BHSM and Your Role as an SLP
Today we have a guest post by our SLP Travel Mentor, Melissa Jones. She talks about Better Hearing and Speech Month and her vital role in educating others. You can read more about Melissa through her awesome blog: Keeping Up With The Joneses. If you’re interested in getting to know our other travel mentors, check them out here.
“I don’t need a speech pathologist, I talk just fine!”
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this, I would probably be able to take a really nice vacation. As I feel my blood pressure rise a little bit, I calmly try to explain that speech pathologists do much more than just help people speak.
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), “…provides an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and role of ASHA members in providing life-altering treatment.” I believe it’s much more than that. To me, Better Hearing and Speech Month is about education. After all, how can I get upset with patients who don’t understand what my profession really can do if they have never been told about the vastly different areas of speech-language pathology?
Speech-Language Pathologists can treat a wide variety of disorders across the lifespan, from premature babies all the way to senior adults. We can work in completely different settings, including private clinics, inpatient/outpatient clinics, nursing homes, schools, home health, and acute care hospitals. We are certified to treat feeding and swallowing disorders, cognitive disorders, voice disorders, articulation disorders, language disorders, fluency disorders, and more. It is one of the most versatile professions in the world! This to me is really what Better Hearing and Speech Month is about- educating the world about all that our profession can do- it’s not just speech!
As a speech-language pathologist in a nursing home, my primary job is the diagnosis and treatment of both swallowing and cognitive disorders. Often times when I introduce myself as the speech pathologist, I get a knowing smile and an “I can talk just fine” response. But when I explain in a way my patients can understand that speech pathologists do more than just speech- your physical therapist works with your legs to make them stronger, your occupational therapist works with your arms to make them stronger, and I work with your brain to make it stronger, people are much more receptive. Working with feeding and swallowing disorders can literally be life changing for a patient. Patients can go from eating and drinking almost nothing to being nutritionally healthy thanks to speech pathology intervention. The interventions and compensatory strategies developed by a speech pathologist improve swallowing safety and reduce the risk of aspiration, choking, and pneumonia.
Someday I won’t have to respond to a patient saying they don’t need speech therapy, but until then, a big part of my job is to educate patients and families about the speech pathology profession. Speech pathologists diagnose and treat an incredible amount of disorders across the lifespan, so be nice to the speech-language pathologists in your life because some day you will probably need one!