Research Based Intervention
Speech-Language Pathologists offer therapy that involves research-based intervention. This means the strategies being used in therapy to elicit the goal are based on professional research conducted in the field. To become a certified speech-language pathologist, one must complete a master’s degree, pass a national certification exam, complete more than 1,200 supervised clinical hours of work beyond earning a degree and exhibit clinical competence for practice. Additionally, speech-language pathologists are required to complete routine continuing education to maintain certification. This piece allows speech-language pathologists the opportunity to stay current with research within the field, related fields, development of new strategies and techniques as well as interact with professionals from all settings: schools, private practice, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics and more.
The scope of practice for speech therapists includes several major areas:
- Speech – speech sound system and articulation
- Language – grammar, vocabulary, semantics, pragmatics/social skills
- Fluency – stuttering/dysfluency
- Auditory Processing – following directions, auditory memory
- Voice – quality, prosody, resonance
- Cognition – attention, memory, problem-solving
- Swallowing – impaired swallowing (aka dysphagia) and feeding
The focus for children is generally to improve areas of developmental deficit. The focus for adults is rehabilitation following stroke, traumatic brain injury or other brain-based illnesses, such as dementia, ALS, Parkinson’s.
Therapy for children
Before launching my private practice, I frequently had friends or friends of friends ask about what is appropriate in speech therapy. Generally, this prompts me to ask more questions. Nearly every time, it boils down to children playing in speech therapy. The question goes something like this: ‘They are just playing, shouldn’t they be doing something else?” The short answer is no. No they shouldn’t be doing something else. Children learn naturally through play. They develop vocabulary, language structure, articulation skills, pragmatic communication skills and so much more through play. While it may appear that a speech therapist is ‘just playing’, there are research-based intervention strategies being inserted into play-based therapy sessions. For the youngest children, this is the most natural therapy format. Play-based sessions help put children at ease and toys generate lots of speech and language. Any speech language pathologist who has worked with children likely has a list of favorite games and toys. I know I do. My favorites, of course, include those that generate the most communication from children. As children age, their therapy sessions may start looking more academic in nature but even older children still enjoy and learn from games. The most important part of incorporating games is ensuring the child has plenty of opportunities to target their goal, which is the point of speech therapy.
Therapy for adults
Unlike children, therapy for adults is often less game-based. For adults, generally speech therapy is intended to target rehabilitation of skills lost due to injury to the brain. This include restoring the loss of language following a stroke, known as aphasia; restoring a lost voice/speech following head and neck surgery; implementing memory strategies for early stage dementia/Alzheimer’s. Therapy is designed around the life needs of the recovering adult. For example, if the goal is to return to work, therapy will often target the demands of the specific workplace.
Therapy for all
Speech therapy goals should be specific, based on evaluation results with input from the client and/or their family. It should also include carryover work for the client and/or their families, which will help the client generalize skills beyond the therapy room. This means the client will reach goals faster.