A speech and language therapist (SLT) treats communication and swallowing disorders in patients from a range of causes. These could be related to a neurological impairment (e.g. stroke), a structural impairment (like cancer within the neck) or developmental impairments from birth. We carry out specialist assessments and conduct therapy to strengthen muscles, ‘relearn’ speech pathways within the brain or find alternative ways of communicating needs.
There are so many areas that SLTs work in! A typical day could be assessing patients communication and swallowing on the stroke ward, helping to wean patient on intensive care units from a tracheostomy, or seeing patients in an outpatient clinic with ENT and looking directly at the vocal folds. We could be visiting patients in their own home and helping them ‘bank’ their voice into a computer if they have a condition such as motor neurone disease, which will get worse over time. We could also be working at a school seeing children who have speech or language delays.
Speech and language therapy is a three or four-year undergraduate degree or a two-year post graduate degree. It involves professional placements throughout the course working within a speech and language therapy team. Apprenticeships for speech and language therapy will be available in the future.
Why I chose to be a speech and language therapist:
Communication is so important, and not many of us think about what would happen if our ability to communicate was removed. For that reason, being a speech and language therapist is so rewarding and so important for lots of different people.