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How Speech-Language Pathologists Support Patients

Dr. Shemaine examines a patient
Written by Jennifer Palisoc

Speech-language pathologists provide communication and swallowing assessments to patients of all ages. They also collaborate with other health-care professionals including audiologists, nurses, physicians, occupational therapists, dietitians and more to provide patient support.

Shemaine Caleb, a speech-language pathologist at Sunnybrook, shares insight on helping patients across the lifespan.

1. How do speech-language pathologists care for patients?

Speech-Language Pathologists, or SLPs, work to prevent, assess, diagnose and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. SLPs provide education related to these areas to patients and their families, as well as other health professionals, and medical students.

At Sunnybrook, SLPs can be found helping patients in numerous programs ranging from the paediatric population in the Women and Babies Program to the geriatric population in the Veterans Program, and everything in between.

2. What might people be surprised to know about speech-language pathologists?

When many individuals hear ‘Speech-Language Pathology’ they instinctively think we only focus on communication. Many patients/families are surprised that we also assess swallowing.

SLPs, can also modify diet textures for swallowing safety while assessing patients for allowance of specific foods and drinks to enhance their quality of life.

SLPs can provide communication and swallowing assessment or intervention as a patient moves across the lifespan and even towards end of life. SLPs play an important role in providing families with communication tips to help facilitate meaningful interactions with their loved ones.

3. Are there any tips for preparing for appointments for patients and families?

 If a patient is consulted for communication difficulties, the family may want to consider how they’re already communicating with the patient and share with the SLP what strategies are effective.

If a referral is for swallowing, families are encouraged to think about whether their loved one has ever had any swallowing difficulties in the past (e.g., fatigue while chewing, coughing, throat clearing, or shortness of breath) during meals and share with the SLP what types of food and drink they are already consuming at home.

Being familiar with the scope of SLPs can help patients and families earlier in their care. If there are any concerns with communication and swallowing, SLPs can be consulted at the beginning of a patient’s hospital stay to help improve or maintain specific skills for the patient’s benefit and quality of life.

Learn more about Speech Language Therapy

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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