In honour of Better Speech and Hearing Month, Lisa Abbott Moore, our resident Speech Language Pathologist, answered some common questions about speech language pathology and the work that she does to help people everyday.
Q: What is a speech language pathologist?
A: A speech language pathologist (SLP) is a highly trained professional who evaluates and treats people with a wide range of speech, voice, language, swallowing, and cognitive communication issues.
They work with all types of populations, including children, adults, seniors, cancer survivors, people with brain injuries, people who have been in car and other accidents, and transgender or transitioning clients.
Q: Why would someone go see a speech language pathologist?
A: I see clients for a whole variety of reasons. I work with people who have noticed some of the following issues related to their speech and communication skills (just to name a few):
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty thinking of or saying the right word, sometimes following a concussion
- Difficulty controlling the volume of voice or vocal nodules
- Misunderstanding conversations and discussions
- Difficulty with nonverbal skills, like eye contact, facial expressions, and voice tone
- Quicker to anger or become frustrated because of a lack of communication understanding or expressing
- Slurred speech, drooling, or an oral motor weakness.
Q: What happens during an SLP session?
A: During our first meeting, I would get to know the client, and administer both non-standardized and standardized assessments based on the issues identified. These assessments help to identify a baseline of function, but also serve as a type of roadmap to guide our future sessions.
Some of later treatment sessions may include:
- Visits to a coffee shop or mall food court to help with focus, concentration, and multi-tasking in busy and distracting environments.
- Client may be asked to call and leave me a few voicemails between sessions to practice vocal volume, speech pace, and memory.
- Practice different vocal exercises to work on reducing vocal nodules or increasing vocal volume, such as in client’s who have Parkinson’s disease.
- I may work with a client to help them follow along in complex conversations, comprehend the main idea, and express thoughts and ideas and emotions.
Q: Who can make a referral to a SLP?
A: Doctors, lawyers, occupational therapists, insurance adjusters, case managers, neuropsychologists, psychologists, or other speech language pathologists can make referrals to speech language pathologists. A client can self-refer too.
Q: Why does a client need both an OT and an SLP? Don’t they work on the same things?
A: OTs and SLPs are not mutually exclusive. Many clients can benefit greatly from having both an occupational therapist and a speech language pathologist.
There can be some overlap between OT and SLP treatment, but both are working with clients from different perspectives. For example: an OT and an SLP might work with a client to help with their cognition and thinking skills, but the SLP will have a greater focus on how these issues are affecting the client’s communication skills – reading, writing, and verbal and non-verbal communication.
OTs and SLPs often work together collaboratively to make sure that their clients are receiving the best possible care. Clients often have multifaceted issues or injuries, it makes sense that their treatment would be multifaceted as well.
Q: What are some success stories to give an idea of the scope of work an SLP can do?
A: This is an interesting question and my answer really illustrates how speech difficulties can be an indicator of other problems.
There have been numerous times that I detected suspiciousness in someone’s vocal quality – in one such instance it was a neighbour of mine. This vocal quality can sometimes be an indicator of cancer, and for the neighbour, this was the case. Due to early detection, my neighbour is healthy today.
In another instance, I was asked to look at a woman’s ability to swallow prior to her surgery. I discovered that she didn’t actually need surgery. She needed to learn safe swallow strategies.
I have also seen vocal nodules resolve and clients be able to return to work post-accident.
Maybe most wonderfully though, I have helped clients be able to say “I love you” to a family member once again.