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You are in: Home > Articles > What is Speech and Language Therapy?

What is Speech and Language Therapy?

What is Speech and Language Therapy?

The following information was supplied by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Speech and Language difficulties

The facts

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.

Communication involves listening, speaking, reading and writing. Some people use sign language, communication aids or other methods to communicate.

Communication problems may result from

• delayed language development
• stammering
• inappropriate use of speech sounds
• learning difficulties
• stroke
• head injury
• hearing loss
• disorders of the voice
• cancer of the mouth and throat
• degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease
• cleft palate
• physical disabilities
• psychiatric disorders

Speech and language difficulties may lead to feelings of isolation and educational problems, and may affect job prospects. With the right help and support many people overcome these difficulties.

Speech and language therapy
Speech and language therapy is the process of enabling people to communicate to the best of their ability. Speech and language therapists assess the nature of the client's problem, and then provide treatment, advice and support. They also work closely with families, carers and members of other professions including doctors, physiotherapists and teachers.

Some speech and language therapists also work with people who have eating and swallowing difficulties, as well as communication problems. Most speech and language therapists work in NHS hospitals or clinics but some work in independent practice, in research and education, or in schools.

Contacting a speech and language therapist
For most clients, contact can be made directly with the speech and language therapy service, or through the GP, health visitor, local health centre, clinic, or hospital.

The initials Reg: MRCSLT show that a therapist is a registered member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the professional organisation for speech and language therapists. This demonstrates that the clinician is fully qualified, up to date, and follows the Royal College's code of ethics.


Case histories

Anna, aged three, was not speaking. Her parents were becoming worried and the health visitor referred Anna to a speech and language therapist. The speech and language therapist discussed Anna's general development with her parents and assessed Anna while they played with her. The therapist identified that Anna had problems understanding what was said to her, as well as with her ability to speak. The speech and language therapist worked with Anna's family, giving advice and guidance. Anna also attended a speech and language therapy group for children with similar problems. Her progress was re-assessed regularly.


A stroke had left John with a paralysed right arm and with great difficulty speaking, reading and writing. He was referred to a rehabilitation centre where the speech and language therapist, working in collaboration with the nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medical staff, helped him to regain some control over his speech. After he went home, further help was given by the speech and language therapist, who introduced John to relevant voluntary organisations and supported him when he joined a local self help group.


James has mild learning difficulties. His speech is unintelligible, so he is learning a sign language which allows him to communicate.
The speech and language therapist has also taught James' family, friends and school staff the sign language he uses. At his school, the therapist works regularly with his class teacher and the classroom assistant. Together they discuss ways in which James can learn more easily from the National Curriculum.


If you require further information contact the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Other articles supplied by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
Delayed Language
Disorders of Fluency in Children (Stammering)
Speech Sound Difficulties
Voice Problems in Children
What is the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists?

More information on speech and language difficulties

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