Speech pathologists play a critical role in society
- June 1, 2017
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- Category: Latest News
Greft biding dok but I don’t marp!
You have just experienced a moment of aphasia — imagine what a whole day would be like.
Aphasia is a language disorder that can occur after a stroke. Intelligence is unchanged, but the ability to understand and produce words and sentences is impaired. People with aphasia often know exactly what they want to say, and being unable to get the words out is enormously frustrating.
May was Speech and Hearing Month, and every year speech-language pathologists and audiologists use this opportunity to build awareness about communication disorders that impact one in six Canadians. Most people know that speech-language pathologists help people improve pronunciation or better manage stuttering but, beyond this, the profession remains a bit of a mystery to many people.
So, what do speech-language pathologists do?
We evaluate and treat individuals with communication disorders across the lifespan, including very young children who are late starting to talk; elementary-school children who struggle to read and write; children with social communication challenges like autism; adolescents and adults with cognitive-communication disorders after brain injury; children and adults with voice problems, and adults with dementia.
We work with the people with communication disorders directly, and with their families and other communication partners. We also collaborate with audiologists, who are our close professional colleagues, as they evaluate and treat children and adults with hearing loss. These are just a few examples of the many people that speech-language pathologists help every day.
We are passionate about helping people of all ages communicate, because communication is at the heart of being human. In almost every moment of every day, we listen, we speak, we read, and we write (or type or text). Communication skills are critical for school, work and social life.
In school, we must understand our teachers’ lectures, take notes, read textbooks and websites, write stories and essays, and give presentations to the class. At work, we must follow directions, read documents, negotiate social interactions, type emails, and participate in group work. In our leisure time, we follow the plots of movies or novels, understand and use humour, send texts, and tell stories. Even a small disruption in our ability to communicate can have devastating effects on our social, vocational, and academic success.
Communication is an incredibly complex process. Even reading this article requires an impressive array of language skills.
You must recognize that certain letters represent certain sounds. You need to understand the meaning of individual words, and choose the correct meaning in that context (e.g., the word “follow” in the context of directions is different than following another person).
You need to understand how grammar influences meaning, like how “I did” differs from “did I”, and how meaning is linked across sentences.
You must be able to separate relevant from irrelevant detail, “read between the lines” to figure out subtle meanings, and compare what you’re reading with your prior knowledge to learn from the article. Then you must remember what you read. And you do all of this automatically in a matter of seconds!
There is a greater understanding in today’s society of the importance of communication in achieving academic and vocational success, and also in simply enjoying positive connections with friends and family. Speech-language pathologists play a critical role throughout the lifespan, ranging from ensuring children are well supported as they grow and develop to helping our aging population remain active and socially connected.
At the end of Speech and Hearing Month, it’s a good time to take a moment to consider the importance of communication in daily life and the challenges faced by the millions of Canadians affected by communication disorders.