How does it work?
Following specialist assessment and referral from a GP, patients are usually assigned their own speech and language therapist who then works closely with psychologists, teachers (in the case of a child) and other health professionals to devise a programme that will benefit their individual case.
Techniques used during speech therapy may include:
*Establishing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) techniques. These include the use of devices such as speech generating computers and sign language.
*Reassessing any equipment used to help with patient’s hearing problems (e.g. to solve problems of amplification in hearing aids).
*Helping with in depth language education (i.e. syntax, semantics, and social aspects of communication) including comprehension and expression in oral, written, graphic forms; language processing and language-based literacy skills.
*Promoting healthy lifestyle changes to prevent communication, hearing, swallowing, or other upper aerodigestive disorders.
*Educating and providing in-service training to families and caregivers.
Often children are referred following diagnosis of a genetic disorder or when a healthcare/education realises that they are not progressing at a reasonable rate in comparison to others in their peer group. Adults may be referred for the first time following traumatic brain injury, stroke, the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, cranial nerve damage or progressive neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s).
Assessments and treatment mainly take place in educational establishment or specialist departments of healthcare centres. Some speech therapists may undertake home visits, but it’s best to enquire if you feel this arrangement may be best for you.
Is it for me?
If you or your child has severe problems communicating with others as a result of physical set backs, mental health issues or learning difficulties, the services of a speech therapist may be helpful. If you have been held back by minor speech problems (such as a lisp, difficulty pronouncing Rs or a stammer), they can be treated at any stage and occupational therapists can often work closely with speech therapists if communication issues are affecting your ability to work.
Good to know
Around 2.5 million people in the UK have a speech or language difficulty and five percent of children enter school whilst struggling with speech and language.