Physical disabilities

How we can help people with physical disabilities

Physical disabilities can range from minor problems to more serious substantial difficulties. This disability may affect how well someone can move their muscles and they may also have difficulties speaking due to lack of muscle tone around the vital breathing muscles and vocal cords as well as the tongue and lips.

Speech and language therapy will help to improve and support an individual’s ability to communicate effectively. Speech and language therapy will also address any eating and drinking problems an individual with physical disabilities may have.

What is a physical disability?

A physical disability is when a person is impaired of a muscle function which affects their life on a daily basis. This impairment may range from moderate, such as not being able to climb the stairs, to severe, which may mean requiring a full time carer. People with such disabilities may need several adaptations to their living accommodation and may require things such as frames, sticks or wheelchairs to get around during the day. Depending on where the muscle weakness is, speech and language therapy may be required for certain people. This will be the case if the weakness is around the head, neck or torso and is affecting speech production and also swallowing.

What causes physical disability?

A physical disability may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired later on in life after brain damage, injury or a stroke. Some disorders such as; cerebral palsy, dyspraxia and multiple sclerosis cause a physical disability. The degree of difficulty will depend upon the severity of the condition. With regular therapy people can make vast improvements.

What problems caused by a physical disability can SLT UK help with?

Speech and language therapy can help with a variety of different physical disabilities, especially those which affect speech, language, communication, voice and swallowing.

A speech and language therapist will be able to assess the extent at which the disability is affecting a person’s ability to produce speech, and implement therapy accordingly. This may include new ways of communicating, or strengthening the muscles which are affecting speech production.

How does speech and language therapy help with physical disabilities?

Speech and language therapy can help alleviate the negative affects a physical disability is having over speech production. This will be done by assessing a patient to discover where the problem is, and providing appropriate intervention for this problem. This may include new techniques for breathing, or strengthening exercises for the particular muscle groups involved in the production of speech and also swallowing.

There may be certain methods which require a new way of producing speech such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems. AAC can include electrical devices used to initiate speech when someone does not have the capacity to produce natural speech. Training and demonstration would be integrated into the therapy, if such techniques were used.

What would speech and language therapy treatment for a physical disability involve?

Speech and language therapy for a physical disability may include assessments, reports, reviews, therapy programmes, group therapy, training, advice and education.

Specific therapy for individuals with physical disabilities may include:

An initial assessment will be carried out by one of our speech and language therapists. This will highlight any worries and difficulties concerning communication and speech. It will also provide a chance for you to share any concerns you may have, and allow you to discuss what you would like to work on and improve.


A physical disability may affect the muscles which are used to produce speech. This may lead to someone having difficulties with their speech production and also their eating, drinking and swallowing. A speech and language therapist will offer alternative methods of speech production if needed, or implement a therapy programme to strengthen the muscles which are needed for speech.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email or call 0330 088 5643.

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