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The Role of a Speech-Language Pathologist in Schools

November 10, 2015

The Role of a Speech-Language Pathologist in Schools

By Kim Ellicott

When most people think of the role of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), they think of helping kids who have a lisp or have incorrect productions of ‘r’.  That is one small role of a SLP in the schools.  A SLP can work with students who have articulation, language, voice, fluency, or swallowing disorders. I will briefly explain each of these areas.

Articulation: The accuracy in which a student produces consonants or vowels in isolation, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, reading, and conversation. 

Language: Language encompasses five aspects: semantics, syntax, morphology, phonology, and pragmatics.  In general, semantics can be thought of as vocabulary.  Syntax involves grammar and using the correct grammar structure.  Morphology refers to the students’ ability to change prefixes and suffixes to create the proper word structure (i.e., plurals, possessives, verb tenses).  Phonology is the study of sounds and sound combinations to make words.  Pragmatics are the social rules of language.  Language can also be thought of in terms of expressive and receptive language.  Expressive language is what the student says or writes.  Concerns of an expressive language disorder are students producing sentences with incorrect grammar structure, incorrect verbs, and incorrect pronoun usage.  Receptive language is what the student comprehends. A receptive language disorder is suspected when students have difficulty following multi-step directions, answering comprehension questions, or answering general questions during conversation.  Language also includes higher level skills such as inferencing, problem solving, and reasoning. 

Voice: A disorder occurring from trauma, stress, or overuse of the vocal folds.

Fluency: This is more commonly referred to as stuttering.  Fluency refers to the repetition of part-words or full words during conversation.  The moments of disfluency are typically marked by tension in the student’s voice. 

Swallowing: This is not a common disorder to treat in the school system.  SLPs are trained to provide strategies and diet modifications to ensure a safe swallow.

In a school setting, the SLP works in collaboration with the teachers and staff to provide strategies for prevention of language and articulation disorders.  The SLP conducts screenings for students that may be at risk or suspected of having a language, fluency, or articulation disorder.  Intervention for disorders is provided in a variety of settings including individual pull-out, group pull-out, individual classroom assistance, and whole-group inclusive settings. 



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