It can be tricky to determine when, as a caregiver or a potential client yourself, when it might be appropriate to take the leap and consult with a speech language pathologist.
Many might use the wait and see approach, while others aren’t sure that a speech language pathologist can help with their or their child’s particular issue.
Here, we’ll cover all of that, so you’re better equipped to reach out for an evaluation or services when it’s necessary.
Can a Speech Language Pathologist Help?
Speech language pathologists, also known as SLPs, work with people of all ages, from birth to geriatrics. We treat many types of communication and swallowing problems.
These include problems with speech sounds, which is likely what many people think of when they hear “speech therapist”. We do assist with saying sounds correctly and putting sounds together. Words you may see associated with these problems are articulation and phonological disorders, apraxia, and dysarthria.
Next, is language. This refers to how well we understand what we hear or read, and how we use words to express ourselves. In young kiddos, we refer to this as a language delay or language disorder. Following a traumatic brain injury, such as a stroke, this may be referred to as aphasia.
Literacy is tied closely to language. This refers specifically to how well we read and write, and is targeted most in school based SLP programs, alongside the general classroom curriculum. Children, adolescents, and adults with language disorders may also have difficulty reading, spelling, and writing. Furthermore, through literacy work, you might hear about SLPs targeting phonemic and phonological awareness, which are the foundational skills for reading.
SLPs also target social communication. This is how well we follow rules, like taking turns in conversations, how to talk to different people in various scenarios, and/or how close we stand to people when speaking. Another word for this is pragmatics.
Professionals in speech and language also help those with voice issues, specifically, how our voices sound. Clients may sound hoarse, breathy, may lose their voice easily, talk through their nose, or be unable to make certain sounds. Those that are transgender and transitioning from male to female, or vice versa, may also seek out a speech language pathologist to assist in voice work.
Another reason you may see a SLP is due to a fluency disorder, which may be stuttering or cluttering. This refers to how speech flows. Someone who stutters may repeat sounds, like t-t-t-table, use “um” or “uh,” or feel a block in their mouth which will stop them from forming a sound or word. If someone is cluttering they might have excessive breaks in the normal flow of speech that seem to result from disorganized speech planning, talking too fast, or simply being unsure of what he/she wants to say.
Cognitive-communication is another area in which we specialize, and refers to how well the mind works. Deficits in this area are likely to negatively impact adults following a traumatic brain injury. If you or someone you know is having issues that involve memory, attention, problem solving, organization, and other thinking skills, a SLP might be able to help.
An area in which many people forget that speech language pathologists can help, is in feeding and swallowing, which is how well we suck, chew, and swallow food and liquid. A swallowing disorder may lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, and other health problems. In evaluating and treating feeding and swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia, I’ve seen clients as young as 6 months old who are having trouble transitioning to pureed foods, all the way up to an 80 year old who has weakened muscles, making it difficult to chew and swallow safely without it getting in their lungs.
Now that we’ve covered all areas in which a speech language pathologist can educate, evaluate, and treat, lets look at some common red flags.
If you notice 2 or more of the problems listed below, it is time to reach out to a speech language pathologist for a screening and/or evaluation.
Toddlers and Preschoolers:
- Two year olds who present with speech that is hard to understand more than 50% of the time.
- Deleting sounds in the beginning of words.
- Children who continue to speak at the one-word level after two years of age.
- Children who are hard to understand at 4+ years of age.
- Three year olds who can not follow simple one-step directions.
- Children over 18 months who do not have a desire to engage in parallel play with others.
- Children who have a history of ear infections.
- Any child who regresses with their communication skills.
- Children who resort to hitting or breaking down in tears because they can’t communicate well.
- Children who are hard to understand.
- Difficulty giving or following multi-step commands.
- Difficulty sounding out basic words and sounds.
- Difficulty describing their day or retelling an event.
- Problems understanding and/or using social cues (body language).
- Reduced word finding/retrieval in conversation.
- Having trouble staying on topic in conversation.
- Difficulty identifying the main idea in passages.
- Difficulty producing a vocalic or consonant /r/ after 8 years old.
- Trouble answering WH questions verbally or in writing.
- Repetitions of sounds and syllables (“li li li li li li like this.”)
- Prolongations (“liiiiiiiiiike this.”)
- Blocks (“l——–ike this.”)
- Reactions to and duration of disfluencies increase.
- Facial tension or struggle increases.
- Problems listening to and understanding different school subjects and drawing conclusions.
- Difficulty planning and organizing information, summarizing and sharing.
- Trouble determining what to keep private and what to share publicly.
- Difficulty interpreting the intentions of others and taking different perspectives.
- Difficulty knowing when it’s more appropriate to use formal, standard English versus slang.
- Difficulty understanding and/or formulating thoughts and words following a traumatic brain injury or other illness
- Watery eyes, couching, gagging, and/or pain when eating and swallowing
- Facial paralysis
- Hoarse or other irregular vocal quality
Book An Appointment With Sol Today
Do you or someone you know have a speech/language concern you’re hoping to deal with?
Whatever your concern, whether a stutter, an accent, a language delay, articulation disorder or any other speech-related issue, we’re here to help.
If you’d like more information on therapy, whether tele practice or in person, or would like to consult with a speech language pathologist at Sol, please feel free to contact us here.
If you’re ready to take the next step, reach out today for a free phone consultation.Sol Speech & Language Therapy
6448 E Hwy 290 Suite E-106,
Austin, TX 78723
Sol Speech & Language Therapy is located in sunny Austin, Texas and offers personalized skilled intervention to those struggling with their speech and language skills. Services offered include screening, consultation, and comprehensive evaluation. We also provide one-on-one and/or group therapy for speech sound disorders, receptive/expressive language delay/disorder, stuttering/cluttering, accent reduction, and much more.