BSc Speech and Language Therapy student Natasha Wetton explains the field and the job of a speech and language therapist…
Ever heard of speech and language therapy? Chances are you probably haven’t.
If you’re one of the few people who have heard about it – and who knows, maybe you’ve even had this type of therapy yourself – then that’s wonderful. You probably already know everything that I’m about to say, in which case maybe now is a good time to go make a brew whilst I do a little explaining.
What do speech and language therapists do?
Speech and language therapy is a profession dedicated to the amazing, natural, innate, brilliant and deceivingly simple act of communication. As part of our job, speech and language therapists, or rather SLTs, help a wide variety of children and adults who have problems with their communication.
We also help people who have swallowing problems too, as the same parts of the body are used for speech and swallowing. Problems with communication and swallowing can be developmental – meaning the individual has grown up with their problem – or acquired, which means the individual has acquired their problem later in life.
The problems people experience can include difficulty learning and using language, forming sounds for speech, using language in social situations, problems with their voice, and stammering, to name but a few.
The causes for these problems are varied, with some being obvious like stroke, autism or Parkinson’s, while the cause of others is completely unknown.
SLTs use a range of different techniques to try and improve an individual’s communication and swallowing. Some of these are direct, meaning we specifically work on the problem at hand, while others are indirect, and involve modifying the individual’s environment, thought processes and behaviours to help make the problem less of an issue.
Why choose speech and language therapy?
The notion that there is an entire profession dedicated to the simple acts of communication and swallowing seems rather bizarre when you think about it. It’s like having a profession dedicated to breathing or sleeping – those automatic, innate things that you do every single day, yet you never stop to think about how they work, and the importance of them, until something goes wrong.
Communication in particular is such a crucial aspect of everyday life, and we don’t realise how much we take it for granted.
Can you imagine what life would be like if you couldn’t speak, read, understand or write?
If your mouth didn’t move how you wanted it to?
If you had no idea what things were called, or how to express the ideas in your head?
If you tried to speak, and your voice didn’t come out right?
If you heard people talking, and you couldn’t pick out a single word they said?
If you looked at the world around you, and all the words you saw were meaningless symbols?
If you imagine all these different problems, it’s so easy to see how hard your life would be. For some people, these are the kinds of struggles they face on a daily basis.
What I love most about speech and language therapy is that we are able to help people to find their voice and communicate with the world.
We can listen to people and let them know they’re not alone. We can help improve their communication skills or find different ways of communicating.
We can help them with their swallowing and nutrition.
We can make a positive difference to their lives.