What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist? 

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly-trained professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty with speech or language. Although people often think of speech and language as the same thing, the terms actually have very different meanings. If your child has trouble with speech, he/ she struggles with the “how-to” of talking—the coordination of the muscles and movements necessary to produce speech. If your child has trouble with language, he/she struggles with understanding what he/she hears or sees. Your child may struggle to find the right words and/or organize those words in a meaningful way to communicate a message or hold a conversation. An SLP also evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty swallowing food or liquid. An SLP will help identify what part of the swallowing process is making it difficult for your child to eat (e.g., chewing, manipulating food with the tongue, coordinating mouth and throat structures and muscles, breathing appropriately while eating). 

What Do SLPs Treat?

Below is a list of common speech and language disorders with a brief explanation of each. 

Speech Disorders 

• Articulation - the way we say our speech sounds 

• Phonology - the speech patterns we use 

• Apraxia - difficulty planning and coordinating the movements needed to make speech sounds 

• Fluency - stuttering 

• Voice - problems with the way the voice sounds, such as hoarseness 

Language Disorders 

• Receptive Language - difficulty understanding language 

• Expressive Language - difficulty using language 

• Pragmatic Language - social communication; the way we speak to each other 

Other Disorders 

• Deafness/Hearing Loss - loss of hearing; therapy includes developing lip-reading, speech, and/or alternative communication systems 

• Oral-Motor Disorders - weak tongue and/or lip muscles • Swallowing/Feeding Disorders - difficulty chewing and/or swallowing

By Susie S. Loraine, M.A., CCC-SLP courtesy of Super Duper Publications

What is an Occupational Therapist? 

An occupational therapist (OT) is a highly trained medical professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty participating in meaningful activities (or “occupations”) relevant to their daily lives. Although many people often think of “occupation” as work or a job, occupation can mean any activity a person engages in. This can include self-care, play and leisure activities, and work. For a child, “work” often involves playing, learning, and going to school. Children make up a large part of the population receiving OT services. Treatment often focuses on improving a child's development in the areas of fine motor skills (e.g., stringing beads, cutting with scissors, buttoning buttons), play skills, social skills, and self-care skills (e.g., dressing, bathing, grooming, and feeding). Generally, occupational therapists provide treatment to clients who have been diagnosed with a specific medical condition by a physician. Diagnoses may include learning disorders, stroke, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), genetic disorders, and developmental delays. Based on the results of an evaluation, the occupational therapist designs a treatment plan based on each client’s and family's unique needs.

What do OTs Treat?

 Below is a list of common problems treated by an occupational therapist. 

• Decreased range of motion - limits in moving the head, neck, body, or limbs 

• Decreased strength - difficulty performing age appropriate weight bearing movements (e.g., bear walk, wheelbarrow walk) and holding body positions against gravity (e.g., superman) 

• Fine motor delays - difficulty with handwriting and cutting skills, using a pincer grasp to pick up small items, and buttoning a button on a shirt 

• Self-care delays - difficulty performing dressing, grooming, tooth brushing, and feeding skills 

• Bilateral coordination delays - difficulty using both hands together to perform a task (e.g., tying shoes, throwing/catching a ball) 

• Visual perceptual disorders - difficulty organizing visual information from the environment in order to perform a task (e.g. putting a puzzle together) 

• Sensory processing disorders - difficulty responding appropriately to different sensory experiences (i.e., touch, taste, sound, and movement) which interferes with the ability to perform daily activities

By Ann Stensaas, M.S., OTR/L courtesy of Super Duper Publications