What exactly does a Speech Therapist Do?: The Role of the SLP
Depending on your child’s situation, you may be dealing with a team of different professionals, or just one professional. Either way, if your child has to utilize the services of a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), also referred to as Speech Therapists, Speech Pathologists, or Speech Language Therapists, it is important to understand what their role in your child’s therapeutic life will be.
The role of the Speech Pathologist can be just as varied as the many titles we go by. That is partly because a wide range of services falls under the ‘communication’ umbrella, and in addition to communication, the SLP can also deal with feeding. Your SLP may be working with your child for a speech disorder, a receptive language disorder, an expressive language disorder, a voice disorder, a social communication disorder, an oral motor disorder, a feeding disorder, or a combination of any of the aforementioned. Ideally an SLP completes an evaluation on your child to determine the presence of a disorder, the type and corresponding goals. Sometimes, an SLP may begin with a patient who has already had an evaluation, in which case, the they will work on those goals until that plan of care expires. If your child qualifies for services, it is the responsibility of the therapist to ensure that you, as the parent/guardian understand the therapeutic process and what is entailed.
One of the first things the SLP should do, either at the end of the evaluation or during the first treatment session, is explain the disorder your child has been diagnosed with, what that means in terms of your child’s development and progress and take the opportunity to answer any questions you may have. Often, this may be the first time you are getting a diagnosis, so the SLP should make sure that everything is thoroughly explained including all tests used during the evaluation and any standard or norm referenced scores and their interpretation. The initial session should also be used to discuss the goals that were set during the evaluation and some of the techniques that may be used by the therapist to reach the goals.
For many, therapy can be a long, continuous road to progress that is often traveled with the SLP leading the way. It is important to make sure that you have selected a therapist who will act as a coach and leader during this sometimes arduous process, as well as one that will include you as the integral part of the therapy team that you are. Your therapist should consult with you on an ongoing basis regarding treatment strategies to use daily to implement between therapy sessions and progress or problems you’ve seen when he or she is not there. This constant collaboration supports better therapeutic gains and facilitates better rapport between you and your therapist.
The most important thing to remember is that your SLP is one part of a whole team, whose main job is to help you facilitate the necessary strategies to achieve communicative or feeding success as quickly as possible, so it is most advantageous to choose a therapist who willingly fulfills all her roles and can help guide you and your child to therapeutic success.