For the past few weeks, I’ve been waffling on what topic to write my first blog post. I had lots of ideas (some forthcoming, don’t worry!). However, the other night, as we were getting ready for bed, I was talking to my husband about something speech-related. Somewhere in the conversation, I asked, “Do you know what I do…?”
He replied, “Yes, of course I do. You help kids speak better.”
While true, I realized that even my dear husband, who supported me through three years of graduate school and practically earned his M.A, CCC-SLP along side of me, didn’t know the breadth of treatment coverage SLPs have. I thought to myself, “Hm. Other people might not know either.” Thus, I thought it appropriate to take a moment to share with all of you what it is, exactly, SLPs “do!”.
While SLPs are typically thought to be school employees, we can work in a variety of different settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43% of SLPs work in educational settings (schools, early intervention, etc.), 20% in private practice (like Duncan Lake Speech Therapy!) either with or without other therapists, 14% in hospitals or medical settings, 5% in skilled nursing facilities, and 5% are self-employed. Sometimes, SLPs work in multiple settings at a time. I, for one, work in a public school while doing a private clinic at the same time. Even within the same setting, an SLP might do a million different things. For instance, an SLP can work in a hospital, treating outpatient pediatric clients, while also working in acute rehabilitation for stroke patients and in the NICU babies. That’s what makes this job so great – we have a lot of flexibility to be able to help a lot of different people.
WHAT DO WE DO?
The job of an SLP is to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a variety of disorders in a variety of areas to all ages, children and adults. I had a classmate in graduate school joke that we “treat anything from the neck up.” She was correct! Some of the areas we cover are:
Speech disorders, or disorders involving the production of speech sounds, voice, or fluency (stuttering). This is typically what people think of when they think of SLPs – helping people correct articulation errors and stutters. It also involves treatment of prevention of voice problems, like vocal nodules.
Language disorders, or difficulties with one’s ability to understand or express language. This can be in any form – written or spoken.
Social communication disorders, or disorders involving one’s ability to use social language, both verbal and non-verbal. This could be anything from understanding social cues to telling coherent and logical stories.
Cognitive-communication impairments commonly occur in individuals following a brain injury, stroke, or degenerative disease. They can also occur as a result of diagnoses such as cognitive impairment or ADHD. These impairments include difficulty with memory, organization, problem solving, and attention.
Swallowing/feeding disorders…who knew SLPs treated this! SLPs can help to alleviate swallowing and feeding difficulties following a stroke, brain injury, or as a result of a degenerative disease. NICU babies often receive SLP assistance for feeding. My intern this past semester had a big interesting in working with picky eaters.
This just brushes the tip of the iceberg. SLPs also work with individuals on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), aural rehabilitation following hearing loss, and accent modification. SLPs also offer therapy services for gender-affirming voice and communication support for transgender individuals.
WOW. THAT’S A LOT.
Yes, friends. Yes it is.
Like any other professional, SLPs tend to specialize in a few different areas. We’re good about referring to other SLPs if someone is looking for a service that might not be in our speciality area, though.
All of this is to say that SLPs can provide invaluable services to people seeking support in all areas of language and communication.