Help with Speech-Language Disorders
By Danielle Moore, MS Ed, CCC-SLP
For many years, when people thought about speech and language pathologists, they thought about the women who worked with students on saying their “R” or “S” sound in that tiny room in the back of their elementary school. Well, times have changed, and you will find that they, in fact, do a great deal more than that! To find out how your child might benefit from a Speech-Language Pathologist’s (SLPs) help, read on to have a better understanding of the scope of what they truly do:
Articulation – SLPs work with individuals on articulating their speech sounds correctly. When children of a certain age say “Wabbit” for “Rabbit,” that is when you call in your local SLP.
Expressive Language – SLPs work to improving overall expressive language, which includes being able to correctly describe objects or concepts, retell a story or narrative, describe similarities or differences, and orally explain a logical sequence of events.
Stuttering/Fluency – SLPs have the unique training to work with people who are trying to overcome stuttering or the inability to speak fluently. Fluency is the involuntary motor speech act of not being able to speak fluently. In the movie The King’s Speech, the role of the SLP was highlighted by the actor Geoffrey Rush as a man who helped a King “overcome his stammer.” SLPs can specialize in this area of helping people of all ages with fluency disorders, which can be a debilitating communication disorder in people’s lives.
Auditory Processing – Auditory processing is the fancy way of describing “how the brain hears a message.” An individual may have a perfectly functioning ear with “normal hearing,” but could still have difficulty with auditory processing. Improving auditory processing skills includes working on improving overall auditory memory, auditory sequencing, auditory cohesion, and more. It’s good to remember that the diagnosis of a (central) auditory processing disorder comes from an audiologist. The SLP is the professional that works with the person after that diagnosis.
Pragmatic Language and Social Skills Training – Pragmatic Language refers to the overall social or conversational skills that a person demonstrates in everyday life situations. SLPs may run a “lunch bunch” in schools or social skills groups with other professionals in a private practice or counseling office. Some individuals that may or may not be on the autism spectrum may need some help with navigating the social world of their peers. This may include eye contact, eye gaze, starting a conversation, knowing how to maintain a conversation (topic maintenance), turn-taking in a conversation, greetings, and farewells.
Phonemic Awareness – Before you learn to read, you have to know the letters of the alphabet and the sounds each letter can make. Once you have this knowledge, you can begin to blend sounds together to make words. Individuals with communication disorders may also have difficulty in the area of phonemic awareness (identifying and knowing the sounds a letter makes). SLPs help those who are having difficulty making that jump into reading by working on their overall phonemic awareness abilities.
Reading Comprehension – The ability to understand what is being read, not just reading words on a page, is reading comprehension. Many times, students with communication disorders have been reluctant readers or are a grade level or two behind on their reading abilities. Being able to comprehend or understand what happens in a story is a crucial part of academic and job success. Strategies for reading comprehension can be part of a treatment plan for students with diagnosed reading disorders, such as dyslexia, or students who have been identified as “struggling readers.”
Writing Disorders – Individuals may be diagnosed with a written expression disorder by a psychologist or a SLP. This describes the inability or difficulty in getting down ideas or thoughts in your head to a tablet, computer, or paper. This can happen in short answer questions on a science test or when writing a thesis for your PhD in astrophysics. A SLP provides strategies for getting thoughts down on paper and for organizing and sequencing ideas into grammatically correct sentences, paragraphs, and essays. The use of cognitive organizers, such as “mind maps,” can be very helpful in getting ideas out in written form.
Executive Functioning – According to Dr. Mark Ylvisaker, my dearly departed communication disorders and sciences professor, from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, it is the position of the American Speech and Hearing Association “that speech-language pathologists play a primary role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of infants, children, adolescents, and adults with cognitive-communication disorders. This position statement defines the roles of speech-language pathologists in the evaluation and management of individuals with communication disorders associated with cognitive impairments and clarifies the scope and rationale for these services.” Executive functioning can affect all ages of individuals, and these functions include planning, organizing, execution of tasks, and monitoring of progress. Difficulties in planning and organization can often emerge in middle school and high school as the demands of both language and organization become overwhelming for some. A SLP can help with identifying these issues, as well as providing strategies for the student, teachers, and parents to help with the improvement of these skills. #
Courtesy of Kids Enabled and Danielle Moore, MS Ed, CCC-SLP. She is a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association.