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A beginners guide to Speech and Language Therapy

What do you think when you hear Speech and language therapy? Is it that the person can’t speak, has a stutter or lisp, needs help communicating with others? You are right to a point if you thought any of these things. Speech and Language therapists do so much more,

  • Phonology Delay / Disorder
  • Stammering
  • Stuttering
  • Swallowing Difficulties as part of a complex condition
  • Verbal Dyspraxia
  • Voice Problem
  • Specific language impairment
  • Social Communication Impairment
  • Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties that are part of a complex condition
  • Disabilities/diagnosed conditions which could affect communication skills e.g. Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome
  • Voice
  • Non-fluency and stammering

B has been in Speech therapy since he was three, and to start off with I had no idea if it could help. As I’ve mentioned before, B didn’t speak until about 4 years of age, he was for all intents and purposes without speech, apart from ten words.He did communicate with us, he took us to what he wanted, or brought it to us. He laughed when he was happy, cried when upset, didn’t communicate if he was hurt however, we had to watch him like a hawk. We even taught him an alternative form of communication, Makaton. While this was all fine when he was with us, others just didn’t understand him. Speech therapy, for us, was the start of a process to enable B to talk to people, if he so wished.

When do Speech and Language Therapists become involved?
However, getting to the point of actually seeing a SaLT (Speech and Language Therapist) was a bit of a trial. Like everything, if you don’t know how to go about it, it can be really difficult. If you are wondering what could be the signs that your child may need speech and language therapy due to communication, a few could be;

  • A quiet baby who does not make sounds or babble.
  • A child who does not respond to noise.
  • A child who has not said his first word by 15 months.
  • A child who is not social and shies away from making eye contact.
  • A vocabulary of fewer than 50 words by two years of age.
  • Inability to follow simple instructions by two years of age.
  • Other people are unable to understand your child at three years of age.
  • Has known speech difficulties, such as stuttering or lisping.
  • Has any speech sound error after five years of age.

If it is more to do with eating and swallowing;

  • Difficulty swallowing liquids or solids
  • Difficulty sucking or drinking from a cup
  • Difficulty taking foods from a spoon or chewing foods
  • Avoidance of certain types of foods or certain food textures
  • Gagging, choking or coughing during feeding

How to get help

There are two main routes to receiving SaLT, NHS and Private practitioners, As a family, we have sort both for our children. The private practitioner was sought when our children were starting school. We were one of the lucky families who could afford this, however, if you cannot, please don’t panic. We are going to look at the NHS route also.When looking for a SaLT to assess or provide treatment for your child, please make sure they are registered. Ask about the service they offer, and whether they use ABA type therapies (please research this and see what the #actuallyautistic community think of this type of therapy. We prefer play-based therapists, who are child-centred. Next, book the assessment, or therapy sessions, pretty simple really if you have the money. If not, the NHS is available for therapy, although the waiting list is much longer.

The NHS is a tad trickier. You can ask for a referral through your GP, Health Visitor and sometimes through your child’s nursery or school. In Bristol, you can self refer, click this link to download the form. If you need help filling out this form, contact us on our main site and we will try to help you.
What to do while waiting for therapy. You don’t have to wait for speech therapy to help your child if they have a communication problem. There are several places you can visit to find help and guidance for your child. Below are a few websites to get you started.

I Can’s Talking PointLots of great, free resources! Also a telephone line you can call to get further advice.
National Literacy TrustEncouraging parents to talk more to their children from birth to three years. Good practical activities and resourcWords For LifeCreated by the National Literacy Trust, contains language milestones to age 11 and tips for developing children’s communication skills.
I CAN Information to parents and practitioners about speech, language and communication.
Afasic Supports parents and represents children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
British Stammering Association Information and support on stammering
The Makaton Charity Makaton uses signs and symbols to teach communication, language and literacy skills to people with communication and learning difficulties.
National Autistic Society (NAS) The website includes information about Autism, the NAS and its services and activities.
National Deaf Children’s Society Provides information and advice about hearing loss and deafness.
Nuffield Dyspraxia Foundation (NDF) A website providing information about Dyspraxia.
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists is the professional body for speech and language therapists and support workers.
Tiny Happy People A BBC site to help parents develop their children’s communication skills through simple activities and play.
Hanen Tips for Parents Research-led support for parents and professionals.
Having Fun with Hanen Activity ideas from Canadian childhood communication charity.
Mr Tumble – Something SpecialA great, free resource from CBBC to help you teach your child Makaton.
I really hope this helps all who come here, please contact us if you have more questions, or need our help.