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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
They should be able to coach others to support a person to develop
their communication skills.
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).
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.
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.
Negotiation skills: At an individual level this might be to agree
with carers, their input to a therapy programme.
Empathy: To enable the therapist to communicate with, treat and
advocate for people with a wide range of subtle and complicated
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
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,
Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and interpersonal awareness,
to have respect for social, moral and ethical norms and values
Competence in information management and technology
Team working, and management of their personal learning and professional
An ability to use spoken and written communication
Understanding of professional and legal contexts in which they work
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.
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.
Those who have qualified elsewhere have to register at the Medical
College Council to be able to practice here in Sri Lanka.