Key Message One

Speech and language therapists are specialists who enable people to develop or regain vital communication and swallowing skills

Speech and language therapists enable people to express themselves, to listen to and understand others. They provide accurate identification, assessment and diagnosis of speech, language, communication and swallowing disorders.

Speech and language therapy is based on continuous assessment and a process of responsive and changing support. This includes setting personal goals and specific strategies for people who have communication and swallowing disorders.

Speech and language therapists work with others including parents, carers and other professionals to make their interventions and support more effective, when communication difficulties would otherwise prevent this.

20% of the population may experience difficulties in communication at some point in their lives.

Speech language and communication problems can be present independently of other learning difficulties, disabilities or health problems: such as a stammer, specific language impairment or voice loss.

Speech language and communication problems are also associated with other widespread causes including mental illness, stroke, head and neck cancer, learning disability, hearing impairment, brain injury, autism, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cleft palate and voice difficulties.

People with lifelong communication disabilities need speech and language therapists to show them and their carers how to use technology, signs or symbols to support their communication.
Swallowing disorders affect both children and adults. Swallowing disorders can cause life-threatening problems with: breathing and choking; chest and other infections; poor nutrition and hydration; and invariably cause distress and depression.

Key statistics:

  • Speech, language and communication difficulties are the most common difficulty experienced by children
  • 7% of five year olds entering school, up to 2 children in every classroom have significant difficulties with speech and/or language
  • Up to 55% of children in deprived areas have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)
  • Of the 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning difficulty, up to 90% have SLCN
  • 60% of young offenders have SLCN
  • 50,000 people who have a stroke every year have speech and language difficulties.
  • 700,000 people with dementia have SLCN
  • Up to 75% of stroke survivors will have problems with swallowing immediately post stroke.