What is speech therapy and how can it help?

Speech therapy (also referred to as speech pathology) aims to appraise, diagnose and provide interventions in people (both children and adults) who have a variety of speaking, swallowing or communication difficulties. It is commonly perceived that speech therapists help with lisps or stuttering. While therapy can certainly help improve these issues, it also assists people with a wide assortment of communication problems, such as using voice, speaking, listening, reading and writing, discerning and properly using language, social skills and dysphagia (swallowing problems).

speech therapy

An NDIS supported speech therapist is a qualified allied health professional who has completed a relevant degree in university (usually at the Bachelor or Master’s grade) and can work in a wide range of settings such as hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation clinics, schools, community health centres, and nursing homes.

Speech therapists have clients of all age groups, although pathology in children is perhaps particularly common. Some examples of communication concerns that therapy may help treat include:

  • Speech disorders such as problems with generating sounds, or articulation difficulties
  • Adapting accents
  • Improve receptive language (i.e. better understanding the meaning of words and language, following instructions)
  • Expressive language (improving the use of language to accurately deliver messages, thoughts)
  • Problems with swallowing or feeding, for instance in someone who has recently suffered a stroke
  • Using alternative communication tools to help someone who has severe speaking difficulties (or is mute/non-verbal), such as pictures or assistive devices
  • Voice disorders to improve the voice’s volume, quality, tone, pitch
  • Problems with cognition that affects communication (cognitive-communication disorders) to advance skills such as planning, reasoning, memory, problem-solving, organisation.

Why is the NDIS important?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is the recently introduced way that people in Australia with a disability or permanent medical condition can become connected to additional supports and services in the community. The program was implemented in 2016 (although trial areas began earlier) and focuses on giving clients more freedom and control when deciding what therapy and supports they would like to engage in.

It aims to deliver supports and services to people whose long-term disability is seriously affecting their daily functioning, and the support must be essential to improving the person’s quality of life. However, the NDIS only provides services that are separate of those already encompassed by other sectors, such as health care or education. For example, while the NDIS supports allied health services such as speech therapy or psychology, it cannot be used for tutoring services, as this not considered elemental to person’s functional capacity.

How does someone become part of the NDIS?

The key criteria that a person must meet to become eligible for NDIS funding include:

  • Being an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Being 65 years old or under
  • Have a permanent disability or medical diagnosis that is impacting on your everyday functioning

The best information on how to apply to become a participant is found on the official website.

For an application to be successful, the person must not only satisfy the principles described above, but they also need to show written evidence of their condition(s) and its effect on their life. Most often, this comprises of garnering reports and letters from treating medical doctors (e.g. specialist or GP) and other health professionals (e.g. psychologist or occupational therapist). The process also usually involves an assessor meeting with the applicant to learn more about them, their goals and how NDIS funding may be able to help them.

What is an NDIS supported speech therapist in Sydney?

An NDIS supported speech therapist in Sydney is a certified therapist that also has obtained registration as a service provider. This may be an individual (a therapist working on their own) or a therapist part of a larger organisation. A government funded therapist has gone through the processes put forward by the scheme to ensure that a service has the pertinent qualifications and expertise to work with disabled clients. This ensures that the standard and quality of service is sufficient and does not compromise people’s safety.

As the scheme is a relatively new program, there have been many new services in Sydney and other areas across the country that have become registered providers. An NDIS supported speech therapist in Sydney is able to directly claim from a client’s funding via the portal website.

Where can I find an NDIS supported speech therapist in Sydney?

Perhaps the first avenue to direct yourself is to the official website, which has a comprehensive list of NDIS supported speech therapists in Sydney. Further, you may ask for guidance from your local area coordinator or community case worker, which often have developed good contacts with providers. Community health centres and GP clinics are also becoming more aware of the program and may have appropriate suggestions. Of course, you may also use an internet search to research nearby services.