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Speech Language Pathologist: All you need to know to get the best help for your child

April 13, 2015 6 min read

Speech and Language Pathology – Is it just another name for Speech Therapy?

Yes – Speech Language Pathologist or Speech and Language Pathologist are terms commonly used in the United States and Australia.

In the UK, the official term is Speech and Language Therapist and is often shortened to Speech Therapist. Therapists in the USA also use the term Speech Therapist though so it can get a little confusing!

What is Speech Therapy? – Key Information about Speech and Language Therapy

Speech Therapy is the process of treating difficulties in communication in children or adults. It is a very wide ranging field and covers developmental issues, for example a toddler who is slow to talk, right through to an older person who is having communication difficulties after a stroke or other illness.

Some Speech Language Pathologists also treat eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. These are known as dysphagia.

The most common reasons for a young child to see a Speech Therapist, are because of difficulty in pronouncing words or speaking clearly or because they are not saying enough words or beginning to put sentences together.

I have more detailed information elsewhere on the site so if you would like to read more, choose from one of the following pages;

My Child Needs Speech Therapy – How do I find a Speech Language Pathologist?

If you are trying to find a Speech Language Pathologist or Therapist for your child, the most important thing to check is that they are licensed and registered to practice.

If you are in the United States of America, you can find out more about this here

Australians can search for a qualified Speech Pathologist here

Canadian Speech Language Pathologists are listed here

And in the UK check here.

Can You Tell Me What Speech Therapy Costs?

Speech and Language Therapy is often covered by the State in the first few years of a child’s life. In America for example, early intervention covers therapy for under threes.

Once a child is school aged there are often SLP’s based in elementary schools and so your child may be able to receive school based services.

Private Speech and Language Therapy is typically given coverage by insurance companies but the exact nature of the cover will vary depending on your level of cover, and in some cases, your child’s diagnosis.

Because of the huge variations in services by country, state and even by district, I can’t give a clear answer to this question here. However the sites I referred to earlier provide a wealth of information that will assist you in providing the best value service in your locality.

What will Happen at my First Appointment? – The Speech Therapy Assessment

Usually your child will attend the appointment with one or both parents. If the assessment takes place in school, you may be asked to attend in order to provide information for a case history.

Case History

A case history is when the Speech and Language Therapist, gathers information from you, the child’s parent. Usually this is done very informally in a conversation. In some cases you may be given a form to fill in.

Your Therapist will want to know basic information such as your address and your child’s date of birth but in some cases, much more detailed information is relevant.

She is likely to ask you about your child’s general health and development; about any other family members who have communication difficulties and about your child’s strengths and abilities.

If you are attending with you child because they have developed a stutter or a stammer, the case history process may take up to an hour as you and the Therapist have a detailed conversation to identify any possible factors that may be contributing to the problem.

For most first appointments, the case history taking lasts for about 15 minutes during which your child can settle in to their new surroundings and play with a selection of toys or games.

Assessment

After this time, the Therapist will decide if she is going to carry out play based or informal assessment or for older children, to begin straight away with the formal assessment process.

All parts of the Speech Therapy Assessment process are designed to be fun and interesting for your child. Even the formal or standardized assessments use colorful picture books and objects to hold your child’s attention.

Some older school aged children undergoing a detailed language assessment may be asked to sit for up to an hour (usually with a break given midway). Most assessments for young children are much shorter, say from ten to thirty minutes in total.

The Therapist will be skilled in knowing when your child has had enough for one day and it may be necessary to ask you to return for a second appointment to complete the tests. It is always best to do this rather than to get inaccurate results from a tired or cranky child!

Feedback

Whether the assessment is completed in one appointment or more, you can expect to receive feedback on how your child performed. The results available depend very much on the assessments performed.

In some cases, where formal testing was not carried out, the Speech Language Pathologist will give you feedback on her observations of your child at play and in interaction with others.

Some testing has a simple score out of twenty type scoring system and others are far more complex allowing detailed comparisons between your child and their peer group.

After you have listened to the feedback and asked any questions that come to mind, you should feel you have a clear idea of how your child is performing and what, if any, are the areas for concern.

If Therapy is indicated, you will be able to discuss a plan for the initial stages.

Due to complex scoring on some tests, you may be asked to return on another day or to speak with the Therapist by phone to gain feedback. If this is the case, try and use the opportunity to reflect on the session and to make a note of any questions you want to ask during the feedback appointment.

How Does Speech Therapy Work?

As with the assessment process, the process of therapy will depend on your child’s diagnosis and age.

In some cases, one advice session is appropriate, after which the child will be discharged. More commonly you can expect to attend for a series of therapy sessions with your child over a period of months.

In a proportion of cases where the communication disorder is severe or associated with another diagnosis, the Speech and Language Therapy process is ongoing and your child will receive services on a regular basis during their school career.

Modern Speech Therapy is largely play based (as you will gather from the theme of this site!). Your Therapist will try to engage your child in fun activities and to teach Speech and Language skills as they play.

You will decide together on specific skills to target at any one time and these may be recorded as part of your child’s Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) if they are school aged.

The Benefits of Speech Language Therapy

If your child is struggling to make themselves understood because they have unclear speech or immature sentence development, then it is not difficult to understand the benefits of helping them to catch up to their peer group as quickly and as easily as possible.

Long term risks associated with untreated or undiagnosed Speech, Language and communication needs include difficulties in education (particularly in learning to read and spell) and socialization issues. In some cases where frustration is high, behavioral difficulties can result and children act out in order to distract from their underlying problem.

Early screening programs together with parents who keep a watchful eye on their child’s developing communication means that most Speech and Language problems receive timely attention. When they do, your Speech Therapist will be able to work closely with your family, your child’s teachers and any other professionals involved to ensure that the difficulties receive treatment as soon as possible.

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(If you enjoyed this post, then you might like my Tips for the Brand-New School Speech Language Pathologist post)