What Is Speech-Language Pathology Anyway?
Speech-language pathologist, or SLP, is the professional name for speech therapist. SLPs work in hospitals, schools, and private practice to treat people of all ages with a variety of communication needs. As experts on vocal cords and other structures in the throat, SLPs in the medical setting also treat disordered swallowing. SLPs hold either a master’s degree or a doctorate degree from a university that is accredited by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). State licenses are necessary in order to practice. In California, SLP practices are regulated by The Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board, and the specifics may vary from those in other states.
What is a speech-language pathology assistant?
A speech-language pathology assistant, or SLPA (referred to as a "slippa"), has a similar job to assistants in allied fields (like occupational therapy assistants, or physical therapy assistants). SLPAs are highly trained in providing direct speech-language serves. In other words, they are licensed to run speech therapy sessions and activities in order to help people meet their communication goals. Each SLPA has a designated supervising SLP, who will administer assessments, make diagnoses, council families, and support the SLPA. Together, SLPs and SLPAs collaborate to provide high quality services.
What exactly is communication?
Communication is the exchange of ideas between beings (in our case, human). We typically think about it as being verbal (meaning word-based, such as talking and writing), however it is actually a much broader system. If you imagine yourself in an emergency situation with someone who speaks a different language, how would you communicate? Facial expressions, gestures, imitating environmental noises, placing stress on certain words - these are also considered to be communicative.
What is language?
Language is the symbolic representation of ideas. It is symbolic, because ideas are infinite and abstract. We have to take our thoughts and convert them into consistent, meaningful words so that other people can translate them into their own thoughts correctly. Language can be expressive (writing, talking, making gestures, etc.) or receptive (reading, listening, understanding gestures).
What is speech?
Speech describes the motor process (muscle movements) of producing sounds and words. For example, in order to say “pop”, my lips start together, then my mouth opens wide and comes back together again. While the word itself is a part of language, the controlled movement of the mouth is a motor function, which is controlled by a specific part of the brain. In speech-language therapy, people can be treated for speech, language, or both.
What is Assisstive Technology?
As described in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) of 2004, assistive technology (AT) "is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a (person) with a disability". Examples of AT are: prosthetic shoes; wheelchairs; hearing aids; augmentative and alternative communication devices; closed captions.
What is AAC?
According to ASHA, augmentative and alternative communication (referred to as AAC) " includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write." Less commonly, when people have more profound speech or language difficulties we might introduce a number of technology-based (also known as aided) AAC options. For example, the exchange of picture symbols is commonly used by people who are non-verbal (unable to speak). The most widely known system for picture exchange is PECS. Other options are computerized and produce voice output to speak for the person. For more information, see ASHA's website, or feel free to leave us a question in the comment section.
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So, you're a speech-language pathologist? I know exactly what that is... said no one ever.