A speech-language pathologist (S-LP) is a professional who has expertise in typical speech and language development and disorders of communication and swallowing. They are trained to conduct assessment, provide intervention, consult, educate and do research in these areas according to the guidelines of their provincial regulatory body. Their professional responsibility is to help children learn to communicate to the best of their abilities.
During therapy the speech-language pathologist will work with your child on goals that have been pre-determined with the family. This is done by carefully integrating treatment goals into routines, games and preferred activities to make learning fun for the child.
It is important to note that each therapy experience is different for each child and family. That is because your speech-language pathologist customizes the treatment plan for your child. This includes making goals specific to their needs while capitalizing on their strengths, employing activities in treatment that are preferred by your child and introducing the treatment plan into each unique family routine.
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is the use of the most current and best available evidence when making clinical decision regarding a client. This often involves integrating clinical expertise with available research literature to ensure the best possible treatment plan for each person. All speech-language pathologists are required by their governing bodies to use high quality evidence-based practice during the therapeutic process.
If you have any concerns at all about your child’s speech and language development you should discuss them with your paediatrician. You could also contact a speech-language pathologist directly as you do not need a doctor’s referral to make an appointment. Many private practices will offer free initial phone consultations to help guide parents regarding whether an assessment is necessary or not.
Although each child develops at their own pace, there are certain speech and language skills that typically develop at specific ages. Here are a links to a few charts to help you understand what speech and language skills to be looking for at your child’s age.
How often a child is seen for treatment is determined between the family and the speech-language pathologist prior to treatment beginning. In general, children are seen once per week for approximately 30-60 minutes with recommendations for how families can continue to work on goals between sessions.
How long a child receives treatment is dependent on a combination of factors. These can include the type of disorder or the severity of the disorder, the age at which treatment begins and the rate of home practice. Therapy can be terminated at any time by the family or by the speech-language pathologist if it is in the best interest of the child.
The assessment, intervention, consultative and report writing services are generally billed at an hourly rate for private services. These rates are typically determined by the standards outlined by the provincial or state governing bodies. Some provinces or states have public funding options, which your local speech-language pathologist will be able to discuss with you in more detail.
Professionals in the field of speech and language pathology generally DO NOT recommend the “wait and see” approach. During the first five years, a child’s speech and language skills develop more rapidly than any other point in their life. That’s why this time in a young person’s life is known as a critical period, as it sets the foundation for communication, social and academic skills. Research has shown that early intervention is imperative to help children overcome a speech and/or language delay or disorder, therefore the sooner a professional becomes involved the better the outcomes for the child.