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More than lisps: what do speech-language pathologists work on?

When you think of speech therapy, what do you think of?

For a lot of people, the answer is probably lisps, stuttering, or kids who say wabbit instead of rabbit.

If you thought of one of those, you’re right! We do work on those things. But it’s also much, much more than that.

Speech-language pathologists work on a very broad range of things. According to the American Speech & Hearing Association (ASHA), “The speech-language pathologist (SLP) is defined as the professional who engages in professional practice in the areas of communication and swallowing across the life span.”

That means that SLPs work with:

- Newborn babies who are having trouble coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing

- Babies who are at risk for communication and feeding challenges because of a known diagnosis/disorder, such as children with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or cleft palates

- Babies and toddlers who are not meeting communication milestones, such as babbling, using gestures, making eye contact with caregivers, and saying first words

- Young children who are not meeting milestones such as putting words together into sentences, understanding simple directions, and playing creatively

- Children, teenagers, or adults who are nonverbal or hard to understand, who might need supplementary or alternative means of communication (including high-tech or low-tech communication systems)

- Children, teenagers, or adults who have trouble making certain sounds or speaking clearly

- Children, teenagers, or adults who stutter

- Children, teenagers, and adults who can say and understand many things, but struggle with more complex language or vocabulary

- Anyone struggling with reading and writing skills

- Children, teenagers, and adults who struggle with social skills, such as understanding social rules and having conversations

- Children, teenagers, and adults who struggle with cognitive and executive functioning skills, such as attention, inhibiting impulses, and memory

- Children, teenagers, and adults who have lost communication skills, cognitive skills, or swallowing skills after an injury or stroke

- People with hearing impairments, including those with cochlear implants

- ...and much, much, much more!!

Communication is a complex thing that involves multiple systems. It requires speech sounds, vocabulary, sentence structure, cognition, and social judgment. It requires multiple muscles, nerves, and physical structures to communicate and coordinate correctly. Speech-language pathologists can help figure out which part of that process is breaking down, and then help to improve it.

If you or a loved one is struggling with any of these things-- or a lisp, stutter, or R sound-- contact a speech-language pathologist!

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