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Getting speech and language therapy in England

If you’re concerned about your child’s communication development, talk to the professionals who support your child. They can help you and your child to access support, including speech and language therapy. 

If your child hasn’t yet started in an education setting, speak to your ToD or health visitor. Many speech and language therapy services offer advice and drop-in clinics to pre-school children.  

If your child is already at nursery or school, ask their Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) to refer your child to speech and language therapy. They should be aware of your local service’s guidelines and procedures.  

You can also contact your local speech and language therapy service yourself by asking your local NHS provider for the number. You can find the number for your local health provider online or from your GP.  

You can find out more about speech and language therapy services in your area through: 

Getting speech and language therapy with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan 

If your child has an EHC plan, it’s important that speech and language therapy is ‘quantified’. This means the EHC plan should be clear on: 

  • who will provide the support (such as a speech and language therapist or another qualified professional) 
  • how it will be provided 
  • the amount of therapy provided (for example, the numbers of hours each week). 

If this isn’t clearly stated, it can lead to confusion and disagreements with the local authority over how much support should be provided. For example, stating that support will be provided by ‘an appropriate professional’ at ‘regular intervals’ is less specific than saying that support will be provided by ‘a qualified speech and language therapist’ for ‘2 hours a week’ or ‘2 sessions lasting 1 hour each.’ 

Where to include speech and language therapy on an EHC plan 

Information about speech and language therapy should appear in section B (covering the child’s special educational needs) and section F (covering any special educational provision that the child requires). This is because language and communication are fundamental to how a child learns. Even though speech and language therapy is often provided by the NHS, it should still be viewed as educational provision.  

If speech and language therapy provision is not in the right place in the EHC plan or statement covering educational needs, the local authority is not legally required to make sure this support is provided. 

If speech and language therapy provision is included in sections B and F of your child’s EHC plan, then your local authority has a duty to make sure your child’s speech, language and communication needs are met.  

  • If you're unhappy with the amount or type of speech and language therapy specified in your child EHC plan, you can appeal this decision with your local authority.  
  • If you’re unhappy about the speech and language therapy your child receives (for example, if they’re not receiving the number of hours specified in their EHC plan), then you can make a complaint to the local authority. 

If your local speech and language therapy service can't deliver the provision set out in your child’s EHC plan, they may need to commission a private therapist. If the authority fails to make sure that provision is made, you could contact a specialist education lawyer to discuss the possibility of a judicial review. 

Getting speech and language therapy without an EHC plan 

Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are entitled to support throughout their education. Most deaf children with SEN do not have an EHC plan, but they can still be referred to speech and language therapy if they need it. Find out more about getting support without an EHC plan. 

If your child is assessed as needing speech and language therapy but doesn’t get the support you’ve been told they need, speak to your child’s school or therapy service to find out why. Although children without an EHC plan don’t have the same legal guarantee of provision, the school and the authority are still required to use their ‘best endeavours’ to make sure that a child’s needs are met. If therapy isn’t being provided when the need for it has already been identified, you or the school might need to consider requesting a needs assessments. 

If you’re struggling to get a speech and language assessment for your child, are unhappy with the support you’re getting from your local service or believe that your child’s needs have not been correctly identified, ask to speak with the speech and language therapist or their manager to discuss your concerns. Try to be as clear and specific as possible. If the speech and language therapist works within education services, speak to your child’s headteacher or SENCO. You could also make a formal complaint. Find out more about the complaints process (RCSLT).    

Private speech and language therapy 

Some parents decide to pay for private speech and language therapy for their child. You can find a private speech and language therapist near you through the  Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP).

 Make sure the therapist who works with your child has:  

  • the appropriate training to support deaf children 
  • experience of working with deaf children 
  • knowledge of sign language (if appropriate) 
  • a plan for liaising with the education team who support your child.