Mrs. Lindsay Combs, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech and Language Specialist
What is a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
A speech-language pathologist (in schools, often referred to a speech-language specialist or speech therapist) assesses, diagnoses, and treats people who are experiencing difficulties with speech, language, or swallowing. Speech-language pathologists can work in a wide range of settings (school, hospital, clinic, etc.) and with people of all ages demonstrating various communication difficulties. In the school setting, SLPs work with students whose speech and/or language disorders are not only affecting their ability to communicate, but also their academic success and social interactions.
How are speech and language different?
Although many people think of speech and language as the same thing, they have two very different meanings.
Speech is the verbal means of communicating and involves the coordination of the muscles and movements necessary to produce speech.
If a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she may have a speech disorder.
Language is the socially shared rule system that governs communication. Receptive language is the ability to understand what is heard or read. Expressive language is the ability to express thoughts coherently and clearly to others (verbally or in writing).
The components of language are:
If a person has difficulty understanding others’ verbal or written messages, he or she may have a receptive language disorder.
If a person has difficulty expressing a message to others verbally or in writing, he or she may have an expressive language disorder.
If a person understands language adequately and uses language correctly but has difficulty using language appropriately in different social contexts, then he or she may have a pragmatic language disorder.
SLPs can provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for individuals with severe language disorders, such as those sometimes seen in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Along with the aforementioned speech and language disorders, SLPs may also assess, diagnose, and/or provide therapy for:
Weak speech muscles, which can decrease speech intelligibility
Difficulty sequencing sounds and words to produce intelligible speech (known as ‘apraxia of speech.’)
Hearing impairment and deafness
Therapy provided is called ‘aural rehabilitation’ and can include training in auditory perception, using visual cues, improving speech, developing language, and managing communication.
SLPs can also check hearing aids and assistive listening devices as well as work with classroom teachers to develop ways to maximize the child's academic success.
Difficulty processing what the ear hears
This occurs in the ABSENCE of a hearing impairment; the brain can hear sound but how the brain translates that sound is disrupted
May result in difficulty with sound discrimination, auditory memory tasks, following auditory directions, phonics/learning to read, paying attention (especially in the presence of background noise), and auditory distractibility
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
Swallowing disorders (called ‘dysphagia’)
In addition to providing therapy, speech-language pathologists in schools evaluate newly referred students to determine the presence or absence of a communication disorder, develop and help implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and work with classroom teachers and other members of the Child Study Team to review student progress and maintain appropriate speech, language, and academic goals.
1) American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
2) National Stuttering Foundation
3) Autism Society
4) NJ Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA): Child Language Disorders
5) NJ Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA): Parent Resources