A Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) (often referred to as an Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), is a professionally qualified person who works with children and adults of all ages who have difficulties communicating or swallowing. Communication encompasses a very wide range of activities and therefore the roles of SLTs can be extremely varied, depending on the type of communication disorder. The following list of areas is not exhaustive as new roles for SLTs are constantly being developed.
Child speech and language disorders and delays
Stuttering in adults and children
Strokes and the language impairments associated with them
Degenenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia, etc.
Rehabilitation of cognitive-linguistic deficits following head injury
Learning difficulties and syndromes
Voice problems in children and adults
Rehabilitation of people with acquired hearing loss
Habilitation of congenitally Deaf children
Sign Language studies
Cleft lip and palate
Cerebral palsy and physical disability
Mental health difficulties in children and adults
Autism and other social interaction difficulties
Pervasive developmental disorders
Speech therapy following head and neck surgery for cancer
Eating, drinking and swallowing disorders in children and adults
Research in speech, language, hearing and swallowing disorders.
The assessment, diagnosis and treatment of speech and language disorders requires a high level of scientific knowledge and clinical skill. For this reason, entrance requirements are stringent and applicants to the degree are expected to have attained high standards on the leaving certificate.
Speech and Language therapy is an academically rigorous discipline and prospective students will be required to think, reflect and apply their acquired knowledge in complex ways. The ability to think on one's feet, apply knowledge across a wide domain and be able to devise and plan scientific research is important. But perhaps just as important is the skill of being able to work with people, empathise with their difficulties and help them to adjust to their communication difficulties.
Speech and Language therapists (SLTs) are relatively rare in Ireland. Prior to 1969 there were as few as 10 working in the health service in Ireland, all of whom had qualified in the United Kingdom. In order to address this shortage, the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) mounted a course in Speech and Language Therapy as the Dublin College of Speech Therapy in 1969.
The Dublin College graduated a number of SLTs and was later subsumed by Trinity College Dublin as the School of Clinical Speech & Language Studies. Sister Marie de Montfort-Supple headed this course in Dublin for many years.
In Cork, Father Seamus O'Flynn, a Shakespeare aficionado and friend of Sir Henry Irving opened an acting studio in the 1920's called the Loft, over the sweet factory in the city. There, Father Flynn taught aspiring actors and also worked with individuals with speech and language impairments, especially severe stammering. Later on, in the 1960s and early 70s, a UCC lecturer of Irish, Prof. Mairtin O' Murchu taught Linguistics and Phonetics for the Trinity College Dublin Speech therapy course.
There are now approximately 700 SLTs in Ireland, some of whom are retired. Recently, the Bacon Report identified Speech and Language Therapy as one of the key professions in need of expansion with regard to education in the Republic of Ireland. University College Cork offered a tender to educate SLTs and was granted this by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
Professor Fiona Gibbon, Robert Fourie, Ciara O'Toole, Dr. Alice Lee and Dr. Helen Kelly are the academic staff currently engaged in developing the curriculum. Máiread Cronin is the practice education coordinator and is responsible for, among other things, practical education. Máiread is assisted by Clodagh Donohoe and many practicing clinicians in the field, too many to mention in person, who give generously of their time, knowledge and experience to help educate the SLTs of the future.
There are also a number of academic tutors who provide tutorials in the course's Problem Based Learning (PBL) Curriculum. These academic tutors work on an hourly basis, but provide an extremely important service to the department.
The senior executive assistant in the department is Yvonne O'Sullivan and Ms. Gillian Aughney is the executive assistant for the Brookfield Clinic.
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Minimum Entry Requirements for BSc (Speech and Language Therapy)
Six subjects in the Leaving Certificate from: Irish, English, another language, Mathematics, a laboratory science subject (i.e Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Physics with Chemistry (joint) or Agricultural Science) and one other subject recognised as meeting minimum entry requirements. Both the Science subject and a language (not English) must be at minimum HC3 grade.
These represent the mininimum requirements. However, there is much competition to enter this course.
Prospective students can view the Leaving Cert Points for Entry into UCC courses here.
Someone who is both scientifically minded and linguistically minded should do well on the academic side of things in this BSc. However, to be a good clinician, one needs strong social skills, a sense of caring for others and a willingness to help. In many ways this course bridges the areas of science and art and people who see this as a worthwhile thing to do, should enjoy studying speech and language therapy.
If you are a student that is only comfortable with learning things by rote (off by heart), then this is probably going to be a difficult course for you. We expect students to contribute in lectures and tutorials. However, that does not mean that you have to be extroverted; a willingness to think and to share information and ideas should be sufficient. As you will be dealing with the public, you will be expected to develop in your confidence; while not becoming over-confident or gushy. There is room in the profession of speech and language therapy for all types of personalities.
Unfortunately, not many men do this course, although it is an ideal course for males who are both scientifically and artistically inclined; and who have an interest in service professions.
If you are a person who likes to help others, and you are interested in a career understanding how difficulties with speech, language and swallowing impact on people’s lives, then the programme in Speech and Language Therapy will interest you. The Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences educates students into a health profession in which they will use linguistic, social, behavioural, medical and other scientific knowledge to provide assessment and treatment for both children and adults who have developmental or acquired disorders of speech, language and swallowing. While an interest in science and language is important for this career, the ability to interact socially with all age- groups (including very young people and older adults), and the ability to empathize with people, are also essential qualities of speech and language therapists.
The course in SLT was established as part of a national response to a shortage of SLTs in Ireland. It aims to educate students to provide the highest level of service to individuals with communication and swallowing disorders, as part of a healthcare team. To this end, the programme involves extensive and varied work experiences (practice education) in the second, third and fourth years. This work experience involves taking on clients, under supervision, both inside and outside of Cork City.
As successful communication abilities are so vital to normal human development and social interaction, interventions by SLTs can have profound and far-reaching effects on quality of life and well-being.
Applications of mature students must be made through the Central Admissions Office (CAO) at UCC.
Applications are reviewed on the basis of three variables, namely educational qualification (certificates, diplomas or degrees), relevant or related work experience and motivation (as revealed on their application form and personal statement). Selected candidates are called for interview in May of each year. There is strong competition to enter this course as a mature student with approximately 80 to 100 applicants per year. A maximum of 5 students can be offered places as mature students.
Mature Students Officer
There is a support programme for mature students which offers a series of seminars designed to enhance key skills for academic life and which are run throughout the year, including topics such as writing skills, study skills, dealing with exam stress and budgeting for student life. The Mature Student Officer is Ms. Mary O'Sullivan. Her role is to provide support to all mature students. Students are encouraged to consult her if they have any matters they wish to discuss pertaining to their university life. Her phone number is (021) 490 3670. Ms. Mary O'Sullivan's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
What Other Courses should I do if I don't get the points on my leaving certificate but want to later apply as a mature student?
The information below does not guarantee selection for a place in the course at a later date; therefore you should study something that wil be independently fulfilling to your own interests and talents.
However, you are more likely to meet the criteria for interview and selection on to the course if you study in a cognate field. That is, find a course that interests you and is related to the profession of speech and language therapy. This includes a medical field such as nursing, a linguistic field such a BA in languages and linguistics, teaching, early childhood studies, etc. Furthermore, experience in any of these fields will also help you to meet the criteria.
Students who pass this Professional course will graduate with a BSc (Speech and Language Therapy). The UCC course in Speech and Language therapy is accredited by the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists, an internationally recognised governing body who audit and inspect the course at UCC on a yearly basis.
Careers in Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and language therapists in Ireland work in a wide variety of settings, reflecting the range of communication disorders that people can be subject to. Many work in community settings where most of their clients will be pre-school children who are having difficulty acquiring speech, language or both. Some will work in hospital settings, where they will go on the wards to see individuals who have just had strokes, assessing their level of language disability, or retraining feeding and swallowing, depending on the functions which are affected. Others still may work in residential settings or voluntary agencies such as the Brothers of Charity, Cope Foundation and Enable Ireland. Experienced therapists may also work in private practice.
Until 2003, if a student wished to train as a speech and language therapist, s/he had to attend the course at Trinity College Dublin. However, following the publication of the Bacon report in 2001, pointing out the shortfalls in service provision in the clinical therapies in this country, the Government has funded new undergraduate courses in speech and language therapy at Cork and Galway, and a new graduate entry course in Limerick. These are designed to meet the shortfall in speech and language therapy provision. There should be many interesting career opportunities for graduates of these courses in the years ahead.
The starting salary for entry level Speech and Language Therapists in Ireland is €33,969 [correct from 1st January 2011].
Speech and Language Therapy Salaries
Public service Speech and Language therapy salaries can be viewed on the IMPACT trade union website under Health and Social Care Professionals. The Salary scales for Basic, Senior and Managerial level workers are visible towards the bottom of this page. Note that basic therapists can upgrade to a Senior grade within three years of practice if a senior post is available and if they meet the basic criteria for the post. Click on your back arrow to return to this page.
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Yes. Students will be required to obtain approximately 450 hours of supervised and assessed work experience for this course. We have a dedicated practice education team who organise these placements. While we have a number of clinics which run in Cork city, each student will need to be placed outside the city at least once during the four years of study, and the student is currently expected to cover the cost of travel and accommodation while on clinical practice. Practice settings for UCC are normally within the areas of Kerry, Waterford, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Wexford, Carlow and Cork.
Of most significance are placements away from the university in the second semester of second and third year; and both semesters in the fourth year. This is approximately two days per week for 6 weeks in the second year, three days per week over 6 weeks in the third year and three days per week for 12 weeks in the fourth year. In first year, there is a single, five-day observation placement.
Yes, the course is full time and students must be available to attend all programme related activities throughout the academic year. Contact hours vary throughout the year and between Years 1 -4 of the course. However, students can count on having at least 4 to 5 hours a day of tutorials, lectures, placement on most days during the semester in Years 1-3. In addition to this, students must allocate a significant amount of time for independent study. Most lectures and placements are scheduled between 9am and 5pm and we endeavour to give students information about the timetable in advance of each semester. Despite the heavy time commitment to the course, many students engage in a small amount of part-time work.