Who are Speech-Langauage Pathologist, and what do they do?

Speech-language pathologists, also called SLPs, are experts in communication. 


SLPs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLPs treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. These include problems with:

Speech sounds—how we say sounds and put sounds together into words. Other words for these problems are articulation or phonological disorders, apraxia of speech , or dysarthria .

Language—how well we understand what we hear or read and how we use words to tell others what we are thinking. In adults this problem may be called aphasia .

Literacy—how well we read and write. People with speech and language disorders may also have trouble reading, spelling, and writing. 

Social communication—how well we follow rules, like taking turns, how to talk to different people, or how close to stand to someone when talking. This is also called pragmatics.

Voice—how our voices sound. We may sound hoarse, lose our voices easily, talk too loudly or through our noses, or be unable to make sounds.

Fluency—also called stuttering, is how well speech flows. Someone who stutters may repeat sounds, like t-t-t-table, use "um" or "uh," or pause a lot when talking. Many young children will go through a time when they stutter, but most outgrow it. 

Cognitive-communication—how well our minds work. Problems may involve memory, attention, problem solving, organization, and other thinking skills.

Feeding and swallowing—how well we suck, chew, and swallow food and liquid. A swallowing disorder may lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, and other health problems. This is also called dysphagia.

 

Speech Therapy Services

Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance.

What Is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy is a type of therapy provided by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to help a child learn how to produce specific speech sounds.  SLPs also provide therapy for other skills, including language, fluency, social/pragmatics, etc.  Often all of these therapies will be included under the name “speech therapy” but the most specific definition of “speech” refers to just the sounds a child is producing.


Who needs speech therapy?

All children go through periods of time when they have difficulty producing certain speech sounds.  In fact, certain sound errors are considered “normal” until a certain age.  However, once that age is reached, if a child continues to produce those sounds in error, that child may need more help to learn to produce the sound correctly.  That’s where an SLP comes in!  Research studies have been conducted to determine at what age certain sounds should be mastered by.  Since each of the studies points to slightly different ages, state education boards will each adopt their own standards for what ages children will qualify for services within the public schools. 

What is Speech Therapy and How Does it Work?

There are several different approaches that a speech therapist could choose to use to teach your child better articulation.  The approach chosen will be based on your child’s particular speech errors.  Here are the main two approaches to speech sound therapy:

Articulation Approach

In the articulation approach to speech development, the speech therapist will target a specific sound and teach that sound from the ground up. 

Phonology Approach

This approach is a bit more complicated as the speech therapist is addressing a whole class of sounds.  For example, the therapist may choose to target all the fricative sounds (long sounds like /s/, /z/, /f/, /v/, etc.).  They will start by contrasting long and short sounds (like /s/ vs. /t/, /f/, vs. /p/) and move toward producing these sounds correctly.  If you’re wanting to work on sounds at home, I recommend the Articulation Approach unless your speech therapist has specifically taught you how to use this approach.

 

Language Therapy Services

What is Language Therapy?

Language therapy is a very broad label for many types of therapies that a speech-language pathologist (SLP or speech therapist) can provide for children.  Language therapy addresses children with delays or disorders in the following areas:

  • Listening Skills: How your child is able to understand what is being said to her and follow directions

  • Grammar Skills: Your child’s ability to use grammatical markers to form complete sentences

  • Vocabulary Skills: Your child’s knowledge of what things are called and her ability to understand those words when spoken as well as to recall and say the word when needed

  • Question Skills: Your child’s ability to answer and ask questions with a variety of structures

  • Social Language Skills (Pragmatics): Your child’s ability to use language to interact with others and follow social rules of conversation and play

  • Literacy/Book Skills: Your child’s ability to read and write or use pre-reading skills such as book handling, recognizing print, etc.

Types of Disorders

  • Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language). Language disorders may be spoken or written and may involve the form (phonology, morphology, syntax), content (semantics), and/or use (pragmatics) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.

  • Social communication disorders occur when a person has trouble with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. These disorders may include problems (a) communicating for social purposes (e.g., greeting, commenting, asking questions), (b) talking in different ways to suit the listener and setting, and (c) following rules for conversation and story-telling. All individuals with autism spectrum disorder have social communication problems. Social communication disorders are also found individuals with other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury.

  • Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. These disorders usually happen as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia, although they can be congenital.

  • Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are feeding and swallowing difficulties, which may follow an illness, surgery, stroke, or injury.

 

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