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"But my speech is fine...." 12 ways speech language pathologists help patients achieve goals



It's a common myth speech language pathologists (SLPs) only address speech impairments, but don't let the title fool you. Fact is, you'll find SLPs providing a variety of services to individuals across the lifespan and in various settings including: clinics, schools, hospitals, nursing facilities, patient homes, correctional facilities, and even online through teletherapy. Check out 12 areas where SLPs lend their skills to help patients achieve their goals.




Speech Production

Happy, white female speech language pathologist next to happy, older, white, female patient in wheelchair

SLPs are well known for their work with individuals to improve articulation skills after a stroke as well as a neurological disease progresses. Therapy targets speech motor planning skills to help individuals speak more clearly.


 

Language

Older black man in wheelchair.  Younger, black, female healthcare clinician kneeling next to him and providing care


As the title implies, SLPs also help individuals understand and use language to meet basic needs, express thoughts and opinions, and connect with family and friends. Therapy may target understanding written and spoken word, as well as, using language to create written and spoken responses.



 

Social Interactions

Three older, white men sitting outdoors socializing and laughing

Pragmatics is the use and understanding of language in social situations. SLPs help individuals navigate social interactions. Therapy may target facial expressions, body language, turn-taking during conversation, and how words and phrases can mean different things in different settings.


 

Executive Function

Older, Asian husband and wife couple working together on household budget at kitchen table

An umbrella term used to describe a set of skills, executive function refers to problem solving, reasoning, planning, organization, self-control, and mental flexibility skills. Therapy may target life skills including paying bills in a timely manner, scheduling appointments, adapting recipes or travel plans, and creating strategies to promote better health and medication adherence.


 

Memory

One lit lightbulb surrounded in a circular fashion by 6 unlit lightbulbs

Memory allows information to be processed, stored, and recalled at a later date to complete many activities of daily life. Therapy may target improving any of the main types of memory: working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.



 

Voice Characteristics

Professional microphone in a sound booth

A voice is as unique as an individual. Sometimes injury, misuse, disease, or a misaligned gender can change how the voice sounds and is interpreted by others. Therapy may target vocal characteristics including pitch, volume, smoothness and effort while limiting harmful vocal behaviors.



 

Fluency

Older, white woman giving a presentation to peers.

Fluency (sometimes referred to as stuttering) describes the smoothness, rate, and flow of connected speech and can at times affect an individual's perceptions on ability to effectively communicate. Therapy may target excessive tension, secondary mannerisms, and struggle behaviors.


 

Information Processing

Black man taking an online class is listening, processing information, and learning

Information processing disorders may or may not be related to hearing loss and affect the way an individual receives and decodes spoken word. Therapy may target listening strategies, modifying the listening environment, visual and written aids, and self-advocacy.


 

Communication Devices

Older, black  husband and wife couple out at restaurant enjoying meal.  Wife is using communication device (AAC) to communicate with husband

For individuals with difficulties communicating out loud, communication devices provide a way to connect with family, friends, and the world around. Therapy may target device selection, device training and using device in daily situations.



 

Eating and Drinking

Birds-eye view of restaurant table full of sandwiches.  Four individuals preparing to eat the food

Dysphagia (dis-FAY-zhuh) is the medical term for difficulty swallowing and in serious cases, can affect an individual's ability to enjoy foods and liquids or ability to meet their nutritional needs. Therapy may target muscle strengthening, positioning strategies, and diet modifications.


 

Accent Shaping

Chalkboard with greetings in various languages written on it

Accents are a natural and normal part of spoken language. Sometimes individuals will seek the service of SLPs to help emphasize or minimize features of an existing or new accent. Services may target vowel and consonant formations, listener effort level for comprehension, and overall intelligibility.


 

Alternative Voicing

Older, white man post laryngectomy.  Lary tube with HME attached for communication

For individuals who no longer have their voice box (larynx), SLPs can help them find a new way for voice production. Therapy may target trialing external and internal devices, device troubleshooting strategies, and minimizing breakdowns in communication.






More than just helping a child say "R", SLPs provide an array of skills in numerous settings to help individuals achieve their communication, cognitive, and swallowing goals. And who knows, maybe one day there will be a name tag big enough to fit speech-language-communication-oral-neuro-voice-accent-pragmatic-swallowologist.


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