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What does a Speech / Language Pathologist do?

When most people think about a Speech/Language Pathologist, or an SLP, they think of someone who helps out when a child cannot say certain sounds and cannot be understood.  That is only one part of my job.  I tell my students that my job has two parts – Speaking and Listening (but even that does not say it all).

Let’s start with the difference between Speech and Language!  

 Speech involves the following areas:
1.  Articulation - producing speech sounds
2.  Fluency - flow of speech (stuttering)
3.  Voice - quality, tone, volume (Often related to a medical issue.  It would only be addressed with a doctor’s consent).

Language involves the following areas:
1.  Receptive Language - understanding/comprehension of  language
2.  Expressive Language - ability to express oneself using language
3.  Pragmatic Language - ability to use language to interact socially

How is Speech/Language Therapy in the Schools different from Private Therapy?

The provision of school based therapy is governed by the state and federal laws.  Regulations focus attention on the impact a disability has on a student’s ability to access the general education program.  There are three criteria that must be met.

1.)   They must meet the definition of a disability based on specific testing completed by a Speech/Language Pathologist.  A student with average or mildly delayed skills does not meet the criteria of a student with a disability.

2.)   That disability must have an adverse effect on their education.  This means that the disorder is significantly affecting a student’s ability to learn or express themselves in order to demonstrate what they have learned.  This must be based on academic data collected by the regular education teacher.

3.)   That student must demonstrate a need for specialized instruction.  This means that the student is not able to access instruction in the regular classroom without extra training from someone specifically trained in speech or language development.

What to do if I have questions about my child’s Speech and/or Language?

If your child is school aged, the best thing to do first is to talk to your child’s classroom teacher about your concerns.  They can talk to you about whether or not the concerns are affecting your child academically or in the classroom.

You are also always welcome to speak to me directly.  You can reach me by calling the school and asking for Mrs. Lewis, emailing me at, or by stopping by to talk to me when I am not working directly with students (I am in the back building near 4th and 5th grade in room #409).

What can I do to help build good language skills?

1.)    Talk to your child about… everything!  The more words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will grow.  You can build conversations into any part of your day.  Talk about what they did that day, talk about what you did that day, talk about what is going to happen tonight or tomorrow, talk about the cows that are on the side of the road when you drive by, etc.  Anything can become a conversation.  Model to your child how to ask questions to extend the conversation.  Have them ask questions about things that they wonder about.


2.)    Read, Read, Read!!  As with conversation, reading introduces more and more words to your child’s vocabulary.  Read to your child / have your child read to you.  Ask your child to tell you what is happening in the book.  Ask them questions about the story.  Encourage them to think about questions that they might have about the story.  Teach them that reading is not just about knowing the words but getting to know the character and events in the story.

Written by: Joan Lewis, WUES Speech Language Path