SLP Jenn working with parents

Pine Cone Health

What is Speech-Language Pathology – Who SLPs Are and What They Do

When I was growing up, the mention of speech therapy conjured up images of someone helping a child with their “r” sound
and an endless sea of flash cards. Many people wonder what is speech-language pathology?
While speech-language pathologists certainly help people work on specific sounds, they also do so much more. 
In this post, I will address some commonly asked questions about speech-language pathologists and speech therapy. 

What is a speech-language pathologist and what do they do? 

Speech-language pathologists are involved in the prevention, identification, and treatment of 
communication and swallowing disorders. More specifically, we help people with: 
  • Speech sounds (how we say sounds and put sounds together to form words) 
  • Understanding and using language (this includes, but is not limited to, understanding directions, answering questions, and forming sentences)
  • Stuttering
  • Social skills
  • Voice
  • Feeding and swallowing  
While speech-language pathologists work directly with their clients and patients, they also 
provide counselling about communication and swallowing challenges, coach family members/caregivers,
and create environmental supports. 
Speech-language pathologists work with infants, children, and adults in a variety of settings. These settings 
include homes, hospitals, schools, community health centers, and long-term care facilities.  

Is there a difference between a speech therapist and a speech-language pathologist? 

No, there isn’t! Speech-language pathologists can also be called speech pathologists or SLPs. All these titles/designations
refer to the same profession and are protected in legislation. Only qualified individuals, who have a master’s, doctorate,
or equivalent degree, can use these titles.  
In Alberta, all speech-language pathologists must be registered with the Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists
and Audiologists (ACSLPA) to practice. You can verify a speech language pathologist’s registration here.

How do I know if my child needs speech therapy? 

There is information about milestones for children from birth to five that can be found here 
Information for children in early elementary can be found here.
If your child is not meeting several milestones or is demonstrating any of the warning signs, they may benefit from speech therapy.  

When does my child need to start therapy? 

Phrases I sometimes hear are “I talked to my spouse/parents/doctor and they said he’ll probably outgrow it”
or “My family said my uncle didn’t talk until he was five years old.” So can speech therapy wait?  
A large body of research has shown the wait-and-see approach is outdated. Early intervention is key during the critical
learning years (from birth to five years of age) and can boost long-term outcomes for children.
As the saying goes  an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you have concerns, trust your parental gut.
Reach out to a speech-language pathologist with any questions you may have and discuss your options.  

How long does a child need therapy?

The short answer to this question is no one knows. There are several factors that can affect how long therapy can take
including the nature of your child’s speech/language/communication challenges, the severity of these challenges,
whether there are other considerations (e.g., learning or behavior challenges), and parent involvement.    

What does therapy look like? 

If your therapist uses a play-based approach, your child may not even realize that therapy is happening!
Therapy goals are weaved into play through natural opportunities created by the speech-language pathologist.
During the session, your therapist will identify the targeted skills and can show you how to use similar activities at home.
After receiving services, you will have more tools to self-manage and the knowledge you need to advocate for your child.  

Next Steps 

Pine Cone Health is here to partner with you! If you have any questions or would like more 
information about speech therapy feel free to contact us. 
Call us today for a Free Assessment to learn if Speech-Language Pathology is right for you!