Hello Everyone! My name is Sierra McAuliffe and I am one of the speech language pathologist (SLP) at the Winona center. I recently transferred to Partners in Excellence in late October but have been in the field for three years after obtaining my master’s degree. May is a very special month for me and my fellow SLPs because it is…

Better Speech and Hearing Month!

Having the month of May devoted to Better Speech and Hearing provides the opportunity to bring awareness to the various speech and language disorders one may experience and the roles SLPs play in evaluation and treatment. Often when people hear the term, SLPs or speech therapists, they might assume: “Oh, you correct speech sounds like “r” and lisps”. This, no doubt, is part of our job description, however, correcting speech sound productions is just one small element to our entire scope of practice. ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) developed nine standards based on knowledge and skill achievement (KASA) in order to help people and SLPS better understand their roles in evaluation and treatment across the many elements to the field of communication sciences and disorders. These standards are referred to as the BIG 9 of Speech Therapy which include the following:

  1. Articulation

The role of a SLP when targeting articulation is to assess a child’s ability to functionally create individual speech sounds and determine overall intelligibility (how easily the child is understood). If speech sound errors are observed, the SLP will then provide treatment by providing instruction on placement of articulators (lips, tongue, teeth, hard and soft palate) to correctly produce specific speech sounds. Choosing sounds to target are impacted based on sound development norms since some sounds are mastered earlier in development such as /m, p, b, and d/ vs later developing sounds such as /r, l, and th/.

  • Fluency

Fluency refers to the rate, effort and smoothness in ability to speak. SLPs often work on fluency when assisting individuals who have fluency disorders, the most common being stuttering. Stuttering can be characterized by the interruption in the flow of speaking distinguished by specific patterned disfluencies such as repetitions, prolongations, blocks, and interjections. SLPs focus on providing education in the use of strategies to reduce moments of stuttering as well as counseling to deal with the social, psychological and emotional implications when experiencing fluency disorders.

  • Voice and Resonance

Voice therapy looks at the diagnosis, assessment, planning and treatment of individuals with voice disorders. SLPs are trained to evaluate voice use and provide the specialized treatment for maintaining and enhancing voice production. SLPs are also involved in providing education regarding preventative measures one can take to reduce risk of voice disorders.   

  • Receptive and Expressive Language

Receptive and expressive language therapy is looking at how an individual understands and uses language effectively. Speech therapy for receptive and expressive language focuses on giving each individual the tools and strategies they need to communicate their needs, thoughts, and ideas to the world. Every treatment plan a SLP creates needs to be customized for their patient due to every person having unique needs when it comes to their language and communication.

  • Hearing

SLPs primary role when working with individuals with hearing impairments is to help the patient and their family members on their communication journey. This includes helping individuals and family members understand how the hearing loss will impact their ability to learn to communicate in different settings, and how to help teach others about the hearing loss. SLPs often work closely with audiologist and other healthcare providers as a collaborative team to best serve people with hearing losses.

  • Swallowing

SLPs receive special education in both feeding and swallowing and have advanced knowledge of these processes to best serve individuals with swallowing and feeding impairments. SLPs receive training and education to better understand the anatomy of the mouth and throat to understand the mechanisms behind chewing and swallowing and how to know when there is a swallowing or feeding impairment. Specific training includes how to provide education for preventative measures to reduce swallow/feeding deficits, integrate a wide array of foods for individuals with food aversions and sensory deficits into their diet, and provide treatment to improve overall swallow safety.

  • Cognitive Assessments of Communication

SLPs scope of practice also includes treating individuals with cognitive impairments. Areas of focus in treatment include attention, concentration, orientation, word retrieval and executive functioning including problem solving and reasoning. Typical goals for SLPs while working with individuals with cognitive impairments, especially in the older population, is to allow them to maintain highest level of independence while maintaining safety in everyday life.

  • Social Aspects of Communication

SLPs help people with social communication problems in both children and adults. Treating social communication must be heavily individualized due to the complex nature of social communication and how it changes from situation to situation. The SLP must keep in mind the different aspects of social communication including: ability to jointly attend to a task, turn taking, eye contact, maintaining personal space, following directions, following rules of a game, understanding sportsmanship, understanding and regulating emotions, and use of spoken languages based on environment and type of interaction required in a given situation.

  • Communication Modalities

Multi-modal communication, in simple terms, is describing all the different ways we communicate with each other in everyday situations. This can be seen as spoken language, texting, emailing, handwriting, body language, gesturing, and/or use of a communication device. It is the job of an SLP to determine the best form of communication/combination of communication strategies for the individuals we treat that will allow them to most easily and effectively communicate wants and needs.

The Big 9 of Speech Therapy helps us better understand the many hats a SLP wears and the wide expansion of our scope of practice within our field of work. SLPs are more than just people  who help children improve how they talk. We play an important role in everyday living, improving one’s confidence, and maintaining overall safety. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about SLPs and to help us all celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month! If you have any questions, please reach out to any SLP at Partners in Excellence!