Speech Therapy Information and Resources

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What is a Speech Therapist?

Speech Therapy Jobs

Speech therapy jobs are varied and practitioners work in a variety of settings and with a wide range of anatomical, physiological and psychological impairments and resultant disabilities. Speech therapists have undertaken extensive speech therapy education and will typically be a member of a professional speech therapy association. They seek to reduce the effects of communication and/or swallowing difficulties and help individuals meet the needs of daily living. The following are core features of any speech therapy job.

Assessment and diagnosis

A speech therapist assesses and diagnoses speech, language, stuttering, voice, communication, and swallowing difficulties in people of all ages. These difficulties may arise as a result of:

  • hearing impairment/deafness
  • visual impairment
  • learning disability
  • physical disability
  • developmental speech delay
  • developmental language delay
  • specific language impairment
  • specific speech impairment
  • acquired neurological disorder (e.g. stroke)
  • acquired childhood aphasia
  • head and neck injury
  • brain Injury
  • head and neck cancer
  • progressive neurological disease
  • cerebral palsy
  • mental health difficulties (e.g. avoidant personality disorder; dementia)
  • genetic and medical conditions (e.g. Down’s Syndrome; Triple X Syndrome; craniofacial abnormalities)
  • psychologically based communication disorders (e.g. social skills deficits; behavioural difficulties; problem solving difficulties)
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • bilingualism/multilingualism
  • dyslexia
  • cleft lip/palate
  • velopharyngeal anomalies
  • laryngectomy

Therapeutic intervention

In addition, speech therapists plan and deliver therapeutic programmes (speech therapy programmes) intended to prevent and alleviate such difficulties. The aim is to help people communicate more effectively and to eat and drink safely.

Health promotion

Speech therapists also frequently take on an educator or health promotion role and will offer training services to the local community (e.g. schools, health centres, nursing homes, kindergartens). The aim is to build awareness amongst the public of the impact of a communication/swallowing difficulty and to enable people to interact more effectively with people who are experiencing such difficulties. This will often involve communicating in a clear and easily understandable style (see the In Plain English series) that gives people the right information, which they can then act on to benefit people with speech, language and communications needs.


The speech therapist works closely with other professionals involved in the care of individuals (e.g. physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician, teacher, social worker, health visitor, psychologist). In addition they liase with salient others in the affected individual’s environment who can assist in improving the effectiveness of their communication/swallowing (e.g. parents, carers, friends, volunteers, colleagues, employers).


Many speech therapy teams now include Speech and Language Therapy Assistants or Speech and Language Therapy Technicians. These practitioners are not required to be fully-qualified speech and language therapists. They typically work either alongside a speech therapist or on their own in a supporting role – but always under the direction of a qualified speech therapist. Co-workers who speak more than one language also provide an important addition to teams delivering services in geographical areas where more than one world language is spoken.

Working environments

Speech therapy services are typically delivered in a variety of settings, including:

Health Authority premises:

  • specialist clinics (child development centres; rehabilitation centres)
  • health centres
  • hospitals (acute; community day hospitals)

Education Authority premises:

  • schools
  • nurseries
  • colleges

Social Services premises:

  • supported living homes
  • playgroups


  • individuals’ homes
  • hospices
  • independent nurseries and schools
  • places of employment
  • universities

Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

We see from the range of conditions that speech therapists assess and diagnose that they must possess wide knowledge in the fields of linguistics, phonetics, neurology, anatomy, physiology, human development, human behaviour and psychology. Typically a therapist starts his or her speech therapy career as a generalist therapist, gaining experience in assessing, diagnosing and intervening across the full range of communication (and swallowing) disorders. Over time, and with more experience, many speech therapists choose to specialise in a particular area of work. For example, some choose to specialise in adult disorders whilst others take up pediatric speech therapy jobs. Others take up speech pathology jobs that allow specialisation in particular conditions, such as neurological disorders or progressive neurological disease. One may also work solely with particular communication presentations such as voice disorders or language disorders. Some speech-language pathologists specialise in the general field of rehabilitation while others choose to follow a speech therapy career pursuing research.

The possibilities for specialisation are extensive and which particular specialisms are available in any geographical area will depend on many factors, including the health profile of the local population, whether the service takes referrals from other parts of the country (or from abroad), the budget available, and so on. By way of example, a Speech and Language Therapy Department that I managed for several years, and which served a population of around 120,000 people, included the following specialist posts:

  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Pediatric Special Needs
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Hearing Impairment
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Alternative and Augmentative Communication Aids
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Pediatric Stuttering
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Voice
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Mainstream Pediatrics
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Dysphagia

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"What we need is more people who specialise in the impossible!"

- Theodore Roethke 1908-63 US poet and educator