Career of the Month: Speech and Language Therapy Assistant
The first weekend of December has been ear marked as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by the UN, to help raise awareness of the need for inclusivity and accessibility for all. One in every five women is likely to experience a disability in her life, while one in every ten children has a disability. While disabilities come in all forms, speech and language disabilities are often misunderstood. Up to 14 million people in the UK (20% of the population) will experience communication difficulties at some point in their lives, with more than 10% of children having a long-term communication need. Yet it is a condition we don’t often hear about.
The film ‘The King’s Speech’ was one of the first major blockbusters to showcase the speech and language condition of King George 6th played by Colin Firth. The film follows the future King through his sessions with a speech and language therapist as he prepares to give a public address.
We wanted to explore the career of Speech and Language Therapy Assistant and how you start on this rewarding career path.
Salary Range £18,545 – £24,881
Speech and language therapy assistants support people who have difficulties with communication or with eating, drinking or swallowing. They will usually work at a health centre, in an NHS or private hospital, at a client’s home, in a nursery or at a school in a supporting role alongside a fully qualified therapist.
You will help people who have difficulties producing and using speech, understanding or using language, feeding, chewing or swallowing, a stammer or other difficulties with their voice. Some of the conditions your patients may have experienced could be a head or brain injury such as stroke, neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer of the mouth and throat, hearing loss and deafness, cleft palate or dementia.
As a speech and language therapy assistant, you will set up therapy rooms and work with clients one on one or in group settings. You will need patience and the ability to demonstrate empathy as clients may express frustration during their sessions. Clear communication and good listening skills are essential for a speech and language therapy assistant. You will understand psychology and how that connects to speech and language conditions. As you will often be working with children or vulnerable patients, you will be required to undergo extensive background checks before securing a role.
College courses in health and social care disciplines are the best route into this career. Examples of courses to look out for include:
- Level 2 Certificate in Employment Skills for the Care Sector
- Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care
- Level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services
- Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support
- Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care
Courses like this often include a work placement which is a great way to get some work experience under your belt. If you want to progress from assistant to become a Speech and Language Therapist you can complete a foundation degree which will lead you on to a full degree qualification.
What you can be doing now
Relevant work experience always puts you ahead of the competition, so exploring voluntary opportunities within health and social care settings is a good place to start. You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local NHS trust for further advice.
You may also find relevant volunteering opportunities through The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Do IT.