What is a Speech-language Pathologist? Does My Child Need One?
A speech-language pathologist is a professional concerned with communication disorders. Speech-language pathologists are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which requires a master’s, doctoral, or other postgraduate degree for certification.
A certified professional holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-language Pathology (CCC-SLP), and clients can recognize this status by the abbreviation following the professional’s name. Speech-language pathologists are required to attend frequent continuing education events to stay abreast of current developments in the field of communication disorders.
What Does a Speech-language Pathologist Do?
A speech-language pathologist works with individuals with communication disorders. It is his or her task to prevent, identify, assess, and treat any condition that interferes with typical communication development or processes. Some speech-language pathologists prefer to work exclusively with children, and focus on helping their young clients with the following:
- Speech and language delay;
- Speech and language disorders;
- Articulation disorders (difficulty in pronouncing speech sounds);
- Phonological processing disorders (substituting certain speech sounds for others);
- Swallowing disorders; and
- Early communication disorders (helping parents of babies at-risk for communication disorders, to encourage their child’s communication development).
A speech-language pathologist works closely with other professionals, like an audiologist (person working with hearing disorders), psychologist, occupational therapist, and otolaryngologist (medical doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disease). When your child sees a speech-language pathologist, he or she may need to refer you to another professional to gather more information about your child’s condition and to determine a comprehensive treatment plan.
Does My Child Need a Speech-language Pathologist?
Any child with a communication disorder can benefit from seeing a speech-language pathologist. If you feel concerned about your child’s communication development or your child shows frequent frustration during communication, it might be advisable to take your child to a speech-language pathologist for a communication assessment. During this assessment, the therapist will ask you questions about your child’s development and communication abilities. The therapist will also play purposeful games with your child, to see how your child communicates with him or her.
Once the therapist has gathered sufficient information, he or she will be able to tell you:
- Whether or not your child has a communication disorder or delay;
- What the probable causes are;
- What course of action would be necessary to help your child to communicate effectively; and
- Whether or not you should see other professionals about your concerns.
How Do I Choose the Right Speech-language Pathologist?
While you can easily find a speech-language pathologist in your area by using the ASHA website, not all therapists have a special interest in working with babies, toddlers, and children. Take the following into consideration when deciding on speech-language pathologist:
- Ask amongst your support network if there is anyone who can recommend a speech-language pathologist who has a special interest in working with children.
- Choose a therapist who views parents as team members in the intervention process and will take time to train you how to help your children during the time you spend with them at home.
- Choose a therapist that is knowledgeable and experienced in working with children and enjoys being with them.
Remember that it is never too early for communication intervention. Helping a child communicate builds self-confidence, and equips that child for life.