Five Common Misconceptions about Speech-Language Therapy
Updated: May 27
Inspired by May as Better Hearing and Speech Month, we are sharing five common misconceptions about speech-language pathology.
1. Speech-language therapy is for children who can’t say their “R” s correctly.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are trained to provide skilled services to children and adults of all ages. For example, SLPs can provide therapy to individuals following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. SLPs can also work with individuals who have progressive neurological disorders (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease) and developmental disorders (e.g., Down’s Syndrome, Autism).
Additional areas of assessment and treatment are summarized below:
Speech Sound Production
Voice and Resonance
Receptive and Expressive Language
Hearing and Hearing Loss
Swallowing and Feeding
Cognitive Aspects of Communication
Social aspects of Communication
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Modalities
*Note this is not an exhaustive list
2. Speech-language therapy services should have quick results.
The speed at which results are achieved varies for every individual. Many factors besides diagnoses and severity can contribute to the prognoses and necessary timespan for services. It is important to communicate with your SLP openly and honestly about goals as well as questions as they arise.
If it seems like your SLP and child are “just playing”, it is very likely that they are targeting goals through play. SLPs complete daily notes for services provided, which include information about activities, engagement, supports that were helpful, observations, and data relative to goals. SLPs can also provide explanations for why they do what they do- if they are not already, you can always ask! It can be easy to forget that the reasons for why we do what we do are not always apparent to others. We love to know our caregivers and clients are paying attention and want to know more. The more you know, the more you grow!
3. Starting speech-language therapy before age three is a waste of time and money.
SLPs can and do work with children under the age of three. In fact, some SLPs work in early intervention, which aims to prevent problems or to address them early on, before problems worsen. Speech-language communication skills develop from birth onward. SLPs are trained to assess for acquisition and mastery of relevant developmentally-appropriate milestones.
4. Most children grow out of their speech problems on their own.
Everyone seems to have a story about a neighbor or a friend whose child was a late-talker “but they caught up on their own and they’re completely fine now.” While these optimistic stories are well-intentioned, they can be problematic for individuals considering the pursuit of speech-language services for their loved ones.
Research suggests 50-70% of children who experience late language emergence will recover on their own. In one study, 20% of children with a history of late language emergence continued to present with language impairment at age seven (Rice, Taylor, & Zubrick, 2008).
While the percentages of children who recover on their own may seem high, this still leaves a large population of children who will not. Additionally, children who do recover from late language emergence have been reported to score lower than children with typical language development when matched for socioeconomic status (Paul, 1996; Rescorla, 2000, 2002).
5. Anyone can do what a speech therapist does if they do a little digging on the internet.
The signature at the end of any SLP’s email typically includes the letters “M.S., CCC-SLP” or “M.A. CCC-SLP.” These letters highlight the various requirements one must meet to be licensed as an SLP in the U.S. These standards are in place to ensure best practices are maintained, with individuals receiving evidence-based services grounded in research. That being said, treatment plans are individualized by the SLP based on this evidence and research.
M.S. or M.A. SLPs must earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. During their master’s program, students complete course work involving nine areas of clinical competence. Simultaneously, graduate students must also complete at least 400 clock hours of supervised clinical experience. Near the end of their program, students must also pass the Praxis® Examination in Speech-Language Pathology.
CF-SLP After earning a master’s degree and passing the Praxis, SLPs must complete a nine-month clinical fellowship totaling 1,260 hours under the mentorship of a licensed SLP. To practice as a clinical fellow (CF), individuals must apply for state licensure and national licensure.
CCC-SLP Once an SLP has completed their clinical fellowship and earned their Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCCs) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), the SLP is responsible for completing 30 continuing education hours every three years. State licensure boards also have requirements regarding continuing education hour requirements that vary.
Paul, R. (1996). Clinical implications of the natural history of slow expressive language development. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 5(2), 5-21.
Rescorla, L. A. (2000). Do late-talking toddlers turn out to have reading difficulties a decade later? Annals of Dyslexia, 50, 87-102.
Rescorla, L. A. (2002). Language and reading outcomes to age 9 in late-talking toddlers. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, 360-371.
Rice, M. L., Taylor, C. L., & Zubrick, S. R. (2008). Language outcomes of 7-year-old children with or without a history of late language emergence at 24 months. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51(2), 394-407.
Author: Heather Salvo, MS, CCC-SLP, Innovative Speech & Swallowing Partners, LLC