This article will address the question, "What is a Speech/Language Specialist?"
It will discuss the various names we are known by and the various roles
you might find us in. I will also discuss the training one needs
to pursue this as a career choice.
or writing to parents and other professionals I refer to myself as a Speech/Language
Specialist because that is what my most current state certificate is titled.
However, since I work with elementary school children, I refer to myself
as the "Speech Teacher" when I am speaking with them. It seems to
help them understand that I am just like any other special teacher...the
music teacher, art teacher, reading teacher, gym teacher, etc.
I have also been referred to as the speech therapist, speech
- language therapist, speech teacher, speech correctionist,
speech pathologist, speech-language pathologist, or communication
So just what
does a SLS do? In the school setting, I wear many hats. Here
are a few of the things I do. I...
act a resource person to parents, administrators
and teachers . Anyone in the school setting might ask me for verbal
or written information about communication disorders or consult with me
regarding a particular child.
screen children at various grade levels
in order to determine which children may be at risk for a communication
disorder. After consulting with the child's teacher, we may make
a joint recommendation to the parents that the child's speech and/or language
evaluate children (with parental permission)
in order to determine their current speech and language development.
If the child is found to be deficient in one or more areas of speech and
language development, I then determine with the teacher how the deficit
impacts on their classroom performance and if the child would benefit for
remediation of the speech or language problem.
meet with parents and teachers to develop
evaluation plans, determine eligibility for speech/language services, and
develop IEP's (Individualized Educational Programs).
prepare written diagnostic reports
provide therapy for those students
who are identified as being eligible for the program.
visit classrooms to read to the children,
assist in district-wide assessment, or do lessons on listening, speaking,
voice projection, etc.
mentor students from local universities
to give them a supervised clinical or "student teaching" experience.
make appropriate referrals to other
professionals in and out of the building (e.g. child study team, school
nurse, ENT doctor, family physician, audiologist.) The
children I work with may have articulation, voice, fluency, or language
difficulties. These difficulties impact on their ability to
communicate in the classroom in the areas of listening, speaking, reading,
and/or writing. Many of the children I work with have language based
learning disabilities which impact on all areas of the curriculum.
Other children are good students, but have difficult speaking clearly because
they cannot pronounce sounds or words correctly, stutter, or have a voice
that is unpleasant or hard to hear.
work in a public school setting, other speech therapists work in
hospitals and clinics, early intervention programs, private
practice, or corporate settings. In hospitals, speech
therapists work with adults and children who have developmental speech/language
difficulties or have developed a problem because of an accident, stroke,
cancer, or other disease. These therapists may help them with speaking,
comprehension, feeding, or swallowing. A therapist who works with
early intervention programs works with at risk children from birth through
the age of 3 to help them acquire maximal speech and language skills.
They work closely with the parents, teaching them to help their little
one at home. Private therapists often specialize in a particular
area of interest, but may work with any of the above areas and even accent
reduction. In recent years, some corporations are hiring speech specialists
to help employees learn to become more effective communicators by improving
public speaking skills, reducing accents, and general speech improvement.
In the State of New Jersey, one must
have a master's degree in speech pathology plus many hours of supervised
clinical experience in order to receive school certification. A State
license is required for private practice or work in hospitals or clinics.
This also requires a master's degree in addition to the clinical experience
and ongoing continuing education. Most therapists in the field
strive to achieve the nationally recognized Certificate of Clinical Competence
issued by ASHA,
the American Speech and Hearing Association. This certificate
requires a master's degree with a broad range of required courses, 500
hours of supervised clinical experience, a passing grade on a national
exam for speech pathology, and a supervised clinical fellowship year.
The field of speech and language pathology
is an exciting one. It is everchanging and offers a wide variety