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What Is Speech-Language Pathology?

A speech-language pathologist offers support and care to children who have trouble communicating or difficulty eating, drinking and swallowing. An SLP is a medical professional who evaluates and treats communication and swallowing disorders. They are sometimes called a speech therapist. Our pediatric speech and language therapists provide speech therapy for toddlers, speech therapy for kids  work with infants, children, adolescents, and adults.


What Conditions do Speech-Language Pathologists Treat?

Speech-language pathologists treat individuals of all ages who have a wide variety of disabilities, complex conditions and serious injuries that cause problems with communication and swallowing, especially in the following areas:

  • Speech Production: Problems in this area affect how a person says sounds and how well they can be understood by others when talking. These are sometimes called articulation disorders, phonological disorders, apraxia of speech or motor speech disorders like dysarthria.
  • Language: Problems in this area affect how well a person understands what they hear or read (ie, receptive language) and how well a person uses words to tell others what they are thinking or feeling (ie, expressive language).
  • Social Communication/Pragmatics: Problems in this area affect how well a person follows unspoken social rules of communication like turn-taking, eye contact, personal space when talking with others, etc.
  • Voice and Resonance: Problems in this area affect how a person's voice sounds. Sometimes individuals can have problems with their voice that make them sound too loud or too soft, breathy, hoarse, or harsh. Sometimes people have problems with too much or too little air getting into their nose during speech. This can make them sound nasal.
  • Fluency: Problems in this area are commonly called stuttering. Fluency refers to how smooth speech is or how well it flows. People that have fluency disorders may repeat one part of a word (e.g., t-t-t-t-able), the whole word (e.g., today, today, today I want candy) or they might use a lot of pauses like “um” or “uh”, and their face or body might get tense when they get stuck on a word. Many young children go through a normal period of stuttering that they typically outgrow within 1 to 2 years after it appears for the first time. This usually happens around the time children are in preschool or kindergarten.
  • Cognitive-Communication: Problems in this area affect how well a person's mind works. This can mean issues with short and long-term memory, attention, solving problems, organizing thoughts and other thinking skills.
  • Feeding and Swallowing: Problems in this area affect how well a person's mouth and throat work when chewing and swallowing different foods and liquids. Babies may have problems with drinking from a bottle or an open cup. Sometimes people have trouble moving their tongue or lips or may cough or choke when they eat or drink certain foods and liquids.

Whether your child has no known medical diagnosis, a lifelong condition such as cerebral palsy or needs care following a serious injury that is affecting their ability to communicate, a speech-language pathologist can address speech problems and other complications to help them feel more comfortable communicating and navigating their world.


What Assessments are Used to Diagnose Speech and Language Disorders?

Supported by the latest equipment and techniques, your child has many options for outpatient therapy and inpatient care at Gillette Children’s. We have a diverse team of specialists that work closely together to help children achieve their best. In addition to facilitating speech therapy activities, we help you coordinate care with other specialists to provide:


Integrated Care

At Gillette Children's, we recognize that every child's communication and feeding needs are unique. Our speech-language pathologists use a highly collaborative approach with other specialists at Gillette, including occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), audiology, orthotics prosthetics and seating (OPS) and more. This collaboration ensures that your child will get the best possible care. We also have virtual care options.

Your child will work with a team of specialists who understand the challenges of children who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, or who experience speech delay. Gillette offers the Twin Cities’ only pediatric comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation program certified by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Gillette is one of eight U.S. pediatric inpatient rehabilitation facilities to have CARF accreditation for both its pediatric specialty and pediatric brain injury programs. 

As part of their treatment at Gillette, your child might receive care from providers across our many specialties, including:


Video - Gillette Children's Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist and Speech Therapist On Helping Children

When you walk in the door at Gillette, there's just a feeling that's different for me.

I feel like the entire team is very passionate about what they do. Some of the things that I feel really set Gillette apart, would be the fact that we're able to work with such a wide range of children. We work with children who are typically developing that may have had a setback through a broken arm or concussion, all the way to specializing in kids with special health needs.

That can include neuromuscular disorders, spina bifida, cerebral palsy. Families should expect that when they come to Gillette, it will be a very interactive partnership where we really listen to what their needs are, we help them to set that plan, and we really try to go that next step of helping their child gain independence in their community, recover from their injury, and gain the confidence that they need to learn new skills.

What I really love about working at Gillette is this is a place where we focus on success. A lot of times I'll have families come in to see me and you can see the worry on their face. You can see the apprehension about, 'What is wrong with my kid? Why can't they do this particular thing?'

After they tell me their story, what I get to do is talk about how we're going to make this better. It's really important to make therapy fun and to make it really about the child, because without that, kids are motivated by fun and by play.

Really they're not just little adults. We have to look at them as individuals and as children.

So for us, we really get to know the kids that we're working with and what motivates them, whether it's a little truck or playing princess, but then using those games and making them skillful activities for working on fine motor skills or for working on cognition, whatever the goal may be for that patient.

There is no greater joy when I walk out that door, knowing that I was able to provide them with the best quality of care. This is where we get things done and we help kids and families achieve those successes that they so deserve.