Speech-language Therapy

What happens in speech-language therapy?

Speech-language therapy is part of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation means working to get someone back to doing the things they used to do, as much as possible.

Speech-language therapists are part of the rehabilitation team. Their name is often shortened to “SLT“.

The SLT’s first job is to get to know you and your whānau. Then they need to find out what difficulties you are having. This is called assessment.


In assessment the SLT talks to you and your whānau about the problems you are having, and the things you used to do but have trouble doing now.

Often the SLT will ask you to do some tasks. These might include:

  • Following instructions
  • Naming pictures or things
  • Describing things
  • Telling a story
  • Writing
  • Reading

During assessment the SLT tries to learn all about what is easy for you and what is hard for you. It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses so they can make a plan for how to help you improve. The assessments might be easy and they might be hard.

Some of the things the SLT asks you to do might be a bit unusual, but assessment should never whakaiti or trample on your mana. If you are not comfortable with something the SLT asks you to do you don’t have to do it. You or your whānau can talk to your SLT about it, or you can talk to someone else, e.g. someone from the Māori health department of the hospital.

It’s very difficult for people, like rehab staff, to understand what the patient was like beforehand… I explained about his learning. How he learns, you know, like a lot of people learn by doing things, a lot of people are visual learners. And that’s important to know how a person’s going to learn.


Partner of Jimmy, Stroke survivor

Goal setting

The SLT needs to find out what is important to you and your whānau. They will work with you and your whānau to learn about who you are and what you would like to do. Then you work together to set goals for what you want to achieve in therapy.

Goals need to be specific. If you tell the SLT “I want to be able to talk like I used to” they will help you to break down that goal into smaller parts and decide what to work on first.

Why should I put energy into learning something I don’t want to know anything about?  I’ll pick and choose what I want to do with my brain.  If I want to just let it ferment it should be my right to let it… If I want to have a lazy day for instance I shouldn’t be made to be, feel inadequate because I don’t want to do what everyone, what they expect to me to do.  The so called specialists, you know, the professionals, if I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it … I think we’ve earned our, the right to choose what we want to do, and if you want to vegetate they should let us

Petti McLean

Stroke survivor


Once you know what you want to achieve, there are many different ways to do it. The three main ways are:

  • Exercises to try and improve your speech and language
  • Practise new ways of communicating, e.g. writing, drawing, using gestures or technology such as an iPad
  • Your whānau and friends learn new ways to communicate with you and help you communicate

Most people do all three types of rehabilitation. Even if your speech doesn’t improve much, your communication will probably improve as you and your whānau learn new ways of communicating.

It made me be able to start relating to other people, you know. Whereas I know it may not have been like that if I hadn’t gone there because I would have just, you know, just sat because I couldn’t speak well. I would have just sat there and just thinked cos I couldn’t speak. But being in a speech therapy, they teach you, you know, all these things. And there was one thing I admire about them. Today I say that to anybody. Go to speech therapist. Yeah, they’ll help you in a lot of ways.


Stroke survivor

Different ways to do therapy

You might do therapy by yourself or in a group, with the SLT, your whānau or a volunteer.

In some areas the SLT comes to your house and in other areas you go to a clinic. Your SLT will talk with you and your whānau to explain what happens in your area

Whānau talk about stroke groups

And it, it’s good, the group eh, yeah, talking a lot.


Stroke survivor

But it’s just reassurance I guess that you’re not completely isolated. There are other people out there that can relate to what you’re trying to say. Even how strange or way over the top it may sound to other people, it’s okay.  You’re safe, in a very safe environment.

Petti McLean

Stroke survivor

Yeah, yeah and talking and laughing, yeah, yeah.


Stroke survivor, saying that it’s easier to talk when she is relaxed

It’s not them and us, it’s us together.

Petti McLean

Stroke survivor

Some people don’t like being part of a group:

So when you say you don’t like to go to a stroke group, that’s part of your personality, is it?


Conversation with Jimmy, stroke survivor