District 518 Column: May is Better Speech and Hearing Month
Speech-language pathologists work in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private clinics, long-term care facilities, colleges and universities and in telepractice.
What do Tiger Woods, Ed Sheeran, Joe Biden, Stephen Hawking, Barbara Walters, Michael Phelps, and King George VI have in common?
Each of these individuals struggled with a speech or language disorder and were able to improve their communication by receiving speech language therapy.
While records about speech and language impairments have appeared in writings for many years, history was not kind to those presenting with such problems. During the period of the Roman Empire, for instance, people with speaking impairments such as stuttering were placed in cages for entertainment purposes. Passing citizens would throw coins into the cage to get these people to talk.
It was only much later that speech-language pathology became a respected profession and people were able to start seeking treatment for disorders without facing stigma.
Ninety-four years ago, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) founded Better Speech and Hearing Month to promote understanding about speech and hearing disorders, to prevent hearing loss and encourage people to seek treatment for hearing and speech-related issues. ASHA aims to encourage people to be aware of their hearing and speech and make changes if there is a problem.
ASHA runs the Better Speech and Hearing Month campaign throughout May, sharing information on its website to raise awareness for communication disorders.
A speech-language pathologist is an individual trained in the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders. SLPs treat a variety of communication disorders within the areas of articulation, language, voice, and fluency. They help individuals who are nonverbal, who have limited verbal speech and whose speech is difficult to understand learn to use augmentative or
alternative communication systems such as picture exchange, communication boards or speech- generating devices to help them to communicate.
SLPs work in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private clinics, long-term care facilities, colleges and universities and in telepractice. SLPs work with individuals of all ages. A speech-language pathologist is often part of the team of professionals who work with premature infants at risk for developmental delays.
Many young children require speech therapy to improve articulation of speech sounds or language skills. Individuals who are born with a cleft lip or palate, or who are diagnosed with a condition known to affect oral motor function will need the assistance of a speech-language pathologist to improve eating, drinking and speaking. Individuals who stutter, who have received head injuries, who have a hearing loss, have autism or who have suffered a stroke would all likely receive speech-language therapy at some point.
Speech-language pathologists collaborate with families, teachers and health care professionals to develop and implement service plans designed to help individuals reach their maximum communication potential.
The COVID-19 pandemic required all teachers and many service providers in the health care industry to rapidly switch from providing in-person instruction to delivering services within a virtual format.
While the world has begun to return to pre-pandemic status, there are now many instances in which virtual services continue. Virtual services have been found to be as effective as services provided in person and are particularly valuable in instances in which in-person services are not possible, often due to a shortage of trained individuals within a specific geographic area.
District 518 is fortunate to have an experienced team of speech-language pathologists who provide screening, intervention, assessment and direct speech-language services to students both in person and through a virtual format. The virtual providers who currently support Worthington’s local SLPs reside in Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Florida, Massachusetts and New York.
While Better Speech and Hearing Month is celebrated only during May, individuals are encouraged to practice good speech and hearing habits throughout the year by following some simple routines.
Lowering the volume on your earphones and wearing hearing protection in noisy environments will safeguard your hearing. If you’ve experienced a communication disorder in your lifetime, sharing this information with others may not only prove cathartic but can influence someone else to seek help.
For more information about communication disorders, please contact your local school district or health care provider, or visit asha.org.