Whether it be talking with co-workers around the water cooler, saying “I love you” to your spouse, sharing a joke with your neighbor, texting your brother, or sending an email to your boss, people love to communicate, it’s what we do.  Communication, in all its forms, is what creates and maintains the bonds and relationships in our lives, and the ability to communicate is what defines us as being human.

Communication can be divided into three main categories: comprehension, expression, and production.  Comprehension or receptive language is the ability to receive a message from someone and understand the meaning of that message whether it be spoken, written, or via gestures such as American Sign Language (ASL). Expression or expressive language is the ability to send a meaningful message to someone verbally, in writing, or by using gestures.  An additional goal of expressive language is that it is socially appropriate, which means knowing what and how to say something in a given circumstance. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) refer to the social part of language as pragmatic language. Production is how the message is created.  With speech, we can think about fluency, speech sounds, and their sound quality or intelligibility.  With writing, we can look at legibility, and with signs, you can think of well-formed readable signs. The goal of production is that the person you are trying to communicate with can understand your message.  When something interferes with somebody’s receptive language, expressive language, pragmatic language, articulation, fluency, voice quality, or even swallowing, speech therapy can help a person to improve both communication and swallowing.

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy aims to improve a person’s communication. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are professionals who specialize in speech-language therapy.  They must go through a rigorous university program, get a master’s degree, complete a 9-month clinical fellowship year (CFY) where they are under the supervision of a senior speech-language pathologist (SLP), get credentialed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and then get their state license to practice.  If you or a loved one is seeking speech therapy please make sure that the person you are considering has ASHA certification and state licensure for the state you live in.

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) will first conduct a speech-language evaluation for the client to identify how to best address the complaint.  Once the evaluation is completed, the SLP will explain the results to the client or caregiver and develop a treatment plan.  A treatment plan will contain goals and objectives that are created specifically for the client, explaining exactly what the client and SLP will be working on.

Which Language Disorders Do Speech Therapists Treat?

  1. Receptive language disorder: affects the ability to comprehend spoken language and, in some cases, written language. Individuals suffering from a receptive language disorder may struggle to understand spoken language, respond properly, or both. This makes it difficult to communicate and causes difficulties at school.
  2. Expressive language disorder: the inability to effectively express needs and thoughts by words is known as an expressive language disorder. Children with this condition can misspell terms, mix up verb tenses, and repeat phrases or parts of sentences. Expressive language disorders cause issues in social situations, at work, and in school.
  3. Pragmatic language disorder: also known as “social language disorder”.  This is the inability to use socially appropriate language.  This disorder occurs when a person uses inappropriate or unrelated language for a given context. Has difficulty turn-taking in a conversation, has poor eye contact, has difficulty matching their tone and facial expression to message, and has difficulty introducing and maintaining a conversation. This causes problems with forming and maintaining relationships.
  4. Cognitive-communication disorder: difficulty with every aspect of the conversation that is hindered by a disturbance of cognition(thought). Attention, memory, organization, problem-solving/reasoning, and executive functions are some examples of cognitive processes.  This type of disorder impacts all facets of life.

Which Speech Disorders Do Speech Therapists Treat?

  1. Articulation disorder: an articulation disorder is when a person’s speech contains one or more of the following: sound errors, omissions, distortions, or substitutions.  These types of production errors affect the quality or intelligibility of the speaker’s speech.  In some cases, making it difficult to understand what the person is saying. 
  2. Fluency disorder: also known as “stuttering,” is distinguished by repetitions of sounds, syllables, or entire words; prolongations of sounds; or blocks of airflow or voicing during speech are examples of primary behaviors.
  3. Resonance disorder: also known as “voice disorders”.  Voice disorders occur when the speech signal produces too much or too little nasal and/or oral sound energy. It may be caused by physiological or functional (e.g., neurogenic) factors, and it may also be caused by mislearning (e.g., articulation errors that can lead to the perception of a resonance disorder).

How Does It Work?

By completing a thorough speech-language evaluation the SLP determines what kind of speech-language difficulty the client has and the best treatment method to address it. SLPs work in a variety of settings including schools, clinics, and hospitals.  In schools, SLPs work with children mostly in small groups or the classroom.  In clinic and hospital settings, speech-language therapy is usually provided by the speech-language pathologist (SLP) to one client at a time.  

The first goal of every speech-language pathologist (SLP) is to create a relationship or “build rapport” with the client.  It’s essential that the SLP has patience, empathy, and caring for the client they are working with to help the client make the most progress possible.  Most oftentimes speech-language goals are not achieved overnight, therefore the SLP needs to be respected by the client to get through the tough work that is speech-language therapy. 

Practice is the ultimate treatment for speech and language disorders. If a child has difficulty with articulation, the speech-language pathologist (SLP) will spend time teaching them how to produce the correct sounds. The speech therapist will make the sounds and encourage the child to learn to imitate them. 

That entails mimicking the speech therapist’s (SLP) movements of the lips, mouth, and tongue to produce the desired sound. Mirrors can be useful in this situation. The SLP can instruct a child to make these speech sounds when looking in the mirror. Speech therapists find this process more enjoyable when using games.

SLPs employ techniques that are adapted to the specific needs of each child. Some of the techniques are:

Final Thoughts

Speech and language are essential to the human experience.  Speech therapy can help people improve their communication skills which will improve their overall life experience.  While speech-language therapy typically is not a “quick fix”, through consistent speech therapy sessions with an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist, amazing, life-changing progress can be made.

This past year has changed the way many educators are teaching in the classroom. Along with the conventional teacher, Speech-Language Pathologists have also learned to adjust to teaching online. While the change can be frustrating at times, it is a method that is convenient for many – and online speech therapy is here to stay.

If you are pushing to make it through until this virtual learning period passes, it might be time for a change in mindset. The convenience that comes from setting your child up for speech therapy without getting a babysitter for other kids or sitting through traffic on the way to an appointment has value and might be the preference of some of your patients going forward.

4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success in Teaching Online Speech Therapy

  1. Secure a Solid Internet Connection: Most frustrations with online teaching have to do with technology. A reliable internet connection is essential so you aren’t distracted by technical issues during each session. Upgrade your internet connection, get a booster, and run internet speed tests. Practice the technical procedures to minimize mishaps during your live sessions.
  2. Offer Live and Asynchronous Learning Options: It is a good idea to offer a variety of access to your lessons. Some students may require flexibility in their schedule to log into your class on their own time. You can post personalized videos where you are reading and asking questions and request students to record their responses back. This dual approach supports students in moving at their own pace, while also having access to live support as needed.
  3. Touch Base with Your Student and Parents Regularly: Reach out to your students and ask how things are going for them. Do they feel they are getting as much out of their lessons as they would in person? What can you be doing to make the experience more beneficial to them? Feedback is essential for successful online speech therapy. Parents can share information about how the child is interacting at home, lending insights about how you can personalize the experience.
  4. Offer Informational and Resources for Practice: Now is the time that most people are gaining aptitude with technology and navigating online tasks. Take advantage of these online comforts and provide links to games, practice ideas, and worksheets that they can complete between therapy sessions. When a student is engaged in activities outside of the speech therapy sessions, it maximizes the progress that is possible.

Online speech therapy is an excellent resource for those choosing to stay home and navigate all aspects of their lives virtually. It is vital to continually improve your online speech therapy sessions and provide the best possible teachings to your students.

Be willing to learn from your students and change your methods to fit their needs best. You’ll find that each student is unique, which is why it’s helpful to have multiple tools and strategies to customize the plan as needed.

When schools shut down, and lockdowns became the “normal” around the world, it altered education opportunities for children of all ages. Most children experienced a change in routines as their daily learning shifted from classroom experiences to remote learning. While all students struggled through the changes, the most notable disruption is in the way special needs students were affected.

Amplifying the Inadequacies of the System

Pandemic life is stressful for all families, but the highest levels of stress are noted in families with special needs students. These children and their families depend on unique services and care to support daily needs. Not only are parents struggling with lost employment and lockdown-related challenges, but they also must supervise the child’s online school, therapies, and more.

When schools closed in the spring of 2020, the federal government required schools to maintain regulations, services, and timelines within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Even though there were no special education waivers, schools were unequipped to provide remote learning services for special needs students. As a result, many families received very little in terms of services and special education support.

Compounding Results for Special Needs Families

The challenges faced by the population as a whole were compounded for special needs students and their families. The longer education and medical services are limited, the more of an effect it has on the growth and well-being of the students.

Students continue to miss essential medical appointments and services due to limited resources and support. Canceled therapy sessions are more than an inconvenience – the lack of support starts a domino effect that causes students to lose skills and fall behind even more than before. Some families are working through the consequences of reduced care, resulting in medical complications that require more treatments and surgeries.

 Special Needs Students Thrive in Routine

Another notable impact the pandemic had on special needs students is how the lockdowns affected daily schedules. Previously, school attendance created the structure for daily routine. But the pandemic shifted more of the responsibility to parents, who found themselves struggling through the trial-and-error of finding what works at home.

In the past, parents could send their children to school and benefit from the ongoing supervision from teachers, school administrators, lunch and recess monitors, and more. COVID-19 moved these tasks back to the home, causing parents to wear more hats throughout the day. It goes without saying that working parents find it challenging to juggle employment, school, and the specialized physical/emotional care required for the child.

Backlog of Need in Special Education

By law, students with an IEP must have a newly written education plan each year. Additionally, each student is reevaluated every three years to determine eligibility in the special education program. But the COVID-19 quarantine resulted in little or no testing. This means that schools are now facing an unprecedented backlog in services and meetings. Schools are continuing to face the challenges of maintaining health and safety for students. Children with special needs are experiencing the consequences of not having access to free and appropriate public education.

There’s no question that the pandemic is tough for parents, teachers, and students with special needs. As we see the impact the pandemic is having on special needs students, it has become obvious that better solutions must be implemented as soon as possible.

As the end of the school year approaches, parents, teachers, and therapists are reflecting on challenges and successes in this once-in-a-lifetime year.  Summer is approaching and for many families that means yet another significant transition in their daily lives.  The ‘summer slide’ is a decline in the educational and functional skills that students learn during the academic school year.  Unfortunately, children with special education services are often especially vulnerable to losing skills over the summer.  The following are strategies to keep your child engaged over the summer in order to prevent the summer slide.  

Routine

It is incredibly helpful to create a routine right from the start.  Children benefit from structure and this gives you an opportunity to establish what you want or need your daily routine to look like.  Use pictures or simply draw what you will be doing in your day to allow your child to understand what is coming next.  

Consider Natural Learning Moments

There are many learning opportunities built into an average summer day.  Allow your child to work on functional skills by assisting with chores, practicing their manners, helping to get dressed, washing fruit to prepare for a meal, and more.  Ask open-ended questions like “What do we need to do next?” when washing hands, or “What do we need to get ready to go outside?”

Collaborate With Your Team

Parents, teachers, and therapists should all consult to discuss specific strategies to support a child’s specific needs during the summer.  For example, an occupational therapist may recommend swimming lessons as a way to get regulating sensory input, or a speech-language pathologist may recommend specific speech sounds you can practice when reading together.  Touch base prior to the end of the year and let them know that you are interested in supporting your child in this area over the summer.  

Open-Ended Play

Providing your child with opportunities for open-ended play allows them to work on several different skills including executive functioning, independence, building confidence, creativity, and more.  Open-ended play also allows your child to follow their own interests, invoking their curiosity for learning and playing.  

Opportunities for Social Participation

Select activities for your child that allow them to practice the social skills that they are able to work on throughout the academic year.  Meet a friend at the playground for a playdate or for more structured support, check in with your child’s providers to see if they can recommend a social group.  

Outpatient services

While some children receive Extended School Year services (ESY), many do not qualify.  If your child is receiving services, consider continuing them privately through the summer.  Though it is important to check with your carrier, often if a child has an IEP, insurance will pay for private services.  This is particularly helpful for children who receive speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, and more.

Enriching Environments

If possible, expose your child to new environments to invoke their curiosity and love of learning.  This can be as simple as taking a nature walk in your backyard or a wagon ride through the city.  You can even check out local child-friendly destinations such as the library, farmer’s market, zoo, or children’s museum.  Afterwards, reflect on the experience together.  By following your child’s interests and engaging them you are creating opportunities for your child to grow outside of the academic year.   

If you are searching for the right fit for your CFY program, you may be weighing some essential priorities. It is vital to choose the right practice that will guide you toward long-term success in your SLP career. This Clinical Fellowship Year will set the stage for how you bring in clients and foster learning in your students and patients.

It’s challenging to go from being the big man on campus to the newest team member in a career. There will be times you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’ll feel confused. It happens. But when you choose a team that is standing behind you, ready to support and help you thrive, then those lost feelings will occur less and less.

3 Things to Consider Before Choosing a CFY Program

As you work to complete the final steps of your Speech-Language Pathology education, choosing your Clinical Fellowship Year isn’t something to be rushed. Research each practice to find the best fit for your personality and needs. Some things to consider are:

  1. Paid Training Modules to Set You Up for Success: Before your Clinical Fellowship Year even starts, CBS Therapy provides paid training sessions to get you comfortable with the practice. You will learn procedures and everyday expectations. Your role will be outlined in detail so that you can hit the ground running.
  2. The Practice Meets All of ASHA’s Requirements: ASHA defines the CFY as starting after the academics are complete and before you begin to practice SLP. The program aims to help fellows gain and refine clinical skills, participating in evaluations and ongoing learning. CBS Therapy is careful to adhere to all of ASHA’s requirements so that no page is left unturned.
  3. The Mentors Are Available and Happy to Teach: It is vital to enter a CFY Program that offers mentors who are thrilled to be there, shaping young fellows to be the next generation of SLPs. Our mentors at CBS Therapy are available around the clock to answer questions. They want to watch you flourish and grow throughout the program. Your success is their success.

With these aspects of a CFY program, you are sure to get the most out of the program. You don’t want to skimp on these characteristics of a great program. CBS Therapy has years of experience and knowlede, helping to guide Clinical Fellows through a wide-ranging program.

Choose CBS Therapy for Your Clinical Fellow Year

Our team at CBS Therapy is dedicated to making your CFY Program the best it can be. We want to provide you with the most comprehensive program in the industry, setting you up for success in your future. We aim to send you off after our program, confident to practice independently.

We have over 13 years of experience supervising Clinical Fellows. The 36-week program focuses on in-depth training and individualized mentorship to help you apply your education to real-life clinical experience. Please reach out for more information about our CFY Program.

Any questions? Give us a call!

401-270-9991

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