What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?
Speech-language pathologists (often referred to as
an SLP) are professionals who assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent disorders
related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency.
Speech-language pathologists work with people with a variety of conditions. These
may include the following: difficulty producing speech sounds, conditions such as
stuttering, voice disorders, difficulty understanding and expressing language, and
those with cognitive impairments. Speech-language pathologists may also specialize
in working with people who have swallowing difficulties or aversions to specific
foods/food textures and also those who wish to improve their communication skills
by modifying an accent.
Speech-language pathology practice is regulated by
the laws of the individual states. However, by 2006, the minimal requirements to
be a certified speech-language pathologist member of the American Speech-Language
Hearing Association are as follows: a graduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology,
which typically entails two years of post graduate work; a completed clinical fellowship
year; and passing the Praxis Series examination. A person who has achieved certification
by ASHA is typically noted as carrying one's "C's" (Certificate of Clinical
Competence). It is noted after an SLP's name as: CCC-SLP.
How do I know if my child needs to see a speech-language pathologist?
Communication skills vary greatly among children of
all ages. Factors such as ear fluid, ear infections, frequent illnesses, developmental
delays, and various other medical conditions may contribute to a child’s language
or articulation (speech sound) development being delayed or impaired. Speech language
pathologists often treat children with difficulties with the following conditions
(see below for an explanation of these conditions): receptive language, expressive
language, articulation, stuttering, or social language skills. A speech-language
pathology evaluation should take place if there are concerns regarding any these
What is the difference between speech and language?
Speech is the sounds we make and how we pronounce
our sounds. Difficulty with speech sound production is often referred to as an articulation
disorder (difficulty forming sounds). Examples of articulation errors include the
following: saying “cat” as “tat,” saying “rabbit” as “wabbit.” A child who is unable
to produce age appropriate sounds correctly may have a speech disorder.
Language refers to rules within a society of how to
express one’s self. Language involves the meaning of words, grammar rules (i.e.
run vs. running), word order in a sentence, and how to use sentences to get one’s
desired results. A child who has difficulty understanding others (receptive language)
or expressing his/her thoughts/needs (expressive language) may have a language disorder.
What is receptive language?
Receptive language refers to a person’s ability to
understand what is being said to him/her. A child with receptive language difficulties
(can also be referred to as auditory comprehension difficulties) has difficulties
comprehending, retaining, attending to, and processing spoken language.
Some signs that a child with a receptive language disorder or delay may include:
Difficulty following directions and instructions
Difficulty answering questions appropriately
Repeating words or phrases that she/he has just heard (echolalia)
Difficulty attending to what is being said
Often asks for clarification or to have questions/directions repeated
Frequent use of phrases “I don’t know” or “I forget”
Compiled from www.kidspeech.com and
Q. What is an expressive language?
Expressive language is a person’s ability to communicate
(express) with others. The ability of a child to express his/her wants/needs/thoughts
is a crucial part of development. A person with an expressive language disorder
may understand what is being said to her/him, although she/he is not able to communicate
her/his own words or sentences effectively.
Some signs that a young child with an expressive language disorder or delay may
Limited or reduced talking
Difficulty remembering words/naming objects/word retrieval deficits
Poor syntax (grammar)
Vocabulary seems behind that of same age peers
Problems making complex sentences
Compiled from www.kidspeech.com,
www.asha.com, and www.nlm.nih.gov
My child is beginning to stutter. Should I be concerned?
Although some children do go through a phase of stuttering
which discontinues (especially during the preschool years), some children do not
outgrow this difficulty with smooth, fluent communication. It is the job of a speech-language
pathologist to look for other associated risk factors that may make it more or less
likely that stuttering will continue. As explained by ASHA (make this a link to
these risk factors may include a family history of stuttering, stuttering that has
continued for 6 months or more, presence of another speech or language disorder,
and/or fears or apprehension regarding stuttering by the child and/or family. Concerns
regarding stuttering should be discussed with your physician, and a speech-language
evaluation should be requested.
How do I know if my child’s speech and language is on track?
Per ASHA (link to www.asha.org)
below is a list of typical speech, language and hearing milestones for young children.
What the child should understand and hear
What the child can express
3 months of age
- Startles to loud sounds
- Quiets or smiles when spoken to
- Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying
- Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound
- Makes pleasure sounds (cooing)
- Cries differently for different needs
- Smiles when sees you
4 to 6 months of age
- Moves eyes in direction of sounds
- Responds to changes in tone of your voice
- Notices toys that make sounds
- Pays attention to music
- Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including
p, b and m
- Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
- Makes gurgling sounds when left alone and when playing with you
7 to 12 months of age
- Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
- Turns and looks in direction of sounds
- Listens when spoken to
- Recognizes words for common items like "cup," "shoe,"
- Begins to respond to requests (e.g. "Come here" or "Want
- Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as "tata
- Uses speech or noncrying sounds to get and keep attention
- Imitates different speech sounds
- Has one or two words (bye-bye, dada, mama), although they may
not be clear
1 to 2 years of age
- Points to a few body parts when asked
- Follows simple commands and understands simple questions ("Roll
the ball," "Kiss the baby," "Where's your shoe?")
- Listens to simple stories, songs and rhymes
- Points to pictures in a book when named
- Says more words every month.
- Uses some one- or two-word questions ("Where kitty?"
"Go bye-bye?" "What's that?")
- Puts two words together ("more cookie," "no juice,"
- Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words
2 to 3 years of age
- Understands differences in meaning ("go-stop," "in-on,"
- Follows two requests ("Get the book and put it on the table")
- Has a word for almost everything
- Uses two- or three-word "sentences" to talk about and
ask for things
- Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time
- Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them
3 to 4 years of age
- Hears you when you call from another room
- Hears television or radio at the same loudness level as other
- Understands simple "wh" (who, what, where, why) questions
- Talks about activities at school or at friends' homes
- Speaks clearly enough that people outside of the family usually
understand his/her speech
- Uses a lot of sentences that have four or more words
- Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words
4 to 5 years of age
- Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about
- Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school
- Makes voice sounds clear like other children's
- Uses sentences that give lots of details (e.g., "I like to
read my books")
- Tells stories that stick to topic
- Communicates easily with other children and adults
- Says most sounds correctly (except perhaps certain ones such as
l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th)
- Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family
If you have concerns regarding your child’s communication, please communicate your
concerns with Dr. White or your child’s primary care physician. A speech-language
pathology evaluation should be requested.
Other important links:
Links to activities that parents can begin at home to facilitate speech and language