minimum shortage of 227 full-time speech therapists in the school network, despite the current government’s goal of adding 2,000 specialist professionals (speech therapists, special education technicians, remedial teachers, psychopedagogues and occupational therapists).

Given that this whole unacceptable situation has been going on for several years, we keep receiving several testimonies from speech therapists who have left the community for one or more of the reasons listed above, and that the success of students with difficulties stems from the quantity and quality of services offered, we believe that priority concrete measures should be introduced to optimize the work of speech therapists in schools.

Calling the private sector is not a solution to the deplorable working conditions of speech therapists working in our schools. We demand that the number of schools supported by speech therapists is reduced, that speech therapists have access to an acceptable physical environment, that specific measures are put in place to attract and retain speech therapists, that speech therapists are remunerated fairly and that there are minimum thresholds and that standards be put in place in schools professional services to ensure a place for all types of professional services, enabling a true complementarity of expertise for struggling students, families and teachers.

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