Speech-language therapy


Skills in speaking and listening (or using another mode of communication such as signing) are fundamental to student learning outcomes and participation in schooling. The department's speech-language therapy service provides assistance to schools to identify and address barriers to learning for students with speech language communication needs so that all students are learning and achieving.

What is a speech-language pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) study, identify and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating and/or who experience difficulties swallowing food and drinks.

Speech-language pathologists work with the person with the communication disability, their family and the education team.

Speech-language therapy services in state schools

The department provides speech-language therapy services for students with speech, language and communication needs or with eating and drinking difficulties who are experiencing problems with learning and participating at school.

Speech-language pathologists can help students with:

  • developing their speech sound system
  • understanding and using language for thinking, discussing, reading, writing, numeracy and learning
  • managing social interactions across the school setting
  • speaking fluently
  • having a healthy voice so that they can manage talking across the school day
  • safely eating and drinking at school.

Who is eligible for the service?

Any students with speech, language and communication needs enrolled in state primary, secondary or special schools or registered for an early childhood development service or program, are eligible to access the Department of Education's speech-language therapy services. This includes support for students who are deaf or hard of hearing attending state schools, whose speech language and communication needs are having an impact on their participation and achievement at school.

The school, in collaboration with the speech-language pathologist, will determine how students' speech language and communication needs are best met.

Students with speech language and communication needs

Students with speech language and communication needs require assistance to develop competencies in the areas of communication, language, speech sounds and learning including literacy and/or numeracy.

Speech language and communication needs may show as difficulties in:

  • understanding, requesting and expressing information
  • learning to read and write
  • expressing needs, abilities and interests
  • participating in group activities
  • developing a positive self-concept
  • learning appropriate behaviour
  • achieving in key learning areas.

Students with speech language and communication needs include:

  • Students who experience communication disability that arises from intrinsic factors such as developmental factors, the presence of impairment (developmental language disorder, physical, hearing, vision, intellectual or multiple impairments or autism spectrum disorder), other needs (as in areas of attention or memory), and many other factors.
  • Students who experience communication difficulties that arise from extrinsic factors such as limited opportunity to communicate, a mismatch between the language, dialect or communication style used at home and at school, and many other factors.
  • Students with difficulty moving their mouth, lips and tongue when eating, drinking, swallowing, controlling saliva and speaking.

How is the service delivered?

The speech-language pathologist works with the education team to identify and support the implementation of adjustments to the curriculum and strategies for the teacher to use. These adjustments will support the student's learning and participation at school.

The speech-language pathologist may use a mix of services, which can include advice for teachers and parents, input to curriculum and programming, assessment, individual and group therapy and parent or teacher or teacher aide programs.

Departmental speech-language pathologists also work collaboratively with other service providers to ensure coordinated supports from all services focused on achieving the best outcome for your child.

The department's speech-language pathologists:

  • work as members of the education team to determine the educational needs of students with speech language communication needs.
  • assist to develop and deliver programs
  • help the education team to adjust the curriculum and use teaching strategies to support the student's communication
  • train teachers or teacher aides in ways they can support the child
  • consult with and provide resources to school staff, parents and the school community
  • liaise with other agencies.

How to access this service

Speech-language pathologists provide a service to a number of schools across a local area while being physically based at one school. You can ask the school principal, Head of Special Education Services, or Regional Senior Speech-Language Pathologist about the speech-language therapy service in your area.

If you are concerned about your child's speech and language skills and how they are affecting your child's learning, talk with their classroom teacher. Schools have referral processes where parents and teachers provide background information and complete a referral form. The students' parents and the school principal need to sign the forms. Some schools have special needs committees to assist in this process.

Learn more about speech-language pathologist roles in schools:

50 years of speech-language therapy in Education

2016 was the 50th year of speech-language therapy in the Queensland Department of Education. The 50 Years of Speech-Language Therapy in Education Commemorative eBook (PDF, 1.1MB) gives a history of the development of the speech-language therapy service in Queensland state schools, from 1966 to 2016.

Last updated 06 February 2019