What is a speech and language therapist?

What is a Speech and Language Therapist?

What is Speech & Language Therapy - Podcast Part 1       

What is Speech & Language Therapy - Podcast Part 2                    


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

  • Dementia

  • Dyslexia

  • 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

  • Symbol communication

  • 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.


 To learn more information watch this presentation http://ucc.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=e9cf8cd9-0814-4c9c-9550-e58d76b7f9e8


Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences

Eolaíochtaí Urlabhra agus Éisteachta

1st Floor, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, U.C.C., College Road, Cork.