May is Better Speech and Hearing Month

by Katharine Elsbree M.S., CCC/SLP

With May flowers comes a special time of year for speech-language pathologists…Better Hearing and Speech Month.  This annual event provides our profession opportunities to raise awareness about communication disorders and to promote treatment that can improve the quality of life for those who experience problems with speaking, understanding, or hearing.

When I tell people that I am a speech-language pathologist, I get many similar questions and responses like, how is that different than a speech therapist, or a speech teacher?  So you work with speech? And, my personal favorite…”Ooooh.  So what are you doing this weekend?”

In reality, unless people received speech therapy themselves or know someone that has, they probably don’t know exactly what we do.  We DO work with speech…AND so much more.  SLP’s (as we are called) need a Masters degree and a huge amount of knowledge before they can practice in the “real world.”  Our scope of practice includes working with people from neonates to geriatrics and all ages in between.  Our client’s communication problems may be caused by a wide range of problems from developmental disabilities to neurological disease/dysfunction to genetic disorders.  And if that isn’t hard enough to grasp (let alone learn!), here is a list of the types of problems we are trained to improve…

Speech sound production (articulation, apraxia of speech, dysarthria, ataxia, dyskinesia)

Resonance (hypernasality, hyponasality, cul-de-sac resonance, mixed resonance)

Voice (phonation quality, pitch, loudness, respiration)

Fluency (stuttering, cluttering)

Language comprehension and expression (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics- language use, social aspects of communication, literacy- reading, writing, spelling, prelinguistic communication- joint attention, intentionality, communicative signaling, paralinguistic communication

Cognition (attention, memory, sequencing, problem solving, executive functioning)

Feeding and swallowing (oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, orofacial myology including tongue thrust, oral-motor functions)

No wonder most of our families thought we had disappeared during our graduate school years!  Overall as a group, we don’t complain (much!)…we love what we do.  We love figuring out where skills are breaking down to help build a bridge to the next level, we love finding just the right toy /game/material to motivate a child to push on, and we love working with our families to (hopefully) improve their lives outside of therapy.   So three cheers for SLPs!

For more info and fun, check out the BHSM activities on our website!