(I love this picture from Simply Thick!)
Often, I am asked what I do for a living. If I say Speech Pathologist I get that look of “what?” If I say I work in a school, it’s assumed that I’m a teacher and if I say I work in a hospital, it’s assumed that I’m a nurse. When I say I work in both setting, there’s mass confusion.
This month kicks off Better Hearing and Speech Month for Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs). If you’re not sure what an SLP does, well, we do A LOT! If you are looking for a job with a great deal of variety, plenty of learning opportunities and flexibility, well, this is a pretty good start. **Disclaimer: This post is information an SLP will already know and was intended for a variety of readers.**
An SLP can work with people from newborn to elderly. We work with people that were born with cerebral palsy, developmental delays, autism, Down Syndrome (along with a number of other syndromes) and with acquired speech, language and swallowing problems due to stroke, Parkinson’s, brain injury, cancer, and a variety of other diseases or traumas.
We work with articulation (production of speech sounds), language, voice, cognition (memory, problem solving, attention), reading, social language, executive functioning, motor speech and swallowing.
An SLP goes to school for 6 years, as a Masters Degree is required. Many SLPs go on to get a Doctorate. SLPs work in school systems, nursing homes, rehab facilities, home health, First Steps, hospitals, NICU and universities as well as private clinics. Some SLPs will even go on to research certain areas such as swallowing to help SLPs better understand the physiology, anatomy, assessment and treatment techniques.
Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders is my area of expertise. I even took the extra step(s) to obtain my Board Certification in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (BCS-S). During the process I had to demonstrate that I not only understand swallowing and swallowing disorders, but also go above and beyond to educate others.
Dysphagia (swallowing disorder) seems to be an area in our field that has very little understanding and even less recognition. Dysphagia is becoming one of the primary assessment and treatment diagnoses in the medical field. Some schools even offer dysphagia therapy for school-aged students.
You may wonder what an SLP can possibly do with a swallowing problem. The SLP is the person that assesses the swallowing difficulty. Assessment may be completed through (most commonly) a clinical evaluation, Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS or also known as a Videofluorographic Swallow Study VFSS) and/or Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES).
Treatment may happen in the form of diet consistency alterations, compensatory strategies or rehabilitative exercise.
I often ask myself, “What am I doing for my profession? How am I helping?’ Part of my job has been education. I have developed webinars and taught live seminars to help further the knowledge of others through evidence-based practice. I keep current in evidence and continuing education. I use this blog for education, not only for clinicians but also for the general public. I use Facebook groups and Twitter to share information. I have authored/co-authored 3 apps with Tactus Therapy and SmartyEars.
What do you plan to do to share knowledge regarding our wonderful field??
Educating others is a huge part of what we need to be doing. Let everyone know what we do and why we do it!!