Early Occupational and Speech Therapy is key to overcoming the huge learning disadvantage for an alarming number of prep students, according to an experienced allied health professional.

A new report has found that one in five Aussie prep students have emerging health or development problems that impact their school results.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study found the large number of school starters experienced “emerging additional needs at the outset of school” and went on to have poorer NAPLAN results by Grade 3.

Occupational therapist and senior director allied health at Northern Australia Primary Health, Danni Hocking (pictured) has reassured parents feeling disheartened by the study.

“It’s sad to see the results of this study showing so many of our children are experiencing emerging issues that are leaving them up to nine months behind their peers in schooling."

“However, if you’re a parent of a student who is experiencing emerging additional needs at the outset of school, don’t be disheartened as there is help available."

“Seeking out help early will give your child the best start.”

The study reported that, of the “substantial proportion” of kids found by their teacher to have emerging issues, a third had a speech impediment and 18 per cent showed problems associated with their home life.

Ms Hocking said Occupational Therapists (OT) and Speech Therapists can support very young children to maximise learning outcomes when experiencing difficulties with learning in the school environment.

“OTs and Speech Therapists empower children to develop the skills needed to perform to their best potential in the academic setting.

“This includes establishing academic and non-academic skills such as critical thinking, self-regulation, social and emotional wellbeing, social skills and speech development."

“These skills are crucial as children often spend a majority of their life in the roles of student, peer and friend.”

Ms Hocking said Occupational Therapy for children focuses on promoting developmental milestones, social and emotional well-being and independence in everyday tasks, whether it be at home or in the school.

She said Speech Therapists address performance areas that may be hindered by physical, developmental or motor abilities with the goal to develop and maintain improved speech skills and prevent speech dysfunction.

“Both therapies use activities and techniques to facilitate and maximise a student’s participation and function, creating engaged and confident individuals,” Ms Hocking said.

If you’re concerned about your child’s development and how it is impacting their school performance, seek help now! Call our NAPHL Health Hub on 4722 8750 to discuss how Occupational and Speech Therapy can help.