What is a Speech Therapist?

A speech- and language therapist, or speech therapist for short, is a person trained extensively in the appropriate evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of speech-, language-, communication-, cognitive-communication-, and swallowing impairments. People can struggle with communication or swallowing disorders at any stage in their life, and so speech therapists assist people through the age spectrum, starting in the NICU and going all the way through to the geriatric population. These difficulties can be developmental or acquired, and can be brought on by a variety of underlying issues, or none at all.

When should you see a speech therapist?

If someone struggles with any of the following, they might benefit from seeing a speech therapist:

  • Difficulty pronouncing words correctly.
  • Difficulty speaking fluently.
  • Experiencing hoarse or inconsistent voice quality.
  • Difficulty understanding what is said to them, or expressing their needs and thoughts to those around them.
  • Experiencing difficulties using and/or interpreting non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, sarcasm, and humour.
  • Experiencing difficulties with learning to read and write.
  • Having difficulty with listening and looking, recalling verbal information, listening in noise, and discriminating between sounds.
  • Experiencing difficulties with eating and drinking after a neurological injury.
  • After a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
  • People who have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, and other progressive neurological diseases.

What to expect at your diagnostic speech-, language-, and communication evaluation:

Prior to the evaluation, you will receive case history forms to complete and send back to us. During the evaluation we will discuss the information provided, and obtain more information where necessary in order to get a clear picture of the person that is being evaluated. Then the therapist will conduct a hand-picked selection of formal (standardised and graded) and informal (observation and checklists) assessments. This could include for example: looking at pictures and naming them; identifying pictures named by the therapist; following multiple-step directions; listening to a story and retelling it; describing what is taking place in a variety of pictures; and listening to two words and saying whether they are the same or different. These assessments are used to determine an individual’s level of functioning in the areas of speech production, auditory comprehension, verbal expression, voice production, speech fluency, written language, social communication, and auditory perception. The information gathered by these assessments gives the therapist valuable insight into the individual’s difficulties, which helps the therapist to determine what to target during therapy.

What happens after the evaluation?

After the evaluation has been conducted, the results obtained during the evaluation will be compiled into a report, and recommendations will be made based on the findings of the assessments conducted. The therapist might also refer the evaluated individual to other healthcare professionals if they deem it necessary or beneficial, for example an audiologist, occupational therapist, educational psychologist, paediatric neurologist, social worker, and/or an ear-, nose-, and throat specialist.

If speech therapy has been recommended to address the difficulties identified during the evaluation, the therapist will also make recommendations on how often and how long therapy sessions should be, for example 30 minutes once a week, or 45 minutes every second week. This is highly individualised, and the therapist will make a recommendation based on the findings of the assessment.

What happens during therapy sessions?

Therapy sessions are aimed at targeting the goals agreed upon by the therapist and the individual, or their parents. This can be done in a variety of different ways, and the therapist always tries to use activities that the individual enjoys in order to elicit the therapy aims. For example, if a child has difficulty with producing a certain speech sound, activities with a repetitive theme will be used, as sounds have to be practised over and over again in order for them to become second nature in place of the error sound. So, if a child likes to play with blocks, a game will be played where they have to produce the target sound in order to get or build/place the next block, for five, ten, or fifteen blocks.

Speech session

A definition of: "Speech & Language"

1 a : The communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words.

1 a: the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community. (Merriam Webster's Dictionary & Thesaurus)