Ms. Sapienza - Speech Pathologist

  • What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

    A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly-trained

    professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who

    have difficulty with speech or language. Although people often think

    of speech and language as the same thing, the terms actually have

    very different meanings. If your child has trouble with speech, he/

    she struggles with the “how-to” of talking—the coordination of the

    muscles and movements necessary to produce speech. If your

    child has trouble with language, he/she struggles with

    understanding what he/she hears or sees. Your child may struggle

    to find the right words and/or organize those words in a meaningful

    way to communicate a message or hold a conversation.

    An SLP also evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty swallowing food

    or liquid. An SLP will help identify what part of the swallowing process is making it difficult for

    your child to eat (e.g., chewing, manipulating food with the tongue, coordinating mouth and

    throat structures and muscles, breathing appropriately while eating).

    Below is a list of common speech and language disorders with a brief explanation of each.

    Speech Disorders

    Articulation - the way we say our speech sounds

    Phonology - the speech patterns we use

    Apraxia - difficulty planning and coordinating the movements needed to make speech sounds

    Fluency - stuttering

    Voice - problems with the way the voice sounds, such as hoarseness

    Language Disorders

    Receptive Language - difficulty understanding language

    Expressive Language - difficulty using language

    Pragmatic Language - social communication; the way we speak to each other

    Other Disorders

    Deafness/Hearing Loss - loss of hearing; therapy includes developing lip-reading, speech,

    and/or alternative communication systems

    Oral-Motor Disorders - weak tongue and/or lip muscles

    Swallowing/Feeding Disorders - difficulty chewing and/or swallowing


    You can find SLPs in many different settings including schools, private clinics,

    hospitals, nursing homes, and public health agencies. In addition to these more common

    settings, you will find SLPs at universities, state and federal government agencies, health

    departments, and research laboratories. Some SLPs specialize in working with children, some

    with adults. If you suspect your child has problems with speech, language, and/or swallowing,

    you will need to choose the setting that will be most appropriate for your child.

    If you are looking for an SLP for your child, it is important to locate a certified pediatric

    speech-language pathologist. The term certified means that the American Speech-

    Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has given the SLP a Certificate of Clinical

    Competence (CCC) stating that he/she is skilled in providing therapy for speech and language

    disorders. You will know the SLP is certified if you see CCC in his/her credentials. Pediatric

    means the SLP specializes in working with children—this is important because testing

    techniques and treatment techniques are different for children and adults.

    There are several ways to find an SLP if you are concerned about your child's

    communication skills. Your school/school district should have a certified SLP that can observe

    and/or test your child for speech and language difficulties. Your local children's hospital will

    also have certified SLPs on staff. You will find them in departments such as: Department of

    Hearing and Speech, Clinic for Communication Disorders, or Developmental Clinic. Your

    family practitioner can also recommend an SLP. The American Speech-Language-Hearing

    Association (ASHA) provides a search engine to help you find a local, certified SLP in your


    The first visit to an SLP includes an evaluation. This evaluation typically consists of

    two or more standardized tests—tests that give the SLP the ability to compare your child’s

    skills to children of the same age. The SLP will ask you questions about your child’s medical

    and developmental history. Be prepared to share information about your child’s

    communication milestones. For example, you should know when your child said his/her first

    words, what kinds of gestures he/she uses to communicate, whether he/she likes to

    communicate socially or solely when he/

    she wants something, etc

    to help you brainstorm and organize the

    information an SLP may ask you as part

    of your child’s medical and

    developmental history. Research shows

    that early intervention for children with

    speech/language problems can result in

    less time in therapy.

    Where Do SLPs Work?

    How Do I Find an SLP?

    What Should I Expect at My Child’s First Appointment?

    at Questions Should I Ask the SLP?

    The SLP will ask you questions about your child’s history during the evaluation. There

    are questions you may want to ask the SLP before and/or during your child’s appointment.

    Prior to the Appointment

    What age group do you work with?

    What age and specific area (autism, fluency, deafness, early intervention, etc.) are your


    How quickly can you see my child, and what are methods of payment/funding?

    After the evaluation, is there a waiting list for treatment?

    Are you certified (have your CCCs) and licensed by the state?

    During the Appointment

    How can my child’s speech/language skills be compared to other children? How

    common/uncommon is my child’s disorder/delay?

    How frequently will he/she need therapy? How did you make this decision?

    Can I take an active role in the therapy sessions? Can I observe each therapy session?

    How will this affect my child’s education?

    How will you check my child’s progress in therapy?

    Where can I get resources to learn more about my child’s difficulties? What can I do to

    help my child with his/her difficulties?

    What will occur during therapy?

    Other Helpful Handy Handouts®Super Duper® Handy Number


    Common Speech-Language Pathology Terms

    Many words that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use are

    unique to their field and the field of special education. Being familiar with

    some of these terms can help those outside of these fields better

    understand what they may read in a report or hear at a conference.

    Difference: distinct or different variations of a language (related to

    speech production—an accent or dialect for example) (Lingling just

    moved here from China. She is learning to speak English. She has a

    speech difference.)

    Disorder: impairment; atypical language usage as compared to a person that is the same age (Juan just

    moved here from Mexico. He had trouble with grammar in Spanish and saw a Speech-Language

    Pathologist in Mexico to work on his language skills. He also has trouble with grammar in English. He has

    a language disorder.)

    Articulation: producing speech sounds (Amanda says the /s/ and /z/ sounds with a “lisp.” We work on her

    articulation, or pronunciation, in speech/language therapy sessions.)

    Phonology: how speech sounds go together/follow patterns to make words (Joey says /t/ for /k/ and /d/

    for /g/. His speech does not follow the patterns for how to correctly make the /t/ and /d/ sounds. We work

    on his phonology in speech/language therapy sessions.)

    Phonological awareness: awareness of individual sounds in spoken words as well as how those sounds

    go together and how they can be changed to make new words (Lindsey used her phonological awareness

    skills to rhyme “cat” with “bat,” “hat,” “mat,” and “sat.”)

    Phonics: relationships between written letters and their spoken sounds (In her phonics lesson, Martie

    learned that “phone” is spelled with a /ph/, not an /f/ as in “fone.”)

    Organic: the cause of impairment is known (Jimmy has cerebral palsy which affects his speech

    production. The cause of his speech errors is organic.)

    Functional: the cause of impairment is not known (Sadie has trouble pronouncing the /s/, /z/, /l/, and /r/

    sounds. We do not know of any physical reason why she has trouble with saying these sounds correctly.

    The cause of her speech errors is functional.)

    Fluency: speech that is clear, rhythmic, smooth; effortless

    or “easy” speech (Meg is working on using her “easy” speech in

    speech/language therapy sessions to help improve her fluency.)

    Dysfluency: also known as “stuttering”; speech that is disrupted

    or “bumpy” (prolongations, blocks, etc.); effortful speech (Jayson

    has trouble starting sentences when he is speaking. He says the

    first word of the sentence over and over. He has dysfluent speech.)

    Accommodations: tools or strategies put in place to help a student complete tasks/achieve goals

    (Nicholas receives accommodations such as extended time to take tests and a notetaker.)

    Modifications: actual changes made in a task, routine, etc., to help an individual complete tasks/achieve

    goals to the best level possible within the general curriculum (Sophie receives modifications such as

    shortened tests and reduced assignments in her regular classroom.)

    Syntax: grammar (Harry works on his syntax in speech/language therapy sessions. He is learning how

    to use regular and irregular verbs properly.)

    Semantics: word meaning; vocabulary (Paul has trouble with semantics, particularly knowing the

    difference between literal and figurative language. In speech/language therapy, we are working on

    understanding figurative language such as the idiom “It’s raining cats and dogs.” )

    Augmentative Communication: a device or tool that “adds to” or helps a person communicate (Josie

    only says a few words. She uses picture cards to communicate words she does not say. Using picture

    cards as augmentative communication helps her parents and teachers know what she needs and wants,

    “ice cream” for example.)

    Alternative Communication: a new/different type of communication that replaces another form of

    communication (speaking) (Mark is unable to speak. He has an electronic board that talks for him. He

    types what he wants to say in his alternative communication device then hits “play” to have the device

    say what he wrote.)

    Oral: refers to spoken language; or can refer to the mouth (Maggie has to give an oral presentation in her

    social studies class tomorrow.)

    Aural: refers to the ear or the sense of hearing (Maggie’s classmates will listen to her presentation


    Fluency vs. Dysfluency

    Accommodattiions vs. Modifications

    Syntax vs. Semantics

    Augmentative Communication vs. Alternative Communication

    Oral vs . Aural

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    HelpfuGood communication depends on good articulation skills. Articulation refers to the production of speech sounds. When a child has difficulty producing specific sounds, speech intelligibility decreases, and the listener may not understand the child’s intended message. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) works with a child to help him/her produce sounds correctly. They may work on individual sounds in isolation or sounds in syllables, words, phrases, or sentences. The ultimate goal is to help a child correctly produce speech sounds spontaneously at the conversational level. The SLP may send practice work home for the parents to complete with their child. Homework activities provide opportunities for a child to practice speech in a more natural environment with the encouragement and support of family.

    Following is a list of homework suggestions so that a child may practice speech in everyday situations and environments. Incorporate these simple suggestions at home to help your child practice speech sounds in a functional way. Be sure to follow the guidance of the SLP that is working with your child when implementing these—and any other—practice exercises.

    Homework Suggestions – Word/Phrase/Sentence Level Activities (adapted from ARtIC LAB®):

    1. Practice your /l/ words 25 times while getting dressed for school.

    2. Practice your /r/ phrases 25 times on your way to school or on your way home.

    3. Practice your /s/ sentences while shopping at the grocery store with your parent(s).

    4. Practice your for five minutes before or after dinner.

    5. Practice your 25 times before turning off the light to go to bed.

    6. Practice your with a brother/sister for five minutes.

    7. Practice your words while taking a bath.

    8. Practice your during commercials of one TV show.

    9. Practice your 25 times before or after playing video games.

    10. Practice your 25 times before brushing your teeth.

    11. Practice your while riding your bike. &