We are a specialist service for children and young people with communication difficulties. We also help children with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. 

Our service is available to under 18s living in South Tyneside or Sunderland. They could also be registered with a GP from South Tyneside or Sunderland.

We work alongside parents and the people around your child. We provide advice and intervention to help develop your child's communication. We assess and respond to each child’s individual needs. 

We help children with the following difficulties:

  • Language difficulties 

Your child has problems understanding or using words and sentences. They might struggle to follow instructions, express themselves or have conversations. 

  • Speech difficulties 

Your child’s speech is difficult to understand. They struggle to form particular sounds. This can impact their ability to get their message across.  

  • Social communication difficulties 

Your child has difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication. This may affect their play, engagement in activities and social interaction.

  • Stammering or “bumpy talking”

Your child repeats sounds, words or phrases or struggles to get their words out when talking.

  • Voice problems 

Your child has a persistent breathy or strained voice. 

  • Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)

Your child chokes, coughs or often gags when eating or drinking. They have frequent chest infections or may struggle to gain weight. These difficulties may affect your child’s growth and development. 

Click one of the boxes below to find out more about how we can help.

Deciding on a referral

For preschool children, your health visitor is an important first contact. They will discuss your concerns. They can provide practical advice and support. They can also help you decide whether a referral to speech and language therapy is right for your child.

For school-age children, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher.

We accept referrals from parents, carers and health and education professionals. 

Consider referring if:

  • Your child’s speech, language or communication skills aren’t developing as expected. They may have also changed. 
  • These difficulties are having an impact on your child. You're worried this may cause problems in the future.
  • Your child is becoming frustrated or unwell. They have low self-confidence or are struggling with aspects of daily life. This is because of their communication or feeding difficulties.

These referral guidelines (South Tyneside and Sunderland) will help you. They will assist your decision if a referral is right for your child.

They outline exactly when to consider referring. They cover each area (speech, language, stammering, etc.). You can find what’s typical for children of different ages and what difficulties may look like.

You are also welcome to contact our departments for advice before referring:

  • South Tyneside - 0191 283 2484
  • Sunderland - 0191 569 9122

There are lots of websites which are a fantastic resource for communication support. These include:

Making a referral

Once you have decided that a referral is right for your child:

  • Download the referral form for your area: 
  • Please post the form back to the department. Please see our contact details below.
  • You can also contact your school and/or health visitor to discuss making a referral. 

General referral tips

  • Please give as much detail as you can 
  • Please be as clear as you can be about what you want from speech and language therapy
  • We always need verbal or written consent from parents/carers. They need to be aware of the concerns in the referral

Tips for referring bilingual children

  • Bilingual children are those who speak or hear any languages other than English at home
  • If the child has issues communicating in all their languages then please refer. Don’t assume the child is only struggling to communicate because they’re bilingual
  • Please make it clear what their specific language(s) / dialect(s) are in the referral form
  • It is also helpful to include key information. This could be how long the child has lived in the UK or whether you need an interpreter. This could make discussions easier with parents/carers.

Tips for eating, drinking and swallowing referrals

  • We prefer referrals from health professionals for eating, drinking and swallowing problems
  • Before referral, find out as much as you can from the parent/carer about:
    • When the problem started and relevant history
    • Current feeding pattern. This could include textures/types of food/drink, amounts taken, how long the meal/feed takes
    • Health especially history of chest infections
    • Further information around any sensory sensitivities
    • Further information about how they fed as a baby from the bottle/breast
    • Observe the child having food/drink and look for the following:
      • Sucking, biting, chewing skills – are they expected for age, delayed, or unusual?
      • Is there coughing, choking, gagging, eye watering, loss of food from mouth?
      • Are there breathing changes? This could be a wet/’rattily’ sound or voice changes during or after eating/drinking?

Tips for referring children who stammer

  • All children who stammer / have bumpy talking should be referred for advice as soon as this is noticed. Please don’t ‘wait and see’
  • It is common for bumpy talking to increase and decrease over time. So even if the bumps seem to have stopped, please still make a referral.

Contact and attending

South Tyneside

Please contact us at:

Department of Speech and Language
Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre
Prince Edward Road
South Shields
NE34 8PS
0191 283 2484

Please post completed South Tyneside referral forms to this address.

We are available Monday – Friday 8.30 – 4.30 pm. 

Please leave a voicemail message if calling outside of these hours or you can’t get through. We will respond as soon as possible.

NB: Our therapists may call you from different telephone lines. Please always return their calls to the number above. This is to ensure your message reaches the appropriate team.

Clinic addresses

We operate from three different clinics, depending on your postcode and other factors. These are:

Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre
Prince Edward Road
South Shields
NE34 8PS

Palmer Community Hospital
Wear Street
NE32 3UX

Stanhope Parade Health Centre
Gordon Street
South Shields
NE33 4JP

Your child’s therapist will always let you know which clinic your appointment will take place in.

Parking information and getting there

Cleadon Park and Stanhope Parade health centres both have free public car parks. 

There is a free car park next to Jarrow metro station near Palmer Community Hospital. There is also some free on-street parking and a paid hospital car park.

Stanhope Parade Health Centre is next to Chichester metro station. It is also next to Palmer Community Hospital alongside Jarrow station.


Please contact us at:

Department of Speech and Language
Children’s Centre 
Durham Road
0191 5699122 

Please post completed Sunderland referral forms to this address.

We are available Monday – Friday 8.00 – 4.00 pm. 

Please leave a voicemail message if calling outside of these hours or you can’t get through. We will respond as soon as possible.

NB: Our therapists may call you from different telephone lines. Please always return their calls to the number above. This is to ensure your message reaches the appropriate team.

For Booking Office enquiries please call – 0191 541 0027

Clinic addresses

We operate from five different clinics, depending on your postcode and other factors. These are:
Children’s Centre     
Durham Road

Houghton Health Centre
Church Street

Ryhope Health Centre
Black Road

Southwick Health Centre
The Green

Washington Galleries Health Centre
The Galleries
NE38 7NQ

What to expect

Following the referral, we will contact you by letter. We will request that you phone the department to arrange your first appointment. 

It is important that you contact the department when you get the letter. We need parents/carers to opt in to the service so your child can be assessed. 

We will arrange an interpreter if we know in advance that this is needed.

First appointment

This may be a telephone appointment with you. It could also be a face-to-face clinic appointment with you and your child. 

We’ll take a detailed case history. This involves asking you for information about your child’s development. It also includes your concerns and the impact of your child’s difficulties. 

If your child has a face-to-face appointment, some assessments may take place within the clinic setting. If assessment in school is more appropriate we may also arrange this.  

Following assessment, we will share a report. This will outline your child’s strengths and needs, next steps and recommendations.  

Next steps may be further support or intervention from one of our specialist teams. 

Your child may be discharged after the first appointment if no further support is needed. 

It’s very important that you attend the scheduled appointments. This is because your child is at risk of being discharged if the appointments are not kept and we are not informed. 

If you are unable to attend an appointment please contact the department as soon as possible.

Our teams and pathways


Our community therapists support children aged 2-18 with speech and/or language difficulties. We support children who attend mainstream schools or nurseries.

We offer different types of support depending on your child’s needs. 

Often, the best way we can help is by empowering you and the people closest to your child. We may see your child in school and show teaching staff how to support them. We will share strategies and specific activities. We may invite you to attend clinic appointments with your child where we can show these to you.

We may also offer individual therapy sessions. You and your child will attend for a block of weekly appointments. 

Complex and additional needs (CAN)

Our CAN therapists support children who have complex and additional needs. These needs are having an impact on their language and communication. We provide support and signposting for children and families related to their difficulties. 

We see children with a range of difficulties and diagnoses. This includes: 

  • learning disability
  • global developmental delay
  • autism
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Genetic conditions
  • other syndromes

We work together with education staff. This is in both specialist education settings and mainstream schools and nurseries. 

We provide written assessment and advice for Education Health Care Plans (EHCP). We also support these outcomes.

We contribute to the multidisciplinary assessment of preschool children with social communication difficulties. 

We provide information, strategies and activities to help people around your child. We also support them to reach their communication potential. 

We may also refer a child or young person to other services as needed.

Intensive Support 
Our Intensive Support (IST) therapists provide therapy input into mainstream schools. They also provide support for children and young people who need a high level of therapy. This will address: 

  • Severe Speech Sound Disorder and/or
  • Severe language difficulties (understanding language and/or using spoken language)  

Referrals to IST are from other Speech and Language Therapists. They may feel your child requires increased and specialised therapy input in school. 

The children we work with may have problems with one or more of the following areas: 

  • Saying individual speech sounds accurately 
  • Combining speech sounds into words 
  • Understanding single words and sentences 
  • Learning and recalling words 
  • Combining words into spoken sentences 
  • Using correct grammar  
  • Knowing how and when to use language in social situations 

We provide a more intensive and specialist therapy for those referred to IST. Not all children or young people need this. Others may be able to develop skills at a faster pace than they would with therapy from their current team.

Our Stammering therapists support children and young people up to the age of 18. 

We work together with children, their families, teachers and other professionals. This is to support acceptance of stammering as a difference. This creates environments where all children are listened to whether they stammer or not.

We will support you, your child and the people around them. We aim to reduce any impact of their stammer. We help children to feel confident and included in everything they want to do, whether they stammer or not.

The type of support we offer depends on your child’s needs. It is very helpful to meet with parents / carers on their own as well as seeing you with your child. We may see you in person, speak on the phone or on video call.

We also run group sessions in Sunderland. We provide opportunities for children to meet other children who stammer. Your therapist will discuss with you whether this might be right for your child.

Deaf children and young people 
Our team of specialist therapists have a vital role. They support individuals who are deaf and have speech, language and communication needs.  We work with children and young people with permanent, bilateral, severe to profound hearing levels. They will use hearing aids or cochlear implants.   

We think it’s important to work closely with parents and carers of deaf children. We work as part of a multidisciplinary team.  This means we collaborate with professionals supporting the child.  This helps us with assessing needs and in delivering interventions.  We also provide written assessment and advice for Education Health Care Plans (EHCP).    

The support we offer can include regular therapy. Often the best way is to support others working closely with the child.  We might see children in a clinic setting and often in their nursery or school. This is to support a range of speech, language and communication needs.  Our therapists are trained British Sign Language users. They advocate for all deaf people who require access to sign language.  

Eating, drinking and swallowing (EDS)
Our EDS therapists support children’s feeding and swallowing. They do this if there is an identified risk and need for specialist intervention. We see children in the community from birth. 

We prefer referrals from a health professional. 

We accept referrals for infants and children who are regularly coughing or choking. When eating or drinking there is a concern over the safety of their swallow. They are also prone to chest infections. 

We see infants and children who are having eating and drinking difficulties associated with neurological, genetic or medical conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy or tracheostomy.  

We also see infants and children who are tube fed. This is so we can assess and support the introduction of oral intake when this is appropriate. 

Once the referral is accepted we will contact you to discuss your concerns further. Where needed we will arrange a visit to carry out assessment and observation of the child’s feeding. This is usually in the home. 

We often work in a multi-disciplinary way. This is through liaising with a number of other health professionals. 

We will provide you with coordinated recommendations to support feeding development. This may be in the form of a Feeding Care Plan which we will share with you and the people around your child.


We aim to support as many people as possible.

We provide care when it's needed. When the people around the child still need help to meet their needs. 

We will discuss discharge when:

  • Your child no longer has communication or feeding difficulties 
  • Your child may have some ongoing difficulties but these aren’t impacting them. Those around them aren’t concerned and/or the difficulties are likely to resolve over time
  • You and those involved with your child have the skills and resources to support your child's ongoing difficulties
  • We are having difficulty providing support. This is because you aren’t bringing your child to appointments.

We will always accept re-referrals to our service. This will be if your child is struggling with new communication or feeding problems.