A Speech and Language Therapist does not look at language in isolation but in context. This is because interacting with others is an invaluable life skill that allows us to make sense of everyday life, to express our own needs, to be understood, and to understand the needs of others. Having speech and language difficulties makes it difficult to successfully communicate with others, and can negatively impact one's psychosocial wellbeing as a result. That is why a Speech and Language Therapist can be essential not only in improving one's speech but also in improving their mental health and quality of life.
A Speech and Language Therapist is an allied health professional who provides treatment, support, and care for people with speech, language, and communication difficulties. As well as support for individuals with difficulties with eating, drinking, and swallowing.
Who does a Speech and Language Therapist help?
Speech and language difficulties can occur at any age, due to many different possible causes, such as:
a developmental delay: typical but slow language acquisition
a disorder (e.g. dyslexia): atypical language acquisition
a physiological issue (e.g. cleft palate): structures needed to produce speech are underdeveloped
an illness or injury (e.g. aphasia): damage to the part of the brain that is responsible for language functions or to other structures needed to produce speech
Due to the large variability in the root causes of speech and language difficulties, a Speech and Language Therapist cares for people of a wide range of ages, including:
infants (e.g. feeding and swallowing difficulties due to a tongue tie)
children, adolescents, and adults with innate language impairments (e.g. developmental delays, language or communication disorders, learning disabilities)
children, adolescents, and adults with acquired language impairments (e.g. mental health problems, aphasia, Parkinson's disease, etc.)
What does a Speech and Language Therapist do?
A Speech and Language Therapist performs a wide range of roles, which can be grouped into three main areas:
Initial assessment: assessing the patient's speech and language difficulties, as well as understanding the patient as an individual, including their social, cultural, economic, political, and linguistic context, all of which might impact their speech and language skills
diagnosis of communication and/or swallowing disorders
re-assessment: Speech and language therapy is based upon an ongoing reassessment of the patient's abilities, their progress or lack of, and sculpting their treatment plan accordingly
Evidence-based: Speech and language therapy is an evidence-based discipline, which means that the specific therapy plan is chosen based on evidence that was generated and replicated as part of several scientific experiments
to families and caregivers: providing exercises that they can do at home and providing skills on how to support the child along their journey
to other professionals: a Speech and Language Therapist often works alongside other professionals (e.g. occupational therapists and educational psychologists)
Role of speech and language therapist:
A Speech and Language Therapist can work in a variety of different settings, including:
(mainstream or special) nurseries, schools and colleges
hospitals, clinics, and specialist centers (e.g. rehabilitation centers)
residential health facilities and supported living homes
within the legal system (e.g. prisons and court tribunals)
How to Become a Speech and Language Therapist?
A Speech and Language Therapist is an allied health professional, which requires registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This can be achieved in one of two ways:
through a degree which is approved by the HCPC:(a) an undergraduate degree in Speech and Language Therapy(b) a postgraduate degree in Speech and Language Therapy, following a degree in a science or language-based subject
through a degree apprenticeship
What is articulation therapy?
Articulation therapy is a form of speech and language therapy that helps patients produce targeted speech sounds. Articulation and phonologic disorders can affect both children and adults, and are one of the most common disorders that a Speech and Language Therapist will treat.
What are the 4 types of articulation disorders?
Substitution: consistently substituting one sound for another (e.g. 'wabbit' instead of 'rabbit')
Omission: leaving out a sound altogether (e.g. 'top' instead of 'stop')
Distortion: distorting or changing a sound (e.g. 'thith' instead of 'this'
Addition: adding a sound (e.g. 'puhlay' instead of 'play')
What is the order of articulation therapy?
A Speech and Language Therapist practices the targeted speech sound with the patient at 5 different levels:
in isolation: e.g. the sound /r/
at the beginning of a word (word-initial): e.g. red, ring, rain
at the end of a word (word-final): e.g. car, ear, over
in the middle of a word (word medial): e.g. word, fairy, front
in a sentence: e.g. the reindeer ran into the restaurant
Eisenberg, S. (2004) Structured Communicative Play Therapy for Targeting Language in Young Children. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 26(1), 29-35.
Hedge, M. N., & Peña-Brooks, A. (2006) Treatment protocols for articulation and phonologic disorders. Plural Publishing, Incorporated.
Harulow, S. (2013) Speech and Language Therapy. In M. D. Gellman, and J. R. Turner (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Springer.
Sell, D., Pereira, V., Wren, Y., & Russell, J. (2021) Speech Disorders Related to Cleft Palate and Velopharyngeal Dysfunction. In J. S. Damico, N. Müller, & M. J. Ball (Eds.) The handbook of language and speech disorders. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Articulation therapy focuses on increasing the patient's intelligibility when articulating targeted speech sounds. In addition to this, it has social and functional benefits, as it helps the patient to build confidence when communicating with others and therefore communicate more effectively.
What is an example of articulation therapy?
An example of articulation therapy is the drilling method, where the target sound is modeled by the Speech and Language Therapist, followed by the patient's own attempt to produce the sound, and ends with a reinforcement. The exact activities are chosen by the Speech and Language Therapist based on the patient's age and interests.
Where do Speech and Language Therapists Start With Articulation Therapy?
Speech therapists generally start with saying the sound in isolation, moving onto sounds at the start of words and then sounds at the end of words. Then, they will work on sounds in the middle of words and lastly in sentences. Every individual is different.