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S is for Super Hero

Does anyone else grow tired of explaining who we are & what we do, essentially justifying our worth within the professions? I know many of you reading this are in the field of Speech Language Pathology, and have been met with this challenge. We understand it’s natural for people to draw conclusions about what we do, frequently eliciting the image of a Speech Therapist working with a small child, perhaps addressing a lisp. However, we also understand this is a gross oversimplification of the depth and breadth of what we do because our field is SO broad!

Here is a handy dandy explanation of Speech Language Pathology. Please feel free to share this however and with whomever you wish!

What is a Speech Language Pathologist? The very essence of what we do is to help people communicate. We believe that communication is a human right, accessible for all, and we seek to empower those with communication challenges to be better heard and understood. We do all the things people typically think of when they hear the term “Speech Therapist.”

However, did you know that the “S” in SLP actually stands for super hero? Here’s why:

The American Speech and Hearing Association states, “Speech Language Pathologists, also called SLP’s, are experts in communication.

SLP’s work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLP’s treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. These include challenges with the following:

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

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

Social communication—how we follow rules, such as 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 in terms of quality, volume, and stamina. We may sound hoarse, lose our voices easily, talk too loudly or through our noses, or be totally unable to make sounds.

Fluency—is how speech flows. Someone with a stutter 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 many outgrow it without needing speech therapy.

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

Swallowing—SLP’s are often the preferred provider for diagnosis and treatment of Dysphagia, also known as a swallowing disorder. SLP’s are an integral member of an inter-professional team of people, addressing challenges with chewing and swallowing from infancy through adulthood.”

Wow. See? Super hero.

Let’s break this down a bit.

First - “Experts in communication.” Ok, whoa. Sometimes I’m not so sure if I would call myself an expert in communication and my husband might not always agree with that either! LOL 😊 However, at the end of the day I am astonished at how many different communication-related questions and concerns we address, for all ages. Do you find yourself analyzing the journalists’ voice? Or trying to discern why the grocery clerk uses that distinct intonation pattern? Perhaps you’re meeting someone for the first time and find yourself assessing their processing time when they respond to your question? Ok, I digress. The point is we really are experts in communication and oftentimes we don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve for having such a tremendous amount of knowledge.

Second - “SLPs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults.” Many SLP’s are generalists (especially the rural SLP’s who work in clinics, hospitals or private practices). It’s pretty amazing to see an infant for a feeding disorder one hour then switch to seeing a 70-year-old with a cognitive disorder in the next hour. Phew!! This “code switching” can be challenging and requires a high level of expertise. Pretty remarkable.

Third - “SLPs treat many types of communication and swallowing problems.” It’s that term “swallowing problems” that throws people for a loop. We must patiently wade our way through comments such as “I don’t need to see you because I can talk just fine!” to provide the education that may ultimately become life altering for someone who is experiencing difficulty swallowing. After all, humans only need to swallow an average of 500 times in a 24-hour period, right?! It’s a darn good thing SLP’s are around to assist with that.

In future posts we’ll take a deeper dive into specific communication and swallowing problems, but let’s all agree the “S” really does stand for super hero!

Take care my friends,


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