WHAT IS A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST
The short answer is that a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly-trained professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty with speech or language. However, it is important to know what it means to be a licensed speech-language pathologist before you put your trust in one to help your son/daughter.
A licensed speech-language pathologist requires a Bachelor’s Degree (which does not have to be in communication sciences) and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. The graduate curriculum includes subjects like linguistics, phonetics, anatomy, neuroanatomy, speech science, child language disorders, phonological disorders, speech, language, and hearing development across the life span, acoustics, dysphasia, aphasia, language and cognitive disorders in adults and children, research methods, hearing measurements and disorders, auditory processing, assessment and management of fluency, disorders in voice and resonance, counseling and professional issues in speech-language pathology, clinical issues in bilingualism and cultural diversity, and rehabilitative audiology. In addition to the coursework, as a graduate student, you gain clinical experience by doing both assessments and treatments under the supervision of professors often in the college clinic and experience a variety of practicum placements in the community in schools and medical settings. Prior to graduation, students need at least 400 hours experience evaluating and treating patients with communication disorders. Then, graduate students take the national exam called the Praxis Exam in Speech Language Pathology. To complete the graduate degree (depending on the college requirements), students either do a thesis or take the comprehensive exams. This completes the coursework and practicum experience required for the Master’s degree.
Following graduation, speech-language pathologists work for a year as a clinical fellow under the supervision of a licensed SLP. Once this process is complete and the year clinical fellowship is approved, the clinician is now a certified and licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. After the fellowship year, the SLP will add the CCC after their name, which stands for Certificate of Clinical Competence. SLPs work in many different settings including schools, private clinics, hospitals, universities, research labs, state and government agencies, nursing homes, and public health agencies. Some SLPs specialize in working with children, some with adults. Often times, an SLP that primarily works with children is called a pediatric SLP, this is an important distinction because testing and treatment techniques are different for children and adults.
A licensed speech-language pathologist follows the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association scope of practice guidelines for the specific roles of the SLP. CLICK HERE for more specific information and a detailed scope of practice information for SLPs. Basically, an SLP treats anyone with a communication and/or swallowing disorder/delay.
Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologists, specialize in assessing and treating
- expressive language delays
- receptive language delays
- delays or disorders in articulation and phonology
- children with feeding difficulties
- disorders in motor speech skills (i.e.,Apraxia or Dysarthria)
- oral motor skills
- children who have hearing loss
- disorders of fluency (i.e. stuttering)
- social/pragmatic skills
- children with autism spectrum
- disorders in swallowing
- voice and resonance disorders