Do You Know What Speech Therapy Is?
Speech-language therapy is one of the allied health professions.
Allied health is a term used to refer to a broad range of health professionals who are not doctors, nurses or dentists.
Speech- language therapists quite simply, work to improve outcomes (academic, social, literacy, etc.) for children as well as their overall communication skills. They also work with adults to likewise, improve their communication (speaking skills, presentation skills, pronunciation, etc.) skills.
A speech-language therapist has been trained to assess and treat people who have a communication disorder.
Speech therapists complete a degree at university, which encompasses all aspects of communication including speech (mechanics of producing words e.g. articulation/pronunciation, pitch, fluency/stammering and volume), language (comprehension and expression) and literacy (writing, reading, etc.) Speech therapists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink.
A speech therapist is sometimes called a speech language therapist or speech pathologist.
Please visit this page to learn more about speech and language therapy (pathology) for kids.
In Kenya, most people are familiar with speech therapists working with children or adults with known language/communication delays or even specific disorders, but what most don’t realize is that speech therapists can and do also work with normally developing children. The education system in Kenya does not always identify mainstream children with learning difficulties or when they are able to identify them, they often are not able to offer a specialized learning program or devise effective ways of resolving the issues.
Speech therapy being a relatively new field in Kenya has meant that most people aren’t fully aware of the scope of practice of speech therapists and tend to underestimate the importance or relevance speech therapy can have on a child and subsequently on improving the child’s overall outcomes and potential.
Speech therapists find engaging and fun ways of teaching the skills children/ adults are struggling with.
We recognise the unique role of the parent in stimulating language and other developmental milestones.
The parent has the sole capability of altering outcomes for their child even more so than a school can. Foundation skills learnt early on prevent many school problems. Like with the construction of a building, the integrity of the building can usually be judged by the nature and sturdiness of its foundation.
A large number of childhood communication, literacy, emotional, behavioural and social problems can usually be attributed to parental skill (skills to mitigate or identify the problems in order to seek intervention, etc.). With the exception of congenital conditions such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, conditions which one has an innate predisposition to- such as stuttering. etc., most others can be compounded by level parental skill/awareness.
Our work in empowering parents as well as other stakeholders, in my opinion, forms the crust of the major difference in the scope of practice of speech therapists in Kenya as compared to that of speech therapists in developed countries.
Speech therapists also engage in a large number of early identification and intervention of communication disorders in order to prevent learner from spiralling out of control. We can adapt school curriculums to accommodate the child who appears to be struggling with the set curriculum.
We also work with adults who have suffered strokes through motor vehicle accidents or cerebral vascular accidents and help restore lost speech and language function. Speech therapists can also assess and treat swallowing difficulties in adults as well as newborns. We are able to instruct new mothers on breastfeeding techniques, etc. There are definitely many more areas in which speech therapists specialise in.
In order to receive the services of a speech therapist, you DO NOT need a referral from another health specialist. This may be contrary to what parents may be aware of.
Parents can self-refer their own children for speech therapy although if you have an insurance cover that requires a referral from a GP or a specific health professional to act as a pre-qualifier to getting speech therapy services covered, then that’s different.
Speech therapists work closely with audiologists, paediatricians, neurologists, ENT specialists and the other allied health professionals particularly occupational therapists.
Most speech therapists specialise in a few of the areas included in the scope of practice of speech therapists. Usually, speech therapists first specialise in either children or adults and then, further specialise in specific areas within that population.
In an underserved country such as Kenya, it is not unusual to encounter a ‘generalist’ speech therapist, but I must say, it is incredibly difficult to specialise in everything.
Can you imagine being a mechanical, electrical, civil and aeronautic engineer? It is possible, but would you rather have your car’s engine issues fixed by a person who has solely specialised on engines or one who dabbles in everything?
As you may have gathered, speech therapists predominantly work with children, but can also work with adults who have had a stroke and lost their language as a result.
In my paediatric practice, I assess and offer speech therapy to children experiencing the following difficulties:
- Language delays (understanding or talking)
- Articulation/Phonology (speech/pronunciation)
- Reading and Writing (Literacy)
- Hearing/Auditory Processing
- Listening and Attention
- Cleft Palate Speech
You can find out more about the services I offer here.
Some of my most important work is on early intervention, which is speech therapy to children aged below 3 years of age, which research has reported to be the most effective in fully mitigating any identified delays or maximising a child’s communication and learning outcomes.
As I conclude…
Word of caution, NO 2 speech therapists are the same. Things such as the place where a speech therapist trained, so quality of training, their personal qualities- such as interest in helping people, sense of professionalism, integrity, etc. set speech therapists apart. Just like in any other profession.
The misconception in Kenya is that all speech therapists are equal and all provide the same quality or scope of service.
Absolutely not correct.
The responsibility is on you to ask the right questions to your child’s potential speech therapist in order to determine if they’re well equipped to work with your child and realise timely gains.
As always thank you for tuning in and please check out some of our other resources to learn more about any of the new topics this series has raised for you.