Speech and Language Therapist

People have difficulty talking for a whole host of reasons - shyness, fear, physical deformity or through illness.  Speech and language therapists and their assistants help both adults and children overcome problems in communicating through speech.  The post can be found in all types of authority except for district councils.  Though based in education, there is considerable overlap with social services and the NHS.

Work Environment
Work can be in more than one location - hospitals, clinics, schools, client's homes and council community centres.  There is usually a lot of travelling involved.  The hours are standard at 37 per week but often include overtime shifts.  They may use audio tape recorders so that clients can hear how they sound.

Daily Activities
Therapists work closely with nurses, doctors, social workers and the families of clients.  They often work in community care teams.  The first step is to assess the client's needs and devise a suitable course of treatment.  What this is will depend on what ailment is determined.  Speech therapists deal with a variety of conditions caused by learning difficulties or physical disabilities.  Much of the work is with children - those who have stammers, a cleft palate or learning difficulties caused by some mental deficiency or social and educational neglect.

Work with adults often involves rehabilitation therapy following an accident or injury. For example a person bitten badly on the mouth by a dog, or someone brain-damaged by a stroke may have to re-learn how to speak.  In some very rare cases stroke affected injury has caused some people to speak very differently.  In one rare case, for example, a woman with a standard received pronunciation began speaking with a strong Scottish accent after a stroke.  She obviously wanted to get her own voice back and rediscover her identity and the speech and language therapist was able to help.  Doctors, health visitors, teachers and other professionals refer clients to the therapist.  Most of the work involves working with individual clients over a period of time.

Skills & Interests
Therapists need:

  • to be able to relate to all kinds of people;
  • patience;
  • understanding;
  • to be able to win the confidence of their clients;
  • clear speech and good listening skills;
  • a caring nature;
  • to be interested in the science of language and phonetics.

As clients' progress can be slow, a positive attitude is essential.  It is also necessary to have organisational skills in order to plan treatment and work schedules.

Entry Requirements
Entry is by a relevant degree course.  The minimum entry requirements for a degree are 5 GCSEs/S Grades plus 2 A Levels/3H Grades.  However, competition for places is fierce and most applicants have above the minimum.  Some courses demand A Levels/H Grades in Science subjects.  Adult entry There is no upper age limit.  Adult entrants with the required qualifications are accepted onto degree courses.  Training as a speech and language therapist requires a certificate to practice from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. 

To obtain this there are 2 routes:

  • a recognized degree such as Speech and Language Therapy, Speech Sciences or Clinical Communication Studies.  Subjects covered include anatomy and physiology, neurology, phonetics, voice and linguistics;
  • a degree in a related subject such as Linguistics or Psychology plus a 2-year postgraduate course.

The courses combine theory with work experience under a qualified therapist.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There are opportunities to attain senior therapist level and to take posts with more responsibility in private medical establishments or work in private practice as a consultant.  With more qualification and experience there are posts in universities, and in special centres for neurological disability.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute of Linguists www.iol.org.uk
Institute of Career Guidance www.icg-uk.org
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists www.rcslt.org

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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