What does a speech therapist do?
A speech therapist (also known as a speech pathologist) is a trained expert in communication. Speech therapists funded by the NDIS are university-trained allied health workers who facilitate people who cannot communicate effectively to improve these skills. They often work with children but may also work with adults.
Commonly, speech therapists help people to improve difficulties with using the voice properly, producing sounds, fluency and speaking and language problems. Speech therapists also help people increase their receptive and expressive language skills so that they can better understand language and the social context of communication, as well as more productively transfer their thoughts and ideas to others.
Moreover, people with feeding or dysphagia (swallowing) hardships, for instance following an injury or stroke, may also work with a speech pathologist. It is often the role of the speech pathologist to not only treat communication disorders but they also periodically perform assessments and diagnose speech and language problems.
What medical conditions do speech therapists work with?
To see a speech therapist, a doctor’s referral is unnecessary. Indeed, while many clients may have a diagnosed medical illness, some clients may have more minor disorders or difficulties with nil underlying medical condition. Some common examples of medical conditions that speech therapists often work with include:
- Hearing loss or impairments
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Intellectual disability
- Brain injury or stroke
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Speech therapists also intermittently work within a multidisciplinary team and work with other health professionals such as doctors, nurses and other allied health workers (e.g., occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and psychologists).
What is a speech therapist funded by the NDIS?
Speech therapists are often found working in hospitals, schools, community health centers, private organizations (i.e., private practice) and clinics. With the recent exertion of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) across Australia, there has been a sharp rise in new services being established for various allied health streams, including speech therapy.
A speech therapist funded by the NDIS can be an individual (i.e., a sole trader running their own private practice) or part of a great service that has successfully garnered NDIS registration. In NSW, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is the body that is responsible for regulating NDIS service providers, including appointing services with NDIS registration. Under the NDIS, a service provider applies for certification in particular categories and must fulfill strict guidelines and requirements to obtain NDIS registration.
This is to ensure that the individual or organization has adequate training, skills and practical understanding to deliver safe and high-quality services. While it is not essential for a service to capture NDIS registration, this sector of the market is growing rapidly, and more and more establishments are choosing to align themselves with the scheme.
What is the NDIS and how can I use it?
The NDIS is backed by the Australian government and was introduced in 2013 to some test site areas, with 2016 seeing the legitimate roll-out of the program in select areas nationwide. The NDIS is how individuals with a disability or permanent medical condition (that is seriously impinging on their daily life and scope of functionality) can procure services and extra assistance that are external to other divisions, such as the education and health care zones. Funding for supports covered by the NDIS fall under three main zones: Core, Capacity Building and Capital support divisions.
Core funding provides resources for fundamental supports, such as assistance with daily life (e.g., basic self-care), transport, specific resources and consumables (e.g., everyday items, translation services) and improving community engagement. Funding in this category often constitutes of getting assistance from support workers.
Capacity building category of funding is the area where a speech therapist is funded by the NDIS. In this section, a client may seek therapy from speech therapists and other allied health specialists to progress their functional skills, such as general communication, skills needed for activities of daily living (ADLs), social skills, physical capacity (e.g., mobility), and emotional regulation or coping skills (i.e. psychology).
In the final category of supports (capital support funding), clients may use their funding to assist in covering costs of equipment such as assistive technologies and home or car modifications.
The amount of financial resources and their allocation that a person receives is determined by their disability, current level of functioning and support networks, and formulation of realistic goals.
Where can I find a speech therapist funded by the NDIS?
These days, perhaps the most common method of research is by operating an internet search. With the volume of new NDIS certified providers growing in recent times, this method will surely generate many viable options. Another mode of research is to visit the NDIS authority’s website, as this has a thorough record of registered providers. Alternatively, one may seek guidance from their NDIS coordinator or caseworker in the community.