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Speech and language therapists diagnose and treat disorders of speech, voice and language, and problems with swallowing or feeding. If a total cure is not possible, they assist people to overcome or minimise the difficulties associated with these conditions and provide them with support. Although much of the work is with children, people of all ages are treated.
The problems clients have may be congenital (for example, due to a cleft palate or other physical disability); due to learning difficulties or special educational needs; or caused by injury or a medical condition such as Parkinson’s disease or a stroke.
Speech and language therapists usually see clients on a one-to-one basis but may sometimes make use of group sessions. At the first meeting with a client they assess the problem, observing and making use of a range of tests. When working with children they often begin by observing the child at play with friends or parents and assessing their use of language.
When the assessment has been made, speech and language therapists plan a treatment programme which may be carried out over a long period of time. They may devise exercises to help reduce a stammer, or help a patient recovering from a stroke re-learn how to form sounds. They also advise parents on ways they can help their children by devising home programmes to be carried out for a short time each day.
Speech and language therapists form part of a professional team and as such spend part of their working time attending case conferences with doctors, psychologists, teachers and social workers. They keep detailed records of clients’ progress.
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