Most of us take our speech for granted but for the millions of people who seek speech therapy each year, every day communication can feel torturous. By training as a speech therapist, you could help people struggling to say what’s on their mind (often fearing ridicule as well as feeling ignored and that the world moves to fast for people to take time to listen to them) to be heard.
Obviously, this has practical benefits but emotionally and psychologically, it’s an enormous gift. Think of the last time you got into an argument or had a misunderstanding. Even being able to speak clearly, these times can cause great stress. Imagine struggling not only to process the emotions around it but the heightened stress making it even more challenging to speak clearly and resolve things.
Speech therapy courses will teach you more about this popular treatment for adults and children struggling with speech disorders and difficulties.
What will you learn?
Depending on the course, you’ll come away with a range of therapeutic skills which can be used with adults, children and/or babies struggling to communicate and/or swallow.
We all speak, many of us, often, without thinking. Depending on the level you study to, you’ll learn how to make a difference in the lives of friends and family or even strangers.
Where might you work afterwards?
If you choose to study speech therapy and become qualified, you have a wide range of options regarding your future career. Speech therapists provide valuable services in all sorts of places from community health centres, children’s centres and clients’ homes to schools (mainstream and special education), hospitals (wards and outpatient departments), day centres and in private practice.
Some work in prisons, courtrooms and young offenders’ institutions, helping people who’ve felt disenfranchised all their lives communicate and create a happier and more productive future.
Who might your clients/patients be?
You might already know you want to specialise in working with babies, children or adults. Even within each type of group, there’s a lot of variety. For example, working with children may include supporting everyone from those with language delay, learning difficulties (mild, moderate or severe), physical disabilities, cleft palate, voice disorders, selective mutism, dyslexia, people on the autistic spectrum, those with specific difficulties with sounds, hearing impairments and language impairment to those who stammer.
Working with adults can be even more varied as some may have hearing impairments, physical disabilities, specific issues with theirs voice, mental health issues, learning difficulties, others may stammer and many may have developed issues with communication, eating and swallowing due to cancer (head, neck or throat) or neurological conditions including stroke, head injuries and dementia (including Parkinson’s disease).
Your training will teach you about working with these different types of patient and conditions as well as giving you a toolkit to support people in improving their ability to communicate.
You might choose to do further study, perhaps at undergraduate level, to specialise in certain conditions if particularly interested or if you work in an area where particular issues are common.
Is it right for you?
In addition to the health and technical aspects, compassion is key. While enormously worthwhile, speech therapy training is not for everyone. Think about your temperament. How patient are you?
Frustrating as it can be for people doing their best to communicate and not being heard, it can also be a challenge for people unable to understand what the people are trying to communicate. Self-care is essential to enable you to support your clients and patients without taking on too much and potentially burning out. Knowing this and putting supports in place could enable you to have a richly rewarding career making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Speech therapy facts
- Oscar winning film The King’s Speech put speech therapy on the map in 2010 with the story of how King George VI coped with his stammer. It also showed that communication issues affect all levels of the social spectrum.
- Many celebrities have overcome stuttering with the help of speech therapy – Emily Blunt, Samuel L Jackson, Tiger Woods and even US Vice President Joe Biden.
- Babies, wherever they’re born, are capable of understanding and making all possible sounds from every single human language? Even where languages sound enormously different, a new born baby is capable of discerning the tiny sound differences. By the time we learn to speak, our brains have rewired to focus more deftly on the sounds most used in our mother tongue.
By Eve Menezes Cunningham