What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy assesses, diagnoses, and treats speech and language disorders.

If something’s affecting your speech, you might be referred to see a speech therapist. They’re trained professionals that work with children and adults of all ages to help improve communication.

Speech disorders that develop in children are quite common, as are speech impairments in adults caused by injury or illness. By looking more closely at the symptoms, you can better understand particular disorders and how to treat them.


Speech therapy for children

If your child is showing delays in speech and language development, then speech therapy can help. Early intervention to diagnose the disorder can lessen the impact on their learning at school, and social interaction with their friends.

Here’s some of the more common disorders that can develop in children, and where therapy is used:

  • Articulation disorder: where your child would benefit with help to say (articulate) sounds and words clearly.
  • Language development: where therapy would help your child’s overall language skills, including vocabulary and understanding the meaning of words, and how to speak them in a sentence (called comprehension and sentence structure).
  • Fluency disorder: helping your child develop smooth and fluent speech, and addressing issues such as stuttering and other disruptions that effect their flow of speech.
  • Voice disorder: helping to address voice problems such as hoarseness, pitch, volume, and the sound quality (resonance) of their speech.
  • Feeding and swallowing: helping your child overcome difficulties with eating, chewing, and swallowing.
  • Selective mutism: where therapy can help overcome an inability to speak in certain social situations.

Speech therapy for children is nearly always designed to be interactive, play-based, and tailored to your child’s disorder. And it’s likely you’ll be given guidance on being involved as a parent to reinforce and encourage your child with learning their speech skills at home.


Speech therapy for adults

Speech therapy for adults addresses a range of communication challenges that arise due to various factors. Neurological conditions, a stroke or traumatic brain injury, or age-related changes can affect your speech.

These are some common adult speech and language disorders and how speech therapy can help:

  • Speech sound disorder – you might seek speech therapy to improve your articulation and pronunciation, especially if you have difficulty with certain words or phrases.
  • Language disorder – speech therapy can help you with language comprehension and expression, improving your ability to understand and use language effectively.
  • Voice disorder - You may be suffering with vocal nodules (small non-cancerous bumps on your vocal cords) or hoarseness when speaking, often caused by overusing your voice.  Speech therapy can help improve your speech quality and pitch.
  • Fluency disorder – if you’re challenged with a stutter or similar condition, then speech therapy can help improve the smoothness and flow when you talk.
  • Cognitive-Communication – if you’ve had a stroke or traumatic brain injury, you may struggle with your memory, attention, and problem-solving. Speech therapy can help address these challenges.
  • Swallowing – if you have difficulty swallowing, speech therapists can recommend exercises to help you swallow safely and efficiency.


What happens at speech therapy?

Your speech therapist will use techniques that address the underlying cause of your communication difficulties. They will also take into account what you want to achieve as well, whether it’s overcoming challenges that affect how you speak, or helping you recover from an illness or injury.

There’s likely to be face to face sessions and exercises to do at home too, but here's a general overview of what might happen:

  • Assessment: you’ll have an initial assessment to identify the specific speech or language difficulty. By asking questions and observing you, your speech therapist will be able to diagnose your disorder and plan a treatment programme for you.
  • Goal setting: based on the assessment, your therapist will set achievable goals for the therapy with you. They’ll be specific to your needs and are likely to focus on speech sounds, language skills, fluency, voice, or swallowing.
  • Therapeutic activities: it’s likely you’ll be given activities and exercises designed to improve specific skills. It could be things like practicing speech sounds, working on language comprehension and expression, or becoming more fluent when speaking.
  • Communication strategies: you might learn strategies to improve your communication, such as using alternative communication methods, or improving social skills.
  • Home exercises: you may be given exercises to practice at home to reinforce the skills you’ve learned during your therapy sessions. Consistent practice is crucial for making progress and successful treatment.
  • Feedback and adjustments: you’ll find that good communication between you and your speech therapist, really helps with education on your disorder, feedback, and adjustments to your plan where required.

The frequency and duration of speech therapy sessions vary based on the severity of your disorder and individual needs. Regular and consistent attendance, along with active participation in therapy, typically leads to a positive outcome for you.


You can use your cover to pay for speech therapy treatment

You could claim for acute treatment of speech therapy using your health insurance cover. The first step is to get a referral from your GP, or through our Digital GP app^. Then you can make a claim through MyAviva, over the phone, or online.

If we confirm that your claim meets the terms of your policy, we'll pay for the treatment directly. Just be sure to tell us if you need more tests or treatment, or if your hospital or specialist changes.

It’s good to have one less thing to worry about. It takes Aviva.

^ These services are non-contractual and can be withdrawn or amended by Aviva at any time.  

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