Speech and language therapist
The English used in this article or section may not be easy for everybody to understand. (July 2012)
A speech and language therapist is a health care professional who specialises in communication and swallowing difficulties. The main part of their work involves assessing people and planning therapy. They work with people of all ages across different settings such as nurseries, schools, day centres, care homes, clinics and hospitals.
Communication difficulties change
These can include difficulties with fluency (stuttering), making sounds and words, making sentences, understanding what others say, and using language socially. These difficulties fall into two main areas:
There are two types of language difficulties:
People with receptive language difficulties have problems understanding spoken and written language. Because of this they usually also have expressive language difficulties although this is not always the case.
People with expressive language difficulties are able to understand but cannot say the words and sentences they want to. This may be because of word finding difficulties or problems making sentences.
In children language difficulties are divided up into
- delay: language follows the normal developmental pattern but at a slower rate e.g. a four year old may have the language skills of someone 12 months younger.
- disorder: language is not following typical development.
Where language difficulties occur with no other difficulties the child may be diagnosed with Specific Language Impairment.
In adults acquired receptive and expressive language impairments are known as aphasia. There are many different types of aphasia depending on which areas of the brain are damaged and what symptoms they show.
Swallowing difficulties change
Speech therapists can help people with swallowing difficulties (dysphagia). They help patients through changing their diets to different textures and consistencies, or they may recommend non-oral feeding.
- The Bercow Report: A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (2008) Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Health, London
- Communicating Quality 3 (2006) Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists