A speech language pathologist, SLP, is a professional educated to evaluate and treat speech, language, cognitive, and swallowing disorders. They are required to obtain a Master’s degree from an accredited university, which includes completing over 350 hours of hands-on training in the areas of speech, language, swallowing, voice, fluency, and cognition with children and adults. They then spend their first nine months of employment (known as the clinical fellowship) under the direct supervision of a certified speech language pathologist.
Speech-language pathologists often work with other professionals, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and doctors to evaluate and treat individuals with communication and swallowing disorders.
The speech-language pathologist completes an assessment of speech and language skills utilizing formal and informal measures. Formal measures include standardized test batteries. Informal measures may include observation and caregiver interviews. Type and extent of assessment depend on patients’ clinical presentation. After completion of an evaluation, treatment plans are created to target the areas of impairment.
There are three ways that SLPs can evaluate a patient’s swallowing ability, which include:
Clinical Dysphagia Evaluation - performed in an outpatient office or at the patient’s bedside in the hospital. Patients are administered multiple consistencies to assess for clinical signs/symptoms of aspiration, i.e., coughing, choking, wet vocal quality, and/or complaints of food sticking in the throat when swallowing. Silent aspiration cannot be ruled out at the bedside.
Modified Barium Swallow study (MBS) - Evaluation performed in radiology to determine the cause of the patient’s symptoms demonstrated during clinical dysphagia evaluation and to assess the effectiveness of strategies/techniques to enable the patient to swallow safely. During the MBS, patients are administered multiple consistencies, mixed with Barium under fluoroscopy with a radiologist and radiology technician present.
Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) - This exam is performed in an outpatient office or at the bedside and involves passing a flexible endoscope through the nose to obtain a superior view of the pharynx, larynx, and airway in order to evaluate swallowing functioning. During the FEES, patients are administered multiple consistencies mixed with food coloring to provide contrast against the tissues in the pharynx. The FEES can also be used as visual feedback when using techniques during swallowing therapy.
Adult Speech Language Pathology Services Offered:
For a list of commonly used terms associated with assessment and treatment, click here.Pediatric Speech Language Pathology Services Offered:
Language Evaluation and Treatment