SPEECH therapists are stepping out to try help children who they say have been left 'without a voice'.

Only a fraction of children in Bolton who need special equipment to allow them to communicate with others are able to get it through the NHS.

Youngsters with a range of conditions such as cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome may need to use an approach known as Alternative Augmented Communication (AAC) to converse with others.

AAC 'makes a huge difference to children' and can include a range of technology from eye gaze devices, switches, and iPads to tablets, computers and light writers.

It also includes PODD — Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display — and PECS — Picture Exchange Communication System — books.

In Bolton a team of speech therapists, based at Breightmet Health Centre, go into the borough’s special schools to help children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

They also go into mainstream schools to help children with conditions such as dyspraxia — a disorder which causes difficulties with co-ordination and movement.

But they say a lack of funding in this area leaves many of the children ‘without a voice’.

Now Phemie Innes, of the paediatric speech and language therapy team for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, and her team want to raise at least £800 for a loan bank of equipment.

She says that being able to use forms of AAC make ‘a huge difference’ to children.

She said: “It gives them a voice they would not be able to have without it. They are able to request things and express their wants and needs whereas before they were not able to do that. It also helps with their emotional wellbeing, quality of life, behaviour management, all those sort of things.”

Phemie adds that the team is able to bid for money through disabled children’s charities for AAC gear — the most expensive of which can cost in the region on £10,000.

She said: “We are raising money for a loan bank of equipment so we can set children up so they they are more eligible for high-tech equipment, if that is what’s needed.”

To ensure more children can benefit from AAC Phemie, and two of her colleagues — Becky Hildred and Jenny Smith — have entered the Greater Manchester Half Marathon to raise much-needed funds.

They are currently ‘braving the hailstones and icy weather’ as they train for the 13.1 mile run — which they have dubbed the RAACe for Communication on May 20. Jenny, who gave birth to her first child just three months ago has previously completed a half-marathon. But Phemie and Becky have never run further than 10k.

Phemie said: “We are really looking forward to it , we wanted to do something challenging in order to promote how much we would really, really benefit from this equipment and raise awareness of AAC and how it benefits the children we work with.Our teams is very proud of us and we all feel very supported.

To date the team has raised £325 via their Just Giving page. And Phemie added that every donation gives them further encouragement. To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/phemie-innes1