Although it may seem as though it’s a one (wo)man team for diagnosing and treating those with communication and swallowing deficits, there’s actually much more to it. Each patient is completely unique and typically requires more than one professional in his/her care team. Of course, not all will need what seems like an entire hospital staff, but many clients that a SLP may come across may have at least one other professional.
There’s also an exception to every rule. The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), the country’s association for SLPs, Audiologists and related researchers, recommends/requires that an audiologist exams an individual who has a suspected communication or swallowing disorder as part of a Speech-Language Pathologist’s assessment.
Why? It does seem a little odd. Why would a hearing and balance doctor need to assess someone who possibly can’t swallow or speak effectively? How do ears affect your mouth or talking? Well, they may not affect swallowing as much, but they are a vital part of the “Speech Chain” [picture below] as my one professor calls it. Ears are an intensely vital part of the communication system. Just take a moment and imagine trying to have a conversation with a person while having headphones on… is their speak muffled? or maybe you can’t even hear them at all? This sort of segues into why an audiologist is a key participant in a SLP’s professional and assessment network. They must assess whether (especially for young children or those in an accident) there is an obstruction or other issue with the auditory system that is creating the communication deficit. If so, then it could just be that the person needs a hearing aid or some other action to fix the issue and won’t require speech therapy. That’ll help identify the issue correctly and save the client time and money. If the client doesn’t have an auditory issue, or still wants/requires speech therapy for other reasons, then the SLP may assess the patient further to find the best therapy plan. There’s also the chance a client may require both professionals as part of his/her therapy plan, with management and reassessment as time goes on.
This is just one professional that a SLP will most likely work with in the course of his/her career. I’ll be sure to write about others as time goes on! Hope this was interesting and helpful!