What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?
By Susie S. Loraine, MA, CCC-SLP
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly-trained professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty with speech or language. Although people often think of speech and language as the same thing, the terms actually have very different meanings. If your child has trouble with speech, he or she struggles with the "how to" of talking - the coordination of the muscles and movements necessary to produce speech. If your child has trouble with language, he or she struggles with understanding what he or she hears or sees. Your child may struggle to find the right words and/or organize those words in a meaningful way to communicate a message or hold a conversation.
An SLP also evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty swallowing food or liquid. An SLP will help identfiy what part of the swallowing process is making it difficult for your child to eat (ie. chewing, manipulating food with the tongue, coordinating mouth and throat structures and muscles, breathing appropriately while eating).
Below is a list of common speech and language disorders with a brief explanation of each.
- Articulation - the way we say our speech sounds
- Phonology - the speech patterns we use
- Apraxia - difficulty planning and coordinating the movements needed to make speech sounds
- Fluency - stuttering
- Voice - problems with the way the voice sounds, such as hoarseness
- Receptive Language - difficulty understanding language
- Expressive Language - difficulty using language
- Pragmatic Language - social communication; the way we speak to each other
- Deafness/Hearing Loss - loss of hearing; therapy includes developing lip-reading, speech and/or alternative communication systems
- Oral-Motor Disorders -weak tongue and/or lip muscles
- Swallowing/Feeding Disorders - difficulty chewing and/or swallowing
Where Do SLP's Work?
You can find SLP's in many different settings including schools, private clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and public health agencies. In addition to these more common settings, you will find SLP's at universities, state and federal government agencies, health departments and research laboratories. Some SLP's specialize in working with children and some with adults. If you suspect your child has problems with speech, language and/or swallowing, you will need to choose the setting that will be the most appropriate for your child.