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A to Z of SLT


Alternative Augmentative Communication

Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) is a form of alternate communication offered to individuals who do not have the capacity to use spoken word or who need more support with their communication. This can be through the use of high tech or low tech aids.

Acquired disorders

Acquired disorders are disorders which are not acquired at birth, therefore acquired later on in life. They can occur at any time and usually have an organic cause.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder which affects a child's ability to attend for a significant amount of time and can vary in severity. ADHD is a condition that will need to be diagnosed by an appropriate medical professional.


Agnosia is a disorder which affects understanding of speech and object perception. This can be either congenital or acquired and can range from mild to severe. Different variations can occur and will depend upon the individual.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia, currently the cause is unknown. It occurs when neurons are lost in the brain. Alzheimer's sufferers will have a gradual loss of memory. Short term memory is affected initially, leading to long term memory being affected during the later stages.


Ankyloglossus is the medical term for a tongue tie. A tongue tie occurs when tongue movement is restricted due to the lingual frenulum being attached all the way along the underside of the tongue. Surgery is possible in children or speech and language therapy strategies can be given to compensate for articulation difficulties.


Aphasia occurs after trauma has occurred in the left hemisphere of the brain which then affects the language centre. This results in clients having difficulty with either expressive language, receptive language or both. Depending upon the individual aphasia can range from mild to severe, treatment will vary accordingly depending upon which part of the brain has been affected. The three main types of aphasia are; global, Wernicke's and Broca's aphasia.

  • Broca's aphasia - Broca's aphasia occurs when there is damage in the Broca's area in the brain. This will lead to non-fluent speech which contains reduced grammar and vocabulary, especially with function words.
  • Wernicke's aphasia - Wernicke's aphasia occurs when there is damage to the wernicke's area of the brain. Damage in this area, leads to difficulties with verbal comprehension. This means that their speech is fluent; however they will not necessarily have the correct vocab for what they are trying to say. This leads to confusion and frustration for the client, friends and family.
  • Global aphasia - Global aphasia occurs when there is a considerable amount of damage to the brain. This results in all aspects of language being impaired. Severity will depend upon the individual.


Apraxia is a severe form of dyspraxia and occurs after central nervous system damage. Motor speech and movement is affected and leads to a lack of co-ordination.

Articulation disorder

Articulation disorder affects speech sounds after damage to the structure of the mouth or neurological damage. Speech and language therapy approaches will depend upon individual circumstances and types of articulation disorder as well as what the underlying cause is.

Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a high functioning form of autism and the three main areas people with this condition usually have difficulties with are; communication, interaction and imagination. This is commonly known as the triad of impairments.


Assessment is a means of discovering at what level a client's communication is functioning at and establishes therapy plans and goals to set for the future.


Assimilation is a simplification process which children often use when their speech is developing. Assimilation occurs when one sound is influenced by another. Speech therapy can often correct this depending upon the individual.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD is a spectrum disorder which is characterised by a failure to develop social relationships. It can vary in severity and has certain characteristics associated with it. ASD must be diagnosed by an appropriate medical practitioner.


Audiology is the term used for the investigation into hearing. Children will have an appointment with an audiologist when they are born (new born hearing screen) and may be referred to an audiologist if they need further hearing tests through their infant years.


Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy is facial paralysis which occurs after damage to the facial nerve. The cause is often unknown, however can be caused by viral infections.

Bifid uvula

A bifid uvula refers to a uvula that is in two halves. This often results in hypernasal speech and can give a resinatory quality to the voice.

British sign language

British sign language is a signed language made up of gesture and sign. This is a method of communication used by the deaf population.

Bulbar palsy

Bulbar palsy is a disease that causes a weakness in the face and can get progressively worse over time. It usually begins with difficulty in the movement of the tongue and can progress to difficulties in moving the tongue at all.


Cerebral palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a term used for a group of disorders which affect movement and posture due to disorders of the brain. Cerebral Palsy is detected at or around the time of birth.

Cleft lip

Cleft lip is when the tissue around the lip has failed to fuse together in the womb. This will result in a child needing surgery for correction and will involve speech and language therapy immediately after.

Cleft palate

Cleft palate is when the palatal shelves have failed to fuse together to form the hard palate during development in the womb. This will result in a child needing surgery for correction and will involve speech and language therapy immediately after.

Client centred therapy

Client centred therapy is an approach taken to ensure the goals and aspirations of clients are always at the centre of therapy decisions which are made. This also means clients will have a chance to explain what they feel would be most beneficial for them to work on. This can lead to a higher motivation rate as clients will want to be involved in the decision making process.

Cluster reduction

Cluster reduction is a term used for the simplification process which involves children reducing the group of consonants which occur at the beginning of words. For example: smoke becomes moke.

Cochlea implants

A cochlea implant is a device used to substitute the mechanisms of the cochlea. It converts sound into electronic signals which are then sent to the brain.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss which affects the conduction of sound through the outer ear through to the inner ear.

Creaky voice

Creaky voice occurs when a person acquires a low pitch to their voice. This can be acquired through strain of the vocal folds, or can be naturally occurring, especially in males.

Cued speech

Cued speech is a technique used to help individuals who have difficulty producing speech to find the right oral pattern for an individual sound. It is a combination of gesture and speech and is used a lot with children who have dyspraxic elements to their speech.



Delay can be in the form of speech or developmental delay. Depending upon the severity, individuals will have some form of delay in comparison to where they should be for their age.


Dementia is the progressive loss of function of brain cells which results in changes in a person's character especially in old age. The cause of dementia can be trauma, tumour, haemorrhage or the general ageing process.

Downs syndrome

Downs syndrome is a disorder which means that individuals have an extra chromosome present. This means that they have 47 rather than 46 chromosomes. There are many different characteristics of downs syndrome and it can be detected during pregnancy.


Dysfluency is a disorder of speech which is a general term of stammering and stuttering and can also be used to describe the speech characteristics of Parkinson's disease. Children can also go through a period of normal-non fluency which occurs around 4 years of age during rapid development.


Dysphasia is a language disorder usually caused by trauma in some way to the language centres of the brain and will affect a person's speech production.


Dyspraxia is the inability to produce certain articulatory movements which affects a person's ability to produce intelligible speech



Echolalia is a disorder which results in individuals repeating back word for word what they hear from the therapist. Individuals can also do this with a slight delay and will repeat both words and phrases.

Elective mutism

Elective mutism occurs in childhood and is a psychological condition in which the child will choose not to use speech to communicate with other people in certain situations. They may choose to speak at home but not at school.


The epiglottis is the structure at the back of the throat, at the top of the larynx which closes off the larynx to help push food down the oesophagus.


Epilepsy results in too much electrical activity flowing to the brain. There can be many different causes of epilepsy and symptoms will change depending upon severity.

Expressive language

Expressive language is a term used for when individuals express their thoughts and opinions through speech, sign and gesture. Some individuals may have difficulties with expressive language exclusively, or in combination with receptive language.


Fetal alcohol syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a syndrome caused during pregnancy when the mother is dependent upon alcohol. The child will be left with learning difficulties and characteristics can include a small nose, slanted eyes and convex lips.

First words

First words are usually spoken by children around the age of 1 year. Children can vary with the acquisition of speech therefore fist words can fluctuate between 1- 2 years old.


Fluency is the term used to describe the pattern of normal speech.

Friedreich's ataxia

Is a degenerative disorder affecting the spinal cord and is usually contracted in adolescence and early adulthood. It is an inherited condition and produces dysarthric characteristics of speech.


Fronting is a simplification process in which sounds that are usually produced at the back of the mouth are made at the front. For example: K is made into a t sound.

Functional communication

Functional communication is the term used for a mode of communication which conveys a message. This is not necessarily speech and can be anything at all that gets a message across to a listener.


Gag reflex

The gag reflex is also known as a swallow.


Gesture is a mode of communication involving movements of the hand.

Glue ear

Glue ear is another way of describing otitis media and is a blockage of the Eustachian tubes caused by excessive infections, usually occurs in children as their Eustachian tubes lie horizontally and can be difficult to drain.

Group therapy

Group therapy involves a group of individuals who are all struggling with similar aspects of their communication. Therapy will target a specific aspect each session.


Health Professionals Council (HPC)

The HPC is a regulatory body for health professionals who must adhere to certain standards for their training and skills and be registered with in order to practice.

Hearing loss

Hearing loss can range from mild to severe and will depend upon the individual as to how it will affect them. If it is severe then hearing aids may be required.

Huntington's disease

Huntington's disease has a middle age onset and causes psychopathic behaviour and dependence upon alcohol. Patients have muscle tremors and it can lead to dementia.



Disease or injury, which causes a person to have difficulties in functional communication.

Informal assessment

Informal assessment is a way of assessing someone without a formal process. It will give an overall idea of someone's communication.


The pattern of speech during conversation is known as the intonation pattern.


Language delay

Language delay is when a client is delayed in the acquisition of language. Depending upon the severity, individuals will have some form of delay in comparison to where they should be for their age.

Language disorder

A language disorder is when a child does not develop language in the expected pattern and is more than 3 standard deviations below the average range.


A laryngectomy is a surgical procedure to fully or partially remove the larynx. This is usually done for treatment for throat cancer.



Makaton is a form of communication consisting of around 50 signs and is used especially with children.

Motor neuron disease

Motor neuron disease is failure of the motor neurons in the spinal cord. A complete loss of motor control may result in dysarthria.

Muscular Sclerosis (MS)

Muscular sclerosis is a demyelination of the brain and spinal cord. It is not known what specifically causes this.

Myasthenia gravis

Neuromuscular disorder of progressive muscle weakness.


Nasal speech

Nasal speech occurs when too much air escapes down the nose and transfers to the speech sounds.



Observation is a good way of getting an idea of a person's communication without doing a formal assessment.

Open bite

An open bite occurs when the top and bottom teeth do not naturally meet. This can sometimes cause a lisp and possibly cause a speech difficulty.

Otitis media

Otitis media is the medical term for describing glue ear and is a blockage of the Eustachian tubes caused by excessive infections, usually occurs in children as their Eustachian tubes lie horizontally and can be difficult to drain.


Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is caused by a disorder in the basil ganglia. The disease can be caused by viruses and drugs given for other disorders. Characteristics include body tremors.

Phonological delay

Phonological delay is when the appropriate acquisition of phonemes is delayed for some reason.

Phonological disorder

Phonological disorder occurs when there is a disordered pattern to the normal acquisition of phonemes. This is a more severe form of language delay.

Phonological processes

During early language acquisition, children go through normal simplification processes, such as final consonant deletion. The processes usually diminish around 4-5 years. If not, a child may have a phonological delay.


Receptive skills

Receptive skills are the level of understanding an individual has.


Resonance is used to describe the noise heard when air particles vibrate in the nasal cavities.

Royal college of speech language therapists (RCSLT)

The RCSLT is the regulatory board for speech and language therapists in the UK. They publish guidelines for speech and language therapists to adhere to and every speech therapist must be registered with them in order to practice.


Sign language

Sign language is an expressive language comprising of grammar as in any other oral language. It is used within the deaf community as well as for people who have difficulties with spoken language.


Oral method of communication used with grammar and pronunciation.

Speech and language therapist

A speech and language therapist is the professional involved in a person's eating, drinking and swallowing and communication difficulties. A speech and language therapist will plan intervention with the individual in mind at all times.


A stammer is a disorder of the fluency of speech. This is also known as a stutter and can affect children and adults.

Standardised tests


A Stroke is another name for a cerebrovascular accident and can occur as a blood clot or haemorrhage in the brain and can cause paralysis and weakness on one side of the body. Depending upon the sight of the injury, will depend upon what effect it will have on a person, effects can include damage to the language centre of the brain as well as memory, eating and swallowing, and speech centres.


A stutter is a disorder of the fluency of speech. This is also known as a stammer and can affect children and adults.


The swallowing mechanism is used to push food safely down the oesophagus and to ensure the effective removal of saliva in the oral cavity.



Structures in the mouth used as articulators for speech as well as to aid eating and chewing.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A TIA is also known as a mini stroke and can trigger temporary damage caused by a loss of blood flow to the brain. If an individual has a TIA it is possible they will be more susceptible to a larger stroke after the occurrence of a TIA.


The muscle in the mouth used as the main articulator for speech sound production.

Tongue tie

A tongue tie occurs when tongue movement is restricted due to the lingual frenulum being attached all the way along the underside of the tongue. Surgery is possible in children or speech and language therapy strategies can be given to compensate for articulation difficulties.



An utterance is another way of describing a sentence and is made up of linguistic elements within a phrase and sentence.


Understanding is a term used for the comprehension of forms of communication including the understanding of speech.


Vocal cords

Vocal cords are in the larynx and they vibrate during speech. This vibration is what causes speech and will depend upon the movement of the cords as to the quality of speech.


The voice is what is produced when the vocal folds vibrate and allow the articulators to function in the oral cavity in order to create the pattern of speech.


Word finding difficulties

Word finding difficulties occur when an individual has a language problem. Individuals may struggle to find the correct lexical representation of a word, or may use a variety of word fillers and circumlocutions in order to find words they have difficulty with.

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