what Speech is Therapy: A brief guide
The name of the profession, ‘Speech Therapy’, is quite deceiving. That is because people think the only help we can provide is in word pronunciation. A more accurate term for the profession truly is COMMUNICATION SCIENCE. Well, this is closer to the truth but not quite there yet. It ignores the whole realm of feeding and swallowing, which are also specialties in speech therapy. We will revisit that later.
Who are speech therapists
Speech therapist is the easier way to introduce ourselves. Officially, we are speech-language pathologists or SLPs.
- SLPs obtain a master’s degree on speech-language hearing, or communication science, or such from an accredited university.
- SLPs hold an especially designated state license from their state licensing board.
- Most SLPs are certified by the national certifying association American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA). This ensures that the SLP is obtaining enough education to be up-to-date in the most recent science. You can check if your SLP is certified here. https://find.asha.org/pro#f:@Provider=[Speech-Language%20Pathologist]
You might also bump into the SLPA. SLPAs are speech-language pathology assistants. They obtain a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology or communication science. They work under the supervision of a licensed and certified SLP. Some states recognize SLPAs but some don’t. Check with your state Speech-Language and Hearing Board. As of early 2020, there is no nationwide guideline for an SLPA.
What do speech therapists do
As COMMUNICATION SPECIALISTS, speech therapists address many areas in communication. When you think about it, we don’t just talk to communicate, we also listen. After we listen to the words, we process what we hear. Then, we talk to respond. At the same time, talking is not the only way to express ourselves. We have non-verbal ways to communicate, including a big grin of joy or excitement, rolling our eyes in annoyance, wide-eyed look of surprise, looking away, or any confusing combination of facial expressions. Then, there are bodily gestures, as well as sign language and use of devices instead of talking with our mouth. In these cases, we also look instead of simply listening.
[picture of hearing words, processing, then output]
Briefly, these are the areas SLPs address. We can go deeper for the many more subdomains under each of these. For now, this should be enough.
- Speech – the pronunciation of words
- Expressive Language – the content of what we say
- Receptive Language – what we understand from what others express to us, in words, gestures, or other symbols
- Voice – the quality of our voice when speaking
- Fluency – the rate and intonation of our words when we speak
I know a seasoned SLP specializing in swallow function and voice production who identifies herself as a “Swallowologist” because it defines her profession easily. [Please keep in mind that, neither swallowology or swallowologist is an official name for the profession. Not yet.]
Besides communication, SLPs also address feeding and swallowing. That is because the mechanism we use in our body to speak is the same for swallowing, or mouths, throats, and all in between. Although, not all SLPs are well trained in both areas. Some choose to focus only in communication, or the other. Some even specialize in subspecialties not mentioned here.
Speech therapy is young
The area of communication science, speech therapy, or “swallowology”, is a relatively very young field. New research, new approaches to treatment, new pieces of advice to the families come out all the time. What speech therapy is and what it could be is yet to be seen.
If you’re a parent trying to understand your family’s needs, reach out to your trusted professional. If you’re uncertain, check their certifications or ask for referrals from your trusted family doctor or teacher. Most SLPs will be happy to provide a complimentary consultation to help you help your family.
Schedule a Free Screening
To be proactive in every child’s development, we will provide free screening to children at preschools and day cares. A screening lets us know if a speech evaluation maybe needed to identify a child's communication strengths and needs.
Screenings are available in Reno, Sparks, Carson City.