Frequently asked questions
We often are asked questions in clinic or by email that are questions that are common for the public. We have taken the opportunity to answer these questions in more details to assist people in understanding how speech pathology can support you or your child or address any concerns you may be having.
- I am currently seeing a learning support teacher. My child has been having learning support for some years now but is still struggling to progress in regards to his literacy skills despite the effort put in by our dedicated teacher and us. Can you explain why and how spending more time and money on Speech Pathology will make a difference after so much help so far?
As Speech Pathologists, we are trained practitioners in the underlying mechanisms of the brain and how they connect and function for:
- the creation of speech,
- for the storage of words, construction of sentences for language
- for processing spoken information,
- for interpreting text such as in reading and
- for constructing written text answer coming
We specifically assess, diagnose and provide corrective treatment to areas of the brain that are demonstrating the impairment or breakdown to the system involved in speech, langauge and literacy…just as a simplified view.
However, I will warn that this is not necessarily all Speech Pathologists who operate using these methods as there are many types and styles of therapy and this will be determined by the individual Speech Pathologist and their area of training, their participation in a treatment method by choice and also the position they hold in their job that may place restrictions on their choice of therapy that they can provide. For instance, historicallt, in the education sector, restrictions have existed where Speech Pathologists were limited in the treatment they could provide (ie. articulation, phonological processing, literacy verses language therapy) governed by the verification process of assessing and categorising a student on their impairment and severity of impairment and then determining the therapy they receive based on this. Limited human resources restricted students access for vital professional Speech Pathology input based on this system and it was often the students that were mild to moderate in their challenges and WOULD and COULD make the most easiest changes that were life changing in regards to confidence and academic performance that were overlook and not eligible for vital assistance. Students that fell in this category gain assistance form learning support, however this may not address the underlying “neurological engineering” impairments. In my experience, it was then seen that some to many of these conditions are then deem “non-correctable” due to the intervention that had or did not receive.
In private practice, we are less restricted by these limits and can apply the therapy that is MOST beneficial for the duration that is required as long as the client chooses to attend this and gain the benefits from the treatment. Also be mindful, that in private practice, therapeutic achievements and outcomes are mandatory on a daily basis because if the child or client is not improving … from 20 years experience in private practice, THEY USUALLY DON’T COME BACK.
- Can you explain the difference between a Speech Pathologist and a Learning Support Teacher when it appears that both professionals are working in the same area of helping children to learn to read and write?
Speech Pathologist have completed a 4 year degree at University (Bachelor of Speech Pathology) or a Masters equivalent of 2 years after completing a recognised undergraduate degree. Due to the depth and specialty in this degree, Speech Pathologists have specialised training in impairments that impact on communication and swallowing. This included articulation, phonological processing, auditory processing, language processing, fluency of speech and given that literacy is processed from these centres in the brain, we also have a specialisation in the diagnosis and the treatment of impairments in literacy (dyslexia and dygraphia) based on the diagnosis of the impairment coming from these regions.
As Speech Pathologists also are required to study full anatomy, physiology, linguistics, psychology, audiology and also neurological science, we have a very broad and deep knowledge about how these functions interplay to create speech, language and literacy, but we also understand how and why things are going wrong and how to provide correction by the form of treatment.
Speech Pathologist are trained to work in education, community and also rehabilitation sectors, so we do not only focus our study and knowledge from a developmental focus when working with children but also from a brain-neurological-or “mental engineering focus”. This means we diagnose the breakdown and provide corrective treatment to get the communication system going. This is better understood as making direct and permanent changes to the hardware of the computer. This is very different from providing more exposure or “software” and wondering why the child’s brain “or computer” doesn’t read the file…or learn to read or be able to say the word.
It is these differences that distinguish Speech Pathologists from Learning Support Teachers, Speech and Drama Teachers and Tutor. It is not uncommon for children to have some years of educational support and to have not made the progress that would be expected for the work invested. When specific-targeted corrective treatment is undertaken by the Speech Pathologist, then the child’s cognitive-linguistic and phonological system (ie. how they process sounds and language and literacy) is rewired, processing improved and then rehabilitated to function for what therapy is targeting.
Note to self…
“If a child is in a wheelchair and can not walk…we don’t expect them to do this without significant support from a Physiotherapist for corrective neurological therapy. Children with impairments with Speech , language and Literacy (dyslexia and dysgraphia) are to be seen in the same light to enable them to grow, develop and wire the brain pathways necessary for this function to occur.”
Speech Pathologist also have the ability to provide “diagnosis” (ie. provide the title of the impairment eg. dyspraxia, dysarthria, specific language impairment, dysphonia, dysfluency, expressive dysphasia, anomic dysphasia …) in the field of communication. It is this diagnostic capability that sets us aside from other medical professionals in the area of communication, and it is this that has historically been one of the reasons why our title was changed from Speech Therapist to Speech Pathologists and in some educational settings, Speech-Language Pathologist in the 1990’s. Really, we are the same and we use these terms inter-changeably.
Word of caution. As of October 2013, the registration Board of Queensland, being the only state to have professional Speech Pathology registration, was dismantled. As a result of this, this makes it more vulnerable for the public to be receiving what is “said” to be speech pathology treatment from individuals that may indeed not be trained and qualified Speech Pathologists. A way to recognise this to protect you and your family is if your practitioner displays their Speech Pathology degree or is a member of the Speech Pathology Australia Association. If they are able to provide you with medicare rebates, (ie. through enhanced primary care or chronic disease management plans) then they have passed these stringent professional guidelines to be able to offer you the health care service that you need.
- When do I need to see a Speech Pathologist? How will it make a difference to their normal school learning and learning support assistance?
- My child is learning the “Jolly Phonics Program” at school. How will it be a benefit from them to learn the “Phonic All Stars” when this is just another Phonics Program and they are struggling to learn to read with Jolly Phonics?