Speech and language therapy
What is speech and language therapy?
Speech and language therapy provides treatment, support and care for children and adults who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing.
Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are allied health professionals. They work with parents, carers and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors.
There are over 18,300 practising SLTs in the UK working in a variety of settings.
- Download our What is speech and language therapy? factsheet (PDF).
- See the Welsh language version of this page.
What do speech and language therapists do?
Lisa O’Brien, a Northern Irish speech and language therapist specialising in cancer, shares how speech and language therapists support people with cancer.
Speech and language therapists at Bradford Care Trust have made a series of videos talking about their work and showing what SLTs do.
Adults with a learning disability:
Cleft palate and resonance disorders:
Complex needs in special schools:
Speech and language therapy salary
As a speech and language therapist, your salary will depend on:
- where you work
- your level of seniority
- demand for services
- type of employer
Information on NHS pay scales can be found on the NHS health careers website.
How to become an SLT
Considering a career in speech and language therapy? Browse our information on becoming a speech and language therapist.
We also have information and case studies to support recruitment of international SLTs to work in the UK.
How to find a speech and language therapist
If you think you, or your child or relative needs to see a speech and language therapist ask your GP, district nurse, health visitor, your child’s nursery staff or teacher for a referral.
You can also refer yourself to your local speech and language therapy service.
You do not have to wait for someone else to refer you.
Ring your local NHS service and ask for the telephone number of your local NHS speech and language therapy service.
How to contact your local NHS
- England – please contact your local GP for advice.
- Northern Ireland
You can also find the number of your local NHS service in your phonebook or ask at your GP surgery.
What happens next?
This varies across the UK because services are organised in different ways. In some places, demand for services is very high.
Some areas run a system where first referrals are sorted before appointments are made.
If you have this system in your area, a speech and language therapist or assistant may telephone you first to find out more about your situation. At this stage ask what will happen next and how long you may have to wait for an appointment.
If you think you have been asked to wait too long for a first appointment or for treatment after the first appointment, contact the speech and language therapy department to ask what has happened.
If you still experience difficulty, contact your local NHS service to discuss the situation.
Independent (private) speech and language therapists
Independent speech and language therapists can usually offer an immediate appointment for assessment followed by therapy to suit the client.
Contact the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP) to find your local independent therapists.
Some independent therapists offer specialisation in specific areas of communication difficulties, including:
- Assessment and diagnosis of complex disorders sometimes in association with other professionals.
- Tutorials for specific problems, such as dyslexia.
- Second opinions and reports for statements of special educational need and attendance at tribunal assessments, reports and court attendance for medico-legal claims.
Where do speech and language therapists work?
- Mainstream and special schools
- Courtrooms, prisons, young offenders’ institutions
- Health – community health centres, hospital wards, outpatient departments
- Children’s centres
- Day centres
- Clients’ homes
- Independently or in private practice
Who do speech and language therapists work with?
Speech and language therapists work with babies, children and adults:
- Feeding and swallowing difficulties
- Autism/social interaction difficulties
- Cleft palate
- Language delay
- Language disorders
- Learning difficulties – mild, moderate or severe
- Physical disabilities
- Selective mutism
- Specific difficulties in producing sounds
- Voice disorders
Communication or eating and swallowing problems following neurological impairments and degenerative conditions, including:
- Brain injury
- Parksinon’s Disease
- Head and neck cancer
- Learning disabilities
- Mental health (adults)
- Physical disabilities
Full list of topic pages
- Acquired motor speech disorders
- Augmentative and alternative communication
- Brain injury
- Cleft lip and palate
- Craniofacial conditions
- Critical care
- Developmental speech difficulties
- Head and neck cancer
- Language disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Looked after children
- Mental health (adults)
- Motor disorders
- Multisensory impairment
- Neonatal care
- Progressive neurological disorders
- Public health
- Respiratory care adults
- Selective mutism
- Social communication disorder
- Social emotional mental health
- Trans voice
- Visual impairment
Speech and Language Therapists work in a number of professional settings, often alongside colleagues from different clinical backgrounds or professions.
The RCSLT has developed information and resources to help you support both the provision of Speech and Language Therapy and Speech and Language Therapist colleagues as part of your own role. A selection of these tools and information can be accessed below:
The RCSLT has developed preceptorship guidance to help enable clinicians to develop confidence and competence in their new role as autonomous practitioners. Preceptorships are recommended for speech and language therapists entering the profession, returning to the profession after a significant break or in bases where they are undertaking a significant change in their clinical and professional role or scope of practice (include international recruits).
Find out more about Preceptorships for Speech and Language Therapists.
Developed specifically to aid communication work in the Justice System, The Box is a free, online learning service designed to give professionals in the justice system the ability to identify communication issues and the skills to support individuals experiencing them.
Find out more about The Box on our website.
Communication Access UK
Find out more about inclusive communication and pledge your support to aid inclusive communication through the Communication Access website.
Speech and language therapy factsheets
Download our factsheets detailing case studies and peoples’ stories, showing how speech and language therapy changes lives:
Adult mental health and speech and language therapy (PDF)
Speech, language, communication and swallowing problems are often associated with mental ill health in adults.
Alternative provision (PDF)
Speech and language therapists support pupils in alternative provision.
Behaviour and communication (PDF)
There are important links between speech, language and communication needs and behaviour.
Children and young people (PDF)
Communication difficulties put children at greater risk of poor literacy, mental health issues and poorer employment outcomes in adulthood.
Children and young people’s mental health services (PDF)
Speech and language therapists have an important role to play at every level of children and young people’s mental health services.
Children and young people who have experienced adversity and trauma (PDF)
Many children and young people who have experienced adversity or trauma, or who don’t have secure attachment to their caregivers, have speech, language and communication needs.
Cleft lip and palate and related disorders (PDF)
Speech and language therapists play an important role supporting people with cleft lip and palate and related disorders.
Communication needs (PDF)
What are speech, language and communication needs.
Speech and language therapy supports people with craniosynostosis and their families.
Cuts to speech and language therapy services (PDF)
What does this mean for SLTs and the people they work with?
Speech and language therapists support people with dementia who have communication and swallowing needs.
Developmental language disorder (PDF)
Giving voice to people with developmental language disorder (DLD).
Speech and language therapists support people with swallowing difficulties to eat and drink safely.
Early years (PDF)
Speech and language therapists play a crucial role supporting children in their early years.
End of life (PDF)
Speech and language therapists play a crucial role supporting people to have a good end of life.
Infant dysphagia (PDF)
Difficulties with swallowing can cause chest infections, pneumonia, choking, dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss, all of which can impact on a child’s health and quality of life.
Learning disabilities (PDF)
Speech and language therapy supports people with learning disabilities to communicate, and eat and drink safely.
Looked-after children (PDF)
Speech and language therapy helps identify and support looked after children’s communication and interaction needs.
Looked-after children and the Five Good Communication Standards (PDF)
The Five Good Communication Standards can be used to support looked after children and the professionals working with them.
Mental capacity (PDF)
Speech and language therapists have a key role to play in helping to determine mental capacity.
Mental health (PDF)
Mental health and the link to communication and swallowing needs.
Nine quality standards (PDF)
The Five Good Communication Standards can be used to support children’s homes to demonstrate how they are implementing the Nine Quality Standards.
SLTs support people affected by Parkinson’s.
Public health (PDF)
Speech and language therapy plays a crucial role in promoting public health.
Reducing pressures on urgent and emergency care (PDF)
SLTs play an important part in supporting effective and emergency care.
Speech and language therapy helps safeguard and promote the welfare of children with communication and interaction needs.
Promoting social, emotional and mental health (PDF)
Speech and language therapy promotes social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing.
Supporting social emotional mental health (SEMH) (PDF)
Many children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs have unidentified communication and interaction difficulties.
Social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing and the Five Good Communication Standards (PDF)
The Five Good Communication Standards can be used to support children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs and the professionals working with them.
Social disadvantage (PDF)
The links between speech, language and communication needs and social disadvantage.
Speech, Language and Communication Capacity: A National Asset (PDF)
How to grow national assets by breaking the intergenerational cycle of speech, language and communication needs.
Supporting adults with mental health conditions (PDF)
Speech and language therapists play an important role supporting adults with mental health conditions.
Supporting people living with motor neurone disease (PDF)
Speech and language therapists support people living with motor neurone disease.
Supporting people with head and neck cancer (PDF)
Speech and language therapy support for people with head and neck cancer.
Supporting people with swallowing difficulties due to head and neck cancer (PDF)
Speech and language therapy plays an important role in supporting and rehabilitating people who have swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) due to a range of head and neck cancers.
Supporting stroke survivors (PDF)
Speech and language therapy plays an important role in the rehabilitation and reablement of stroke survivors.
Supporting virtual school heads (PDF)
Speech and language therapists can play a crucial role supporting virtual school heads to promote the educational achievement of looked after children.
Tips on wearing face coverings (PDF)
Here are some tips on how to communicate when wearing face coverings.
Upper airway disorder (PDF)
Speech and language therapists support people with upper disorders.
Video conferencing voice tips (PDF)
Here are some handy tips from speech and language therapists on voice care when video conferencing.
Voice banking and message banking (PDF)
Speech and language therapists can support people with voice banking and message banking.
Voice care (PDF)
Speech and language therapists help people protect their voice.
What is speech and language therapy? (PDF)
For more information, see our clinical guidance pages.
Welsh language factsheets/Taflenni ffeithiol Cymraeg
View the Welsh language version of this page.