Speech Therapy

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Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and Language Therapists (SLT) assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in adults and children to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability.

 They may also work with people who have eating, drinking and swallowing problems (Dysphagia).

 Speech and Language Therapists use specialist skills to work directly with the client, providing support to them, their family and their carers.

 A Speech and Language Therapist can help with the following:

 • Difficulty producing and using speech
• Difficulty understanding language
• Difficulty using language
•  Difficulty with feeding, chewing or swallowing
• Voice problems
• Challenging behaviour

What is a speech therapist?

Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) provide bespoke treatment and support for children and adults who have speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties.

Communication is crucial for maintaining relationships and ensuring a good quality of life. When communication skills are impaired this can have devastating effects on the individual and their families. SLTs provide bespoke therapy that will improve a client’s skills and develop their confidence to allow them to participate in daily life.

SLTs will work with individuals, families, support teams and important people in a client’s life in order to develop effective communication systems. The aim is to improve communication not only in the individual but the team around them. SLTs aim to provide clients with a clear and efficient way of communicating so as to reduce frustration, promote independence and social inclusion as well as enhancing their quality of life.

SLTs work with clients to establish a preferred communication method and style to provide them with the opportunity to communicate confidently and effectively, to understand and be understood.

What’s the difference between speech therapy and language therapy?

Speech refers to the actual sound of spoken language. It is the verbal method of communicating. Speech is talking: using the musculature of the tongue, lips, jaw and vocal tract in a very precise and coordinated way to produce the recognizable sounds that make up language. A speech difficulty usually indicates that someone has trouble producing certain sounds accurately.

Speech disorders include:

  • Dysarthria – weakness of the muscles required for speech resulting in reduced intelligibility (speech clarity)
  • Apraxia – inability to control the muscles used to produce speech sounds
  • Disfluency – an unintentional interruption in the smooth flow of speech, as by a pause or the repetition of a word or syllable
  • Voice disorders – impairments, often physical, that involve the function of the larynx causing abnormal pitch, loudness and/or quality of speech
  • Speech sound disorders – difficulty learning to produce sounds physically

Language refers to a whole system of words and symbols—written, spoken or expressed non-verbally with gestures and body language—that is used to communicate meaning.

Language therapy is divided up into expressive language (the ability to use language to convey thoughts, ideas, opinions), and receptive language (the ability to understand language). Language therapy may also address listening skills, the ability to follow verbal directions, and understanding spoken language. Therapy may also treat social communication disorders and deficits in written language and reading comprehension.

Language difficulties include:

  • Expressive language difficulties – an individual’s ability to express ideas and information verbally. It reflects the individual’s ability to produce language, and their use of vocabulary and grammar.
  • Receptive language difficulties – this refers to an individual’s ability to comprehend incoming auditory information. These skills are required for effective listening, processing and understanding of spoken information.
  • Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – this describes a language difficulty that is not related to hearing difficulties, autism, cognitive difficulties, although an individual may have other co-occurring problems such as delayed speech or literacy skills
  • Word Finding Difficulties – this describes an individual that may have a good vocabulary knowledge but is delayed and/or inaccurate at retrieving words during conversation or when asked questions
  • Auditory processing disorders – this is a disorder of processing language, and can be especially noticeable when an individual has to try and follow language when there is lots of background noise

Speech disorders and Language disorders may occur separately. Or an individual may have difficulties with both at the same time.

A Speech and Language Therapist can help with the following:

  • Difficulty producing and using speech – The role of the SLT is to optimise intelligibility (speech clarity). Assessment and management addresses changes in impairment levels in any system underpinning speech, i.e. respiration, voice, resonance, articulation, prosody.
  • Difficulty understanding language – Comprehensive assessment will allow the SLT to determine the client’s level of understanding. Support can then be implemented in order to maximise communication potential by skilling others in their use of facilitative strategies and/or use of augmentative communication systems e.g. visual/written supports, signing.
  • Difficulty with feeding, chewing or swallowing – SLTs play an important role in supporting children and adults who have eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) to eat and drink safely. They do this by working directly with individuals or indirectly by training others, including families and the wider health and care workforce, to identify and manage problems. Early identification and management of dysphagia by SLTs improves quality of life, and reduces the possibility of further medical complications and death. Improved nutrition and hydration have an impact on physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Voice problems – SLTs have a key role in identifying vocal risk, particularly in those who are heavy voice users and in educating in methods of preventing vocal abuse. Those with vocal disorders often experience difficulties with social communications.  It has a major impact upon the quality of life  as it can reduce access to recreation, education, employment, social integration, including forming relationships and expressing personality. SLTs provide a combination of clinical expertise, multidisciplinary working, research and technology, so that individuals can have the highest standard of voice care from referral to discharge.
  • Challenging behaviour – Behaviour and communication are often inter-connected. Many individuals with communication difficulties display inappropriate or challenging behaviour. Although there are many reasons for this type of behaviour, it can often be linked to a breakdown in communication when the individual is unable to express himself, or he/she does not understand what others are saying. SLTs can offer diagnostic assessment and therapy to support appropriate adaptation of communication to promote inclusion of the individual.

What can a speech therapist do for children?

Children and young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) have various difficulties with speech, language and communication which might include their ability to interact with others, manage their emotions and access the curriculum.

SLTs help by:

  • Training those working with and supporting children in their early years to recognise and respond appropriately to speech, language and communication needs.
  • Working directly with children to support them in their speech, language and communication development. This can include working with them and their family in their homes and/or clinic.
  • Working indirectly by advising or supporting a setting to meet a child’s individual needs, providing training and giving advice on how to provide a language rich environment to support language development.

Speech and language therapists support:

  • Children who have, or at risk of, language delay
  • Children with speech, language and communication needs. These may include difficulties with understanding verbal language, attention and listening skills, expressive language, vocabulary and word finding, speech sounds, fluency, and voice. These can be associated with other medical conditions (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disability, Hearing Impairment, and Down’s Syndrome).
  • Infants and children with feeding and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia). Infants and children with neurodisability and those born prematurely are most likely to be at risk of dysphagia.

What can a speech therapist do for adults?

Speech and language therapy for adults can support a wide range of communication and swallowing issues. SLTs use their knowledge and skills of communication and swallowing within the context of the core interdisciplinary team.

SLTs can provide:

  • Assessment of the speech, language, communication, social interaction and swallowing and feeding abilities
  • Provision of individualised treatment interventions
  • Planning appropriate therapeutic interventions to address the speech, language communication and swallowing impairments, and reducing activity and psychosocial restrictions
  • Advising on assistive or alternative communication aid devices
  • Training of individuals and their families/carers in methods of promoting communication and where necessary using assistive or alternative communication aid devices
  • Providing well planned and goal orientated rehabilitation in a specialist setting by expert professionals working in a coordinated interdisciplinary team (IDT)
  • Educating and working with family members, carers and relevant staff to provide an understanding of the nature of the difficulties and strategies to optimise function and independence
  • Training relevant people to work with the individual and provide support to them over a long period of time
  • Advising, demonstrating, practising and providing strategies on the most effective way to engage the individual in interactions and to minimise the effects of the communication disorder where possible


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