Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) help people with Communication and Swallowing difficulties. SLPs assess, treat and advocate for the prevention of communication and swallowing disorders. Learn more about this important profession from:
The Ontario Council of University Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences (OCUPRS) published the following document describing the essential skills and competencies required for success in completing a university program in speech-language pathology:
How many times do we have to speak or listen to somebody throughout the day? How many times do we have to read or write? If we tally up all of these occurrences, it is clear that we use communication in almost every minute of our work, school and leisure activities.
Communication is a 4x4! In order accomplish the 4 key areas of communication:
We need to use 4 key skills:
- Muscles to move our lips, tongue and voice box,
- Language to use and understand words and grammar,
- Cognition to pay attention, remember and reason through information, and
- Social Pragmatic Skills to know how to interpret and adjust communication style according to the situation.
SLPs help determine which skills are weak and which aspects of communication are being impacted. Difficulties can affect:
- Work (e.g., following directions from a supervisor, filling out forms, reading procedural manuals, speaking appropriately with colleagues, etc.)
- School (e.g., reading and analyzing a novel, writing an essay, taking notes in class, writing a test, reading a textbook, doing an oral presentation, etc.)
- Leisure (e.g., retelling events of the day, understanding humour and sarcasm, composing an email, watching a movie, discussing politics, etc.)
The muscles involved in producing speech and voice are the same ones that are involved in swallowing, which is why SLPs have an important role to play in the assessment and management of swallowing disorders.
Swallowing disorders are often noticed when someone coughs or chokes while eating or drinking. However, sometimes there is no sign of trouble until the person develops pneumonia due to food or drink getting into the lungs. SLPs assess the various stages of swallowing and make recommendations to ensure the person is safe. Sometimes exercises are needed, sometimes food textures and liquid thicknesses need to be modified, sometimes special positioning is needed, and sometimes alternative forms of nutrition have to be implemented. Eating is an important social activity with significant quality of life implications, so the SLP must consider many factors when assessing and treating swallowing difficulties.