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Speech is one of the most basic human functions and is absolutely fundamental to our communication with others. In the UK, over 2 million people suffer from some form of speech impairment, whether as a disorder in itself, or as an after effect of a disease or disability. There are over 10,000 speech and language therapists currently practising in the UK, the vast majority of which work for the National Health Service.
Speech and language therapy (SLT) is the practice of assessing and treating problems associated with peoples’ speech, both using and understanding language. Therapists also help people suffering from communication difficulties and disorders which affect chewing and swallowing.
Typical conditions which might be frequently treated by a speech and language therapist can include stammers, cleft palate, selective mutism, social interaction defects, deafness and impairment of speech following a stroke or cancers affecting the mouth and throat.
Therapists often work in multidisciplinary teams consisting of doctors, nurses and special education needs teachers. Given that many speech and language-related problems occur in the early stages of a person’s development, therapists also work frequently with children of all ages. When diagnosing and treating children, therapists will work closely with parents, guardians and teachers.