This information about the role of a speech and language therapist (SLT) has been taken from information provided by Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP), NHS Careers.
What does a speech and language therapist (SLT) do?
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) describe speech and language therapy as
concerned with the management of disorders of speech, language, communication and swallowing in children and adults.
A speech and language therapist will assess and treat children and/or adults with specific speech, language and communication problems to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability:
- difficulty producing or using speech
- difficulty understanding or using language.
An SLT works directly with the client and provides support to them and their carers: as allied health professionals they work closely with parents, carers and other professionals, including teachers, nurses and occupational therapists.
There are around 13,000 practising SLTs in the UK and around 2.5 million people in the UK have a speech or language difficulty:
- 5% of children enter school with difficulties in speech and language
- 30% of stroke sufferers have a persisting speech and language disorder.
In the US the term used is speech and language pathologist (SLP).
Examples of when an SLT can help?
- feeding and swallowing difficulties
- mild, moderate or severe learning difficulties
- physical disabilities
- language delay
- specific language impairment
- specific difficulties in producing sounds
- hearing impairment
- cleft palate
- autism/social interaction difficulties
- voice disorders
- selective mutism
- communication or eating and swallowing problems following neurological impairments and degenerative conditions, including stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s disease and dementia
- head, neck or throat cancer
- voice problems
- mental health issues
- learning difficulties
- physical disabilities
- hearing impairment.
Where do speech and language therapists work?
Speech and language therapists work in hospital and in the community. They work with people of all ages to help with speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties.
- community health centres
- hospital wards
- outpatient departments
- mainstream and special schools
- children’s centres
- day centres
- clients’ homes
- young offenders’ institutions
- independently/ in private practice
Support roles are assistant practitioner, assistant speech and language therapist, support worker, bi-lingual co-worker.
How can I find a speech and language therapist?
You can refer yourself to your local speech and language therapy service: you do not have to wait for someone else to refer you. If you think you, a family member or a relative needs to see a speech and language therapist you should ask your GP, district nurse, health visitor, nursery staff or teacher for a referral.
- Obtain the phone number of your local primary care trust (PCT) – phone book, RCSLT online directory, or GP surgery
- Ask your local PCT for the phone number of your local NHS speech and language therapy service.
Services vary across the UK. A speech and language therapist or assistant may contact you after referral to find out more about your situation. If the wait for an appointment is unacceptable you should contact the SLT department and, if problems continue, your PCT to discuss the situation.
NHS Therapists are members of The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (Cert.MRCSLT) and are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a condition of their employment.
Independent (private) speech and language therapists can usually offer an immediate appointment for assessment, followed by therapy to suit the client. Many will carry out therapy in schools or homes if required. Some independent therapists offer specialisation in specific areas of communication difficulties, including:
- Augmentative and alternative communication
- Assessment and diagnosis of complex disorders, sometimes in association with other professionals
- Tutorials for specific problems, such as dyslexia
- Second opinions and reports for statements of special educational need and attendance at tribunal assessments, reports and court attendance for medico-legal claims.
You can find a private SLT at the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP).
ASLTIP members are certified members of The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (Cert.MRCSLT) and are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
2 White Hart Yard
Tel: 020 7378 1200
Fax: 020 7403 7254
Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.