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Getting speech and language therapy in Northern Ireland

If you think your child could benefit from speech and language therapy, speak to your child’s GP, health visitor or teacher. They can discuss your concerns and make a referral to speech and language therapy.

Alternatively, you can make a referral to speech and language therapy yourself. You can find the details for your local service by searching the Family Support directory (familysupport NI).

You can find out more about speech and language therapy services through the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).  

Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN)

If your child has a statement of SEN and needs speech and language therapy, this should be included in parts 2, 3 and 6 of their statement. It’s important that the therapy is ‘quantified’. This means that it should be clear on:

  • who will provide the support (for example, 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 education 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.’

If speech and language therapy provision is not in the right place in the statement covering educational needs, this means that the education authority is not legally required to make sure this support is provided.

If you’re not happy with the amount or type of speech and language therapy specified in your child’s statement of SEN, you can appeal this decision with the education authority.

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 website).

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.

Making a complaint

If you’re struggling to get a speech and language assessment for your child, believe that your child’s needs have not been correctly identified or are unhappy with the speech and language therapy your child is receiving, ask to speak with the speech and language therapist or their manager. Try to be as clear and specific as possible. Before you speak to them, think about whether you’ve done everything they suggested and whether your child has made any progress at all. 

If you continue to be unhappy with your child’s speech and language therapy, you could make a local complaint through your local health and social care Trust (NI Direct).