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Speech-language therapy

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What is a speech-language pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) study, identify and intervene with 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 who experience difficulties swallowing food and drink safely.

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 barriers to learning.

Speech-language pathologists have specialised knowledge of:

  • speech, voice and fluency
  • language and communication strategies
  • social interaction skills
  • eating, drinking and swallowing.

Who is eligible for the service?

Any students with speech, language and communication needs are eligible to access the Department of Education's speech-language therapy services. Local processes will determine which students will be prioritised for services.

Students with speech language in communication needs

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

A student's special needs in communication are usually apparent prior to—or early in—schooling, although may not be evident until later in schooling when their social skills, literacy or learning are affected. 

  • may be evident in the education context in any of the following areas:
    • understanding, requesting and expressing information relating to teachers and peers
    • 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 a speech-language impairment

Speech-language impairment (SLI) is a category of the Education Adjustment Program (EAP) that indicates that students require significant education adjustments based on their needs. Students with speech-language impairment have an impairment of the structures and functions specific to speech-language processing.

A speech-language impairment may result in significant difficulties in one or more of the following:

  • being able to speak (or may have speech that is very hard to understand)
  • making sense of speech sounds
  • being able to understand others
  • being able to say what he or she wants
  • using language to interact socially.

These problems can prevent students participating and learning at school. To meet criteria in the disability category of speech-language impairment, the student will have long lasting, severe difficulties in one or more of these areas. The category of speech-language impairment does not include speech and language difficulties that are less severe, or that may improve with appropriate help. Speech-language impairment is permanent, though the type and degree of needs may change over time. This means a student who has speech-language impairment will require ongoing individualised educational planning.

The department's speech-language pathologists have a specific role in the Education Adjustment Program process in the identification of students with SLI. They may or may not have an ongoing role in the support of these students.

How is the service delivered?

Services are delivered through collaboration and embedding advice in curriculum activities and classroom routines to enhance learning engagement and achievement. Departmental speech-language pathologists are committed to working collaboratively with other service providers to ensure high quality service provision for students with disabilities.

SLPs visit their local schools according to a term or semester schedule to see students whom the school has identified as having special needs. The SLP provides an array of services, which can include advice to teachers and parents, input into curriculum and programming, assessment, individual and group therapy, and parent or teacher programs.

The department's speech-language pathologists:

  • work as members of the education team to determine the educational needs of students with special needs in communication or with eating and drinking
  • assist in developing and delivering programs
  • help the education team to adjust the communication demands of the curriculum
  • 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. Enquiries about the speech-language therapy service for a particular area can be addressed to the school principal, Head of Special Education Services, or Regional Senior Speech-Language Pathologist.

If there are concerns about a student's speech and/or language, a referral to the speech-language pathologist may be warranted. Schools have referral processes where parents and teachers provide background information and complete a referral form. All referral forms need to be signed by the parent and by the Principal. Some schools have special needs committees to assist in this process.

The role of speech-language pathologists in state schools

There are many opportunities for qualified, professional and team orientated speech-language pathologists to work collaboratively with teachers to support students in Queensland state schools through learning support.

Learn more about speech-language pathologist roles in schools:

Education Queensland Speech-Language Therapy Support for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Students:

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. 

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Last updated 27 November 2018