Tags: A to Z of Special Needs

Speech and language therapy, in most cases, is considered to be an educational provision and is usually funded jointly by the local authority and the NHS trust.

There is a distinction between educational needs and non-educational needs. This means that if a child has a medical need that doesn’t have a direct effect on their learning then that need is regarded as non-educational, and is to be met with non-educational provision.

Speech and language therapists offer their services in a variety of venues, including:

  • clinics
  • hospitals
  • community health centres
  • day nurseries
  • opportunity play groups
  • mainstream schools
  • special language units attached to mainstream schools
  • colleges.

Although many parents often ask for referrals to a speech and language therapist via their GP this is not strictly necessary. Parents can refer their child directly to a speech and language therapist themselves. Details of the service can be obtained from the local NHS trust.

Some children who require long-term speech and language therapy may be considered for a statement of educational needs. Children with severe difficulties may need specialist help during the whole of their school life and into adulthood.

Most speech and language therapists working with school-age children are expected to:

  • work collaboratively with parents and staff within a mainstream educational setting
  • take account of the family and educational context in order to inform assessment, diagnosis and therapy
  • provide education and training for both parents and school staff in all aspects of language and communication difficulties
  • support teachers with suggested strategies for teaching children with language and communication difficulties across the curriculum
  • liaise with other professionals – such as educational psychologists and specialist teachers – who may have been involved with the child.

Speech and language therapists may assess a child as having a receptive language impairment (difficulty in understanding language) or an expressive language impairment (difficulty in using language). Some children may be diagnosed as having both receptive and expressive language impairments. Speech and language therapists are concerned with a range of communication problems including:

  • language delay – arising from a range of sources including poor language environment
  • phonology – speech sound development
  • prosody – the way that we speak, using intonation and stress
  • dysfluency – stammering
  • articulation – the production of meaningful speech sounds by the coordinated movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, teeth and palate
  • syntax or grammar – the way that words and parts of words are used together in phrases and sentences
  • semantics – understanding the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
  • pragmatics – understanding how feelings are conveyed through language and how language is used in different social situations.

Speech and language therapists work with children in different ways, including:

  • individual withdrawal sessions
  • small group withdrawal sessions
  • class-based individual or small group sessions
  • through other people.

Often a speech and language therapist will work through other people. This means that someone else – usually a teaching assistant – implements part of an agreed therapy plan devised by or in conjunction with a therapist. This can be very efficient and effective but demands a high level of training and understanding by those delivering such sessions.

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