Mirror Magazine

Overcoming speech barriers
What do you do when a person has speech problems? How effective is speech therapy and what does it do for you? Ishani Ranasinghe takes a closer look

Our ability to communicate is central to all that we do, to who we are, how we learn and how we relate to each other at home, at school and at work. Thousands of people fail to access education, social, economic and career opportunities due to communication difficulties. A speech therapist can help these people overcome this problem and make life a lot easier.

Speech therapy…
What is it?
The chance of us having heard about speech therapy at least in passing is very likely. But what exactly is it? Putting it simply, speech therapy is for people of all ages with all kinds of speech and language disorders. A few examples of these problems, which can be helped through speech therapy, are articulation, fluency, resonance and language disorders.

When a person has trouble saying certain words or if they have trouble understanding what other people say they would go to a speech therapist also known as a speech-language pathologist.

Speech therapist: the job
A speech therapist assesses and treats those with speech, language, voice and fluency disorders. Speech therapists develop a programme of care to maximise the communication potential of the people who come to them. They may also work with people who have oral motor problems causing eating and swallowing difficulties. Using written and oral tests as well as special instruments, a speech therapist diagnoses the nature and the extent of impairment, and records and analyses speech, language and swallowing irregularities.

Such work will involve direct contact with people who have communication difficulties as well as their careers and significant others in their lives. In enabling an individual to function to the best of their ability, a speech therapist will work directly with a person with communication difficulties, but will also be involved in breaking down communication barriers by influencing and supporting those in the person’s communication environment.

The skills needed
Ideally what a speech therapist needs to do is promote independence and value communication. To achieve this effectively they need an extensive knowledge and special skills. Given below are some of the examples.

1. Problem solving and analytical skills to be able to identify and use a range of assessment procedures, analyse the results, make a differential diagnosis and develop a programme of care, to evaluate the effectiveness of such programmes and to adjust them if necessary.

2. For starters they need the clinical knowledge and expertise that includes the ability to make decisions on a range of issues to support a patient-centred approach to care.

3. Teamwork in its widest sense. This is considered to be essential as a speech therapist is required to work in a range of environments and with a range of professionals across health, social care and education.

4. They should be able to coach others to support a person to develop their communication skills.

5. The ability to influence others to support patients to develop their communication skills (e.g. advising others on how to change their practice and behaviour).

6. Creativity. A speech therapist should have the ability to think creatively and develop innovative and individualised care for clients, which will motivate them and those around them.

7. Good interpersonal skills to be able to talk to people with communication difficulties, young children and parents from a diverse range of backgrounds together with staff at different levels within an organisation.

8. Negotiation skills: At an individual level this might be to agree with carers, their input to a therapy programme.

9. Empathy: To enable the therapist to communicate with, treat and advocate for people with a wide range of subtle and complicated communication difficulties.

10. They must be able to approach problems objectively and provide support to clients and their families. Because a client’s progress may be slow, patience, compassion, and good listening skills are necessary.

It is said that a speech therapist needs to have a range of basic competencies, which prepares them for work in a variety of settings, such as,

1. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and interpersonal awareness, to have respect for social, moral and ethical norms and values

2. Competence in information management and technology

3. Team working, and management of their personal learning and professional up-dating

4. An ability to use spoken and written communication

5. Understanding of professional and legal contexts in which they work

6. Understanding of their professional boundaries

Speech and Language Therapy Diploma Programme
The Medical faculty of the University of Kelaniya in Ragama offers this degree programme. Spanning a time period of two years the curriculum of the programme includes theory, practicals and placements at government and private hospitals, schools and other institutes.

When it comes to the qualifications you would need, the minimum requirements are your A/ levels.
Costing roughly around hundred and fifty thousand rupees some students are sponsored by the government. In this case it’s a requirement that these students have done their A/ levels in the bio science stream. If you are paying privately what stream you have studied for your A/ levels does not come into consideration.

Apart from having your A/ level qualification, those who are interested in studying for the diploma have to sit for a written examination.
Those who get through the examination have to face an interview after which it will be decided if the student should gain admission to the diploma programme.

Note: Those who have qualified elsewhere have to register at the Medical College Council to be able to practice here in Sri Lanka.


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