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Many of you are probably already aware that May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Since one of the goals of Better Hearing and Speech Month is to raise awareness about communication impairments and the professionals who treat them, this seems like a good time to share some information about Kindred’s speech and language pathologists (SLPs), and what they do for our patients.

SLPs are responsible for the evaluation and treatment of speech and language impediments, but they actually do a great deal more than that. They also evaluate and treat swallowing problems, impaired cognition, and hearing problems. For patients who aren’t able to communicate through speech, SLPs teach them alternative methods of communication, like using pictures or symbols, hand gestures, sign language, or “talking computers” to let others know what they want or need. “The speech and language pathologist is the communication specialist that enhances our patients’ verbal and written expressions, auditory processing skills, auditory and reading comprehension levels, attention spans, memories, and problem solving and organizational skills,” says Michelle Tristani, M.S., CCC-SLP, National Rehab Clinical Specialist for Speech Pathology, RehabCare. “The speech and language pathologist also specializes in oral and pharyngeal swallowing disorders and in swallowing rehabilitation.” Learn more about the SLP profession from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Ideally, SLPs will work closely with other therapists as part of an interdisciplinary team to contribute to the patient’s overall plan of care. “We collaborate with other disciplines such as nursing, activity directors, and physical and occupational therapists,” Tristani says. “Speech and language interventions are included in each patient’s care plan, as appropriate. We also provide training to other therapists on individualized and effective communication with patients who have speech problems, and on strategies that will help them to communicate with patients who have impaired cognition.”

Staying on top of their game is an important part of the work for RehabCare's SLP professionals. “In May, we make an extra effort to locate and send out new best practice resources to our speech pathologists, although we do send out those resources as we hear about them year-round.” says Tristani. “During Better Hearing and Speech Month, we also highlight clinical best practices through articles in our newsletter.”

The Important Role of a Speech and Language Pathologist

Every year, RehabCare designs a new Better Hearing and Speech Month t-shirt that is made available to all speech pathologists. “The t-shirt helps create awareness of the field and what we do for our nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy counterparts,” Tristani says.

Another way that RehabCare spreads the word about Better Hearing and Speech Month is through a “Top 10 Speech Pathology and Procedures” conference call. “Every so often, our Clinical Ladder Team gets together to identify a top 10 list of products, services and new assessment tools to enhance the services our speech therapists currently provide,” says Tristani. “We had a ‘Top 10’ call in January, and we’re planning to do another in May. During the calls, we ask each of 10 therapists to speak about one product. Although we do things like adding music to introduce each speaker to try to make it fun, the goal of the call, and of all of our efforts, is to make sure that the RehabCare speech pathologists stay informed about best practices.”

By Ryan Squire