But what do you DO?

Because I have been invested in the field of speech-language pathology for many years now (truly since my junior year of high school), I sometimes forget that not everyone totally gets what the field is.

Friends and family know that I work intensely with autistic kids, and kids with social pragmatic difficulties. They know that I work in a school. That I see all ages. That I work with language-disordered kids, among other things (fluency, articulation, etc). But, I do realize that that’s still not clear — why does a speech-language pathologist do all of those things? What do I do?

Here is the quick cheat-sheet overview.

Language has three components: form, content, and use.
1. Form has three components. Phonology (the sound system of a language, how sounds are combined), Morphology (the structure of words), and Syntax (the order and combination of words in sentences). Essentially, we’re talking about grammar, noun/verb agreement, prefixes, suffixes, etc. Phonology is the basis for reading — knowing which sounds go together in which ways, etc.
2. Content: here we’re talking about words (aka “semantics”). What words mean, how words are defined, how to put words into sentences, paragraphs, how to cohesively use the definitions of words to express points, how to sequence sentences in the correct order, which words are antonyms and which are synonyms, and so on and so forth. Goes on forever.
3. Use: how form and content combine in daily life. AKA pragmatics. AKA, “how do we use language to be social?”

And….I work on all of these. All of these components develop naturally along a trajectory for neurotypical kids. But for most of my kids, they aren’t developing naturally. They have to be taught, often explicitly. That’s where I come in.
Examples of things that my kids might struggle with:
–Grammar, noun/verb agreements, prounoun uses
–Adding detail to sentences (e.g., adjectives)
–Using words to succinctly express what they are trying to say (e.g., “This weekend, she was there, I mean, my aunt, and um we went to that store you know? And……..”)
–Extracting the main idea, main points
–Higher-level language: idioms, multiple meaning words, metaphors (e.g., does “It’s raining cats and dogs” mean that animals are falling from the sky?)
–Comparing and contrasting (e.g., a 6th grader who can’t explain what’s the same/different about a lemon and an orange)

And again, the list goes on and on. It all comes back to these fundamentals of language. They are the building blocks of everything. If a kiddo has a language disorder, and struggles with the above, it’s only logical that they may have trouble in content classes — Science, Social Studies, etc. Because then, not only are they missing the building blocks, but they’re expected to understand the concepts too.

This is a very, very, very, summarized, abbreviated, and quick explanation. But maybe it’s what someone needs to see. Does it make sense? Should I give more information? I could geek out post after post with basic, or detailed, information….say the word and it’s a go. (Or, I may just do it anyway, because after all, I can!)

Speech-Language Pathologist. Nature-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, mismatched-socks-wearing, Autism-Awesomeness-finder, sensitive-soul Bostonian.

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