What is the ASHA Scope of Practice for Speech Pathologists?
Definitions of Speech Language Pathologist
- Communication. SLPs who focus on communication help clients and patients in a number of areas, including language, cognition, fluency, resonance, and hearing.
- Swallowing. SLPs who focus on all aspects of swallowing, including feeding and related behaviors.
Speech Language Pathology Framework for SLP Practice
- Prevention and Wellness
- Modalities, Technology, and Instrumentation
- Population and Systems
- Advocacy and Outreach
Domains of Speech Pathology Service Delivery
- Collaboration. SLPs are expected to work with colleagues to create a collaborative culture. In practice, that involves encouraging communication and sharing decision-making—both with other professionals and with patients and their families. When working in a team, you’ll be expected to ensure colleagues have the skills and experience to make a difference.
- Counseling. SLPs educate, guide, and support individuals and their families. The best service delivery SLPs will therefore approach their work sensitively—giving emotional support to patients as they battle communication disorders, feeding and swallowing disorders, or related diseases.
- Prevention and Wellness. SLPs often promote prevention and wellness activities—aimed either at preventing disorders before they appear or mitigating their impact once they have. Public awareness is vital here, with SLPs often working to educate people about communication disorders and swallowing problems.
- Screening. SLPs are experts at screening people for possible communication or swallowing disorders. Train as a SLP in service delivery, and you’ll use a range of tools to sharpen screening, including coordinating screening programs and analyzing medical records.
- Assessment. Speech language pathologists are experts in diagnosing different types of communication and swallowing disorder. They understand that some conditions occur developmentally, while others happen in isolation, without any obvious underlying condition. SLPs use a range of techniques to make diagnoses, from interviewing patients and their families to understanding their personal backgrounds.
- Treatment. Speech language services are aimed at helping individuals’ ability to communicate and swallow—improving their quality of life. How treatment looks in practice depends on the patient, but SLPs may find themselves integrating academic research into their therapies, or working with colleagues in related fields.
- Modalities, Technology, and Instrumentation. SLPs use the latest technologies to evaluate and care for people with communication and swallowing disorders. Endoscopy and fibre-optic machines are commonly used to assess swallowing, while ultrasound and other biofeedback systems can help with speech or voice production.
- Population and Systems. Apart from direct care responsibilities, SLPs also have a broader social role. Some focus on education and relating to the public. Others work to reduce the cost of care, liaising with partners to implement case management strategies.
Speech Pathology Service Delivery Areas
- Fluency and Speech Production. From stuttering to cluttering, helping individuals with fluency is a crucial part of SLP. Speech production is important too, with articulation, motor planning, and phonology all key service delivery areas.
- Language. Encompassing both spoken and written communication, SLPs help people across the spectrum of language. This includes working on literacy, syntax, semantics, phonology, morphology, among other areas.
- Cognition. SLPs often help people with cognitive difficulties. Attention and memory are two common areas of focus, as are problem solving and executive functioning.
- Voice. Supporting patients with phonation quality, pitch, and loudness are important parts of a SLP’s work. Helping them overcome alaryngeal disorders are too.
- Resonance. Service delivery SLPs will be expected to help individuals’ resonance, with hypernasality and hyponasality both pillars of the field. Treating cul-de-sac resonance and forward focus resonance are important areas too.
- Feeding and Swallowing. Service delivery SLPs cover all three phases of swallowing—oral, pharyngeal and esophageal. They’re also expected to deal with atypical eating disorders, including food refusal and negative physiologic responses.
- Auditory Habilitation/Rehabilitation. Hearing loss and deafness can negatively affect an individual’s speech, language, or communication. SLPs are there to help—and support auditory processing in general.
- Elective Services. Though most SLP services are a standard part of the job, more specialized focuses are available too. For instance, some choose to work on transgender communication, while others deal with business communication. Helping people change their accent or dialect is another popular option.
Domains of SLP Professional Practice
- Advocacy and Outreach. From academic literacy to training programs and political action, SLPs promote their profession in a variety of ways. Their ultimate goal is to reduce social and linguistic barriers in SLP—recruiting colleagues from diverse backgrounds and lobbying for funding and recognition from policymakers.
- Supervision. SLPs are responsible for supervising colleagues in the field—from trainees and assistants to clerical staff and other administrative support staff. This work requires strong social skills, as SLPs are expected to promote a collegial atmosphere in their workplace, and support individual growth while providing guidance and support.
- Education. SLPs are often educators, teaching students in universities and colleagues in the workplace. This formal teaching dovetails with educating individuals, their families, caregivers, and policymakers about communication and swallowing.
- Research. Research is crucial to a SLP’s work. Whether focusing on cognition, communication, pragmatics, literacy, and feeding and swallowing, there are plenty of areas to explore—either in specific facilities or across different institutions.
- Administration and Leadership. SLPs administer programs in schools, universities, healthcare settings, and more. Their responsibilities may include making financial and personnel decisions, designing programs, ensuring regulatory compliance, and cooperating with outside agencies.