Have you ever wondered what a speech-language pathologist (SLP) does on a daily basis or what settings they work in? You’ve probably heard people refer to us as “speech teachers,” or the person that helps a child master their “r” sound, but in reality; our scope of practice encompasses so much more than that!
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certified SLPs are qualified to provide services to people in a variety of settings including schools, homes, private practices, skilled nursing facilities, and hospitals. Typically, we hold Bachelor’s Degrees in Speech Pathology/Audiology and Master’s Degrees in Communication Disorders or Speech Pathology. SLPs are also required to pass a praxis exam (think BAR exam for attorneys) and complete a Clinical Fellowship Year (think residency for physicians). This usually falls under the umbrella of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. That’s right, your child’s or family member’s SLP has extensive training in neuroscience!! We’re closer to speech scientists than speech teachers!
We complete graduate-level coursework and clinical practicums in speech, language, and feeding therapy intervention. We treat individuals of all ages ranging from infants to the geriatric population.
SLPs don’t stop there! We complete graduate level coursework in a variety of developmental disorders like autism, motor speech disorders like apraxia as well as stuttering. We are required to be trained in the anatomy/physiology of feeding, swallowing, speech and hearing. We receive graduate level training in the implementation of technology based communication systems (assistive technology or augmentative and alternative communication). We also have Masters level training and education in neurogenic communication disorders, social communication and child language development.
In addition to providing intervention services, we differentially diagnose disorders in our scope of practice. This unique component paired with our extensive graduate level training in all things speech and language sets us apart from other professions like behavioral therapists. An SLP’s day never looks the same. Our considerable training and clinical expertise allow every SLP to individualize intervention and plans of care to each patient!
Wondering how all this translates into a typical day? Here’s what it’s like for an SLP in each professional setting.
SLPs that work in schools or the educational setting conduct screenings and diagnostic evaluations while collaborating with the educational staff to facilitate students’ academic and social success in the school environment. Their days are spent providing push-in or pull-out speech and language therapy for students. In addition, they develop Individualized Educational Programs (IEP) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP), and participate in annual admission, review, and dismissal conferences (ARD).
Home health SLPs work with individuals of all ages and spend a large amount of time commuting from patient to patient. Home health patients may be medically fragile, which means they are unable to leave the house to attend therapy appointments. Home health SLPs often benefit from the ability to work with patients in their natural environment. They are able to incorporate familiar toys or belongings in therapy activities. For example, when working with adults who have dementia or aphasia; a therapist can use scrapbooks or photos for memory recall and language intervention. When working with patients who have dysphagia; therapists can use the patient’s utensils and food from their home environment to provide more functional intervention.
A skilled nursing facility (SNF) is another professional setting in which SLPs can work. In this setting; SLPs help to diagnose and treat adult and geriatric populations. SLPs may work with individuals who have experienced strokes, traumatic brain injuries or are diagnosed with dementia, degenerative diseases, and/or dysphagia. Speech pathologists work in collaborative teams to treat these individuals. SLPs in SNFs work to improve patient’s functional ability in activities of daily living and facilitate independence with an overarching goal of improving their patient’s quality of life.
SLPs also work in hospital settings both in inpatient and outpatient facilities. SLPs in this setting address a wide range of diagnoses, like acquired or congenital neurological disorders or premature birth. SLPs in hospitals also ensure patients are swallowing safely with under medical care. They determine a patient’s most functional mode of communication. They also diagnose and treat cognitive-communication and language disorders. SLPs in this professional setting provide vital education and counseling to patients, caregivers, and staff members. This training often includes information about the patient’s safety precautions, specific diagnosis and what is to be expected in their future plan of care.
SLPs that work in private practices work directly with the patient and caregivers to help train, educate, and facilitate communication inside and outside of the clinical setting. Typically, clinicians work one-on-one with patients, but may also provide therapy in groups. Each private practice has its own approach to intervention and therapy may look different depending on the clinical director’s values and beliefs.
At Speech Wings Therapy, our mission is to provide child-directed pediatric speech therapy services that are individually tailored to meet the needs of each patient. In addition to providing skilled intervention, we work to provide educational resources tailored to meet the specific needs of parents and caregivers.
This diverse offering of professional settings and patient population allows SLPs the freedom to select a career path that suits their unique clinical skills and passions. We are so much more than “speech teachers”, were scientists, medical health professionals, educators, and clinical experts in our chosen areas of focus! This passion and education pays off in big ways for our patients!
Authors: Kailey Mersbach, MS, SLP-CF, and Rebekah Wamsley, MS, SLP-CF