What The Heck Is A Speech-Language Pathologist?
I get this question a lot when talking about my work. Or my favorite follow-up question: "So your job is to teach kids to pronounce words?" When I explain that, no, I work primarily with adults, the question that follows is: "Why would an adult need speech therapy?"
My answer: "How much time do you have?"
The title "Speech-Language Pathologist" (or SLP) doesn't quite cover it all. I was once gifted a messenger bag that read "Speech-Language Pathologist" on one side and on the other: "Because Speech-Language-Hearing-Resonance-Voice-Swallowing-Fluency-Pragmatics-Cognitive-Communication-Modalities Pathologist wouldn't fit on my ID badge". I laughed out loud when I read it, and that wasn't even a complete list.
I believe that due to the misconceptions or lack of knowledge the general public have about the services speech-language pathologists can provide, adults often don't get access to help when they need it most. And I don't blame them; I knew absolutely nothing of speech-language pathology prior to falling in love with the field in a phonetics course in college.
However these conditions are more universal than one might think. Have you ever experienced or known someone who experienced memory, attention, or organization difficulties after a concussion? An increase in choking and coughing with food and water after a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis? Changes in social skills or impulsivity after a major car accident? A perpetual feeling that what you want to say is on the tip of your tongue after a stroke? A persisting hoarseness in your voice weeks after shouting at the top of your lungs at a concert or coughing from a bad bout of the flu? Call an SLP.
Speech-language pathologists can evaluate and treat adults with the following conditions:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or concussion
- Parkinson's Disease
- Huntington's Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cancer of the head, neck, or throat
- Learning Disorders such as dyslexia or attention deficits
- Developmental Disorders
- Individuals with hearing loss and/or cochlear implants
- Individuals seeking foreign accent reduction for the workplace
- Individuals seeking transgender-specific voice training
- Lots, lots, lots more!
Independent of diagnosis or condition, SLP's are able to treat the following areas in adults:
- Expressive language: the words we choose to express ourselves
- Receptive language: how well we understand others
- Literacy: our reading and writing skills
- Speech sounds: how we produce and put together sounds in words
- Cognition: our thinking skills, including memory, attention, reasoning, and judgement
- Fluency: how smooth our speech is; otherwise known as stuttering or stammering
- Pragmatics: our social skills and how well we follow rules in social communication
- Swallowing: how safely and efficiently we chew, suck, and swallow liquids and food
Whew! And this is far from an exhaustive list.
My point? If you or a loved one is struggling with one of the issues listed above, don't wait to get help. Speech-language pathologists can help with so much more than speech.
-Dr. Taylor Hickok, DBH, CCC-SLP