I want to give parents hope, says speech and language expert

A UCC graduate has launched a book to help children on speech and language waiting lists. TARA MAHER talks to Eimear Ryan to find out the inspiration behind her publication
I want to give parents hope, says speech and language expert

Speech and Language Therapist Eimear Ryan's new book, Anna’s Big Shopping Adventure

“I want to open the door for parents” UCC graduate launches book to help children on Speech & Language waiting lists.

Having experienced first hand the struggles that parents with children on waiting lists for speech and language therapy face, Eimear Ryan wanted to make a difference.

Eimear, who is originally from Tipperary, always wanted to work with children, and make a difference in their lives. She chose to pursue a career in healthcare after seeing her own family members live with disabilities. She graduated with a degree in Speech & Language Therapy from UCC in 2021 and has since been working with Down Syndrome Tipperary as an S&L therapist.

Graduating during the Covid-19 pandemic, Eimear saw the waiting lists for therapy grow and grow as lockdowns called a halt to many HSE services. Recent HSE figures show that there are now more than 15,000 children on waiting lists for an initial speech and language therapy assessment. There are a further 7,151 awaiting their first therapy session, whilst another 10,000 are awaiting further forms of therapy.

She watched on as many parents struggled with the growth of waiting lists and she too became frustrated, not only at how long children were waiting to be seen by a professional but also the lack of other resources and support available to them.

She wanted to give back in some shape or form and saw a gap in the market for a product or a service that would educate parents with different strategies to develop speech and language skills within their child that is also cost effective.

Writing an educational children's book was always something Eimear wanted to do but feared that being in her early twenties she wouldn’t be taken seriously so put the idea to the back of her head.

Working as a Speech & Language therapist, Eimear was introduced to FUSS Ireland, a nationwide movement, founded by the parents of neurodiverse and disabled children, which seeks to improve access to disability services. After listening to parents involved in the organisation speak about life on a waiting list and their fight for access to services, she bit the bullet and began to write ‘Anna’s Big Shopping Adventure’ in April of this year.

Eimear Ryan, Speech and Language Therapist
Eimear Ryan, Speech and Language Therapist

‘Anna’s Big Shopping Adventure’ is a children's book written specifically to help improve children's speech and language skills while waiting to be seen by a certified therapist. The first section teaches parents about strategies, such as signing, that have been proven to aid in speech development.

The second part of the book contains a story with prompts and symbols for parents that will help them read to their child and these prompts can then be applied to other books as well as routines such as bedtime and pastimes.“It's something parents can integrate into their own communication style that will make a huge difference,” Eimear revealed.

She also highlighted that this book is not as powerful as therapy and cannot be used as an alternative to it. She emphasised how the book is aimed at improving communication between parents and their children while waiting to be seen by a professional, “It will inspire parents and teach them ways of improving how they communicate with their child so their child is hearing better language, their child is taking more in and their child is more responsive to them.”

“I’m hoping to give parents hope”, Eimear admitted. Having seen her own family struggle with access to services and now working in the industry herself, she hopes that by reading this book parents can make small changes and that they see some form of improvement in their child's communication skills, “I want to open the door for parents to start their journey to therapy and improve the quality of life for their children.”

She wanted to make the book easy for kids to understand and used simple language that they were able to speak.

She chose the name ‘Anna’ as it not only fits this criteria but it also honours her late grandmother, Anna Ryan, who passed away in July while she was writing the book.

‘Anna’s Big Shopping Adventure’ contains very general information and strategies that will help all children who have speech and language difficulties. She hopes this book becomes a success and would love to turn it into a full series with each book containing strategies specific to a certain disability. By incorporating illustrations of children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome and Autism she can tailor each book to different speech and language needs.

Eimear thanked her family for their support throughout the process but believes it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Down Syndrome Ireland, particularly its Tipperary branch. To show her appreciation, €1 from each sale will be donated to Down Syndrome Tipperary.

You can buy ‘Anna’s Big Shopping Adventure’ on Amazon in paperback form and on Kindle and is now available to buy from Down Syndrome Tipperary.

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