Speech & language therapists (SLTs) help a wide range of people struggling with their speech because of illness, injury, or developmental issues.

Their work is life-changing for the people they help and is more varied than you might think. Speech & language therapists can work with children, adults, and the elderly in various settings.

We want to highlight the different people SLTs help and how their work positively impacts their lives.

People with a stammer

Stammering, or stuttering, is a speech condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate confidently and clearly.

Someone who stammers will repeat or prolong words, syllables, or phrases when they speak. In some cases, the person may stop talking mid-sentence or make no sound for different syllables.

Stammering is a condition that is often thought to be caused by embarrassment or social discomfort when speaking. In reality a stammer usually develops early in childhood and is a complex communication disorder. Negative and intense emotions experienced when trying to communicate can make a stammer more pronounced, but they are not the condition’s root cause.

Speech & Language therapists help children and adults who suffer from stammering control their condition and improve their ability to communicate confidently.

They do this by using ‘fluency shaping therapy’ to help with controlling monitoring speech rate and breathing control using techniques including:

  • Practicing smooth, fluent speech at a slow speed.
  • Using short phrases and sentences.
  • Stretching vowels and consonants.
  • Practicing prolonged speech with regulated breathing.

With the help of an SLT, children and adults suffering from stammering can gain self-esteem, confidence, and a better quality of life by communicating without the fear of stammering.

Stroke survivors

With 25% of adults suffering from a stroke in their lifetime and ⅓ of survivors being left with speech and language difficulties, Speech & Language Therapists work with a large number of stroke survivors.

The damage to the brain following a stroke that affects the part of the brain that decodes and organises language, is called aphasia.

Aphasia can vary in intensity from person to person. Some survivors may experience mild symptoms of getting a few words mixed up during speech, whilst others may not be able to speak at all.

Speech & language therapists help stroke survivors suffering from aphasia by assessing their communication needs and working with each patient on their own communication goals.

Therapies they will use include:

  • Impairment-based speech therapy – this involves stimulating speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.
  • Communication-based speech therapy – these are methods that focus on natural interactions in day-to-day life and include PACE Therapy, Conversational Coaching, and Supported Coaching.

Therapists can also advise on communication aids and assistive technology to help with any future communication difficulties.

Aphasia is very frustrating and difficult for stroke survivors to live with. It can negatively impact their relationships, ability to work and have normal social lives. The treatment from speech and language therapists, therefore, drastically improves stroke survivors’ lives.

People with a hearing impairment

Adults and children who are deaf or have a hearing impairment can benefit from the help of a speech & language therapist.

For adults and children, an SLT can support initial assessments in speech, language, and communication in different settings (including school environments for children) and assess speech perception skills.

They will work with individuals and families to help connect them with any additional support services they may need and help families, and carers access any training and education they may need. SLTs will work with school staff to support language-based parts of the curriculum, so children are not struggling unnecessarily in the classroom.

In practice, speech and language therapists help deaf and hearing impaired people with different aspects of communication, including:

  • Pragmatics – using and understanding language in social situations.
  • Verbal communication – understanding and using spoken language.
  • Non-verbal communication – using signs, gestures, and body language.
  • Expressive skills – getting a message across, verbally or nonverbally.
  • Comprehension or receptive skills – understanding of spoken language and sign.
  • Voice – controlling volume, quality, and pitch.
  • Speech – pronouncing sounds and words.
  • Literacy – developing an awareness of letter sounds and language skills specifically related to reading, spelling, and understanding written text.

SLTs enhance the lives of children and adults with hearing impairments both in education and social settings so they can live an independent life and communicate confidently with deaf, hearing impaired, and hearing people equally.

4 – Self-help Skills

Self-help skills in SEN children can cover various activities that involve fine motor skills and deal with sensory issues that can make day-to-day activities more difficult.

OTs work with children to help them with skills such as dressing and undressing, brushing their teeth and hair, and eating using cutlery by developing their fine motor skills. As well as using the fun activities listed above, they will also model the skills with children.

Sensory issues can prevent a child from being able to master self-help skills. Sensory issues can present in many ways, including:

  • Water – a child may not like getting their face or hair wet.
  • Wearing clothes – some clothes or labels may feel uncomfortable, itchy, or tight.
  • Oral discomfort – putting a toothbrush in a child’s mouth may be extremely uncomfortable for them, or they may not like the taste or smell of the toothpaste.

OTs can help children with sensory issues develop their self-help skills by offering practical solutions such as switching toothpaste to desensitize gums or covering a child’s face to stop the sudden splashing of water.

Who else?

The three different types of people listed above are just a small selection of the people SLTs support in their work. With such a varied and intensive role, it would take a very long blog post to cover all of the people who speech and language therapists support in-depth!

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of other people that benefit from the brilliant work of SLTs:

  • Children and adults with autism and/or learning disabilities

  • Adults with dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease patients
  • People recovering from/living with a head injury
  • Children with cleft lip and palate
  • Selective mutes
  • Children and adults with a physical disability

We hope this has given you a small insight into how speech & language therapists enhance people’s lives across society.