What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

What does “S-L-P” stand for and what do you do? I hear this ALL OF THE TIME.

You mean, “speech therapy?” people always ask. Yes and no. As a SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST (SLP), our scope of practice has significantly grown since the days of articulation one-on-one, sit-down therapy at school. We still do that, too; but we do much, much more!

As a SLP, we get to choose from several areas of practice to focus on, including: helping babies develop swallow skills to prevent “aspiration” (food/liquid going the wrong way). This includes:

- Developing a suck-swallow-breathe sequence with either bottle or breastfeeding as infant.

- Guiding parents in feeding and accessory use for ideal oromyofunctional development (how our mouth muscles and functions develop as a result of pacifier use, prolonged bottle feeding, delayed solid food introduction, tongue thrusting, open-mouthed posture, and thumb sucking, to name a few contributing factors)

- Guiding infants and toddlers in developing appropriate play skills (foundation for socializing and language)

teaching basic sign language to encourage communication and decrease frustration within the home atmosphere.

- Assessing and treating dysphagia (difficulty eating or swallowing) in all ages

- Targeting identified speech and language needs through play-based therapy (which some people mistake as “just playing” with the child — however, we are skillfully and distinctively targeting speech, language, or social skills the child demonstrated need in — and we do it with play!)

- Targeting sound development and how sounds are put together to make words

- Identifying speech patterns that may contribute to decreased intelligibility (“phonological processes” or “simplification patterns”) that we work on remediating to improve speech intelligibility

development of vocabulary (what words we use to communicate) and lexicon (what words we understand) to enrich or make communication functional

- Expanding sentence length and grammatical accuracy.

- Develop augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) based on needs of client. This may include low-tech boards, a yes/no system, or training on a speech-generating device.

- Rehabilitation post-traumatic brain injury or post-stroke for things like oromotor function for speech and swallowing, as well as expressive/receptive/global aphasia (difficulty speaking or understanding words/sentences)

- Assessing and treating voice disorders, including: diplophonia (double voicing), dysphonia (reduced voice), aphonia (no voicing), vocal nodules, vocal strain, vocal hygiene for optimal vocal health, among others

- Coordination of speaking, swallowing, and breathing for those who have involved medical conditions

assessing and treatment of stuttering and cluttering

- Developing memory strategies for improved daily functioning

- Cognitive-communication functioning and treatment

- Literacy issues AND MORE!

Most people have had or know someone who has experienced a need for speech-language or feeding intervention. Whether your child was “late” talking, you have a friend with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who uses a speech-generating device, as a new mother you experience difficulty transitioning your child to a bottle so that you could return to work, your grandmother had a stroke and went to rehabilitation as a transition back to home, or your school-aged child had difficulty mastering the “R.” SLPs are here for you, your family, and your friends.

A very important factor built into all of our evaluations is the use of multi-disciplinary referrals or consultation. If we see a child who is late talking and does not consistently respond to sound, an audiological evaluation is important to rule out hearing difficulty. If we evaluate a child who is a mouth-breather, which is affecting their oromyofacial development (how their oral and facial features and functions grow, look, and work), we will send him/her to an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor or ENT) to assess their adenoids, tonsils and naso-oro-pharyngeal structure/function. If we see someone with adverse social interactions that affect their communication skills, we may recommend an assessment by an occupational therapist to take a look at their sensory integration needs.

As clinicians, we do not take a uni-modal approach to your overall health. As speech and swallowing specialists, we understand how everything needs to work together to function properly (speaking, swallowing, and breathing is a complicated system that takes much coordination!) That’s why we evaluate with various inputs and outputs in mind.

Please visit the link below for more information on SLP’s scope of practice and areas of service:


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