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Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP), Anne Auckland, describes the role of a speech and language therapist in a school setting

October 26, 2023

The KAUST School Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Anne Auckland, came to KAUST from the US with over 20 years’ experience working in the school setting, as well as Birth to 3 programs and private practices. The SLP and K-12 speech-language therapy program at TKS is is a relatively recent addition to the TKS Student Support Department, now in its third year of development. 

In this article, we hope to  provide you with an understanding of what an SLP is and the role in its role in a school setting, specifically TKS.

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a healthcare professional who assesses, diagnoses, and treats communication delays and disorders. SLPs work with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They can work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, clinics, private practices, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.

Education and Certification Requirements

SLPs are trained on the anatomy and physiology of the vocal mechanisms and articulators, as well as the theories of development and therapy for language, stuttering, voice, swallowing, cognitive disorders, traumatic brain injury, and more.

SLPs from the US must have a master’s degree and a Certificate of Clinical Competence. SLPs in KSA must have a bachelor’s degree.  SLPs must pass National Board exams and maintain their certification by completing continuing education credits.

School-based and clinically-based SLPs both assess, diagnose, and treat communication delays and disorders. However, there are some key similarities and differences.

School based SLP vs Clinically based SLP

SLPs work in the school setting, such as TKS, as well as other settings such as clinics or private settings, such as KAUST Health (KH) 

  • Both have completed degrees in Speech-Language Pathology.
  • Both can assess, diagnose, and treat a wide range of communication delays and disorders.
  • Both can work with people of all ages and have the training to work in a variety of settings.
  • School-based SLPs work with students and focus on helping students succeed in school and access their education. They consult with teachers and other staff members on how to support students.  They primarily work with students 1:1 and small groups.
  • Clinically-based SLPs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Services are typically provided 1:1.
  • School-based SLPs are typically employed by schools/school districts, while clinically-based SLPs are employed by a variety of different organizations or self-employed.
Diagnosis and Treat Communication Delays and Disorders

SLPs diagnose and treat communication delays and disorders. 

  • A communication delay is when a child's communication skills are developing more slowly than expected (compared to children with similar language backgrounds, age, gender).
  •  A communication disorder is a condition that affects a child's ability to communicate effectively.
SLPs use a variety of methods to diagnose communication delays and disorders, including:
  • Observations
  • Questionnaires
  • Documentation of an adverse educational impact 
  • Standardized tests to assess the child's communication skills.
  • Distinguish between English language learners and communication delays
SLPs work with students who have a variety of communication delays or disorders, including, but not limited to:
  • Speech sound disorders (e.g., articulation disorders, apraxia of speech)
    • Ex: Working with a student to produce speech sounds correctly.
  • Language disorders (e.g., receptive language disorder, expressive language disorder)
    • Ex: Helping a student with language disorder to develop their vocabulary and understand complex sentences.
  • Pragmatics/Social Skills
    • Understanding body language and using language in social situations/conversations 
  • Stuttering
    • Ex: Providing fluency strategies to a student who stutters.
  • Voice disorders
    • Ex: Teaching a student with voice disorder how to use their voice safely and effectively.
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
    • Using communication boards, signs, or picture communication systems
  • Cognitive, motor or genetic based communication disorders

If/when a child qualifies for speech-language therapy based on the evaluation results and recommendations, an individual growth plan is developed (i.e.., therapy plan/goals). 

Referrals and Qualification for Speech-Language Therapy in the School Setting

Referrals to the school SLP goes through, and comes from the Homeroom teacher due to a concern(s) regarding a child’s communication skills.  Referrals go through the Referral Process as outlined in the TKS Student Support Handbook. Homeroom teachers will communicate and discuss any concern(s) with parents prior to a referral.  

To qualify for speech-language therapy services, a child must have a communication delay or disorder that adversely impacts their education. 

Prior to a formal referral or evaluation, an SLP may also consult, collaborate, and support teachers and educational staff in the RTI (Response to Intervention) and MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems) processes. Thus, a student may not need direct intervention or therapy services. The SLP can work with your child’s teacher(s) to support their communication needs, and guide in the referral and intervention processes.

SLPs are part of an educational team and are here to support students and their educational team to understand a student’s communication needs.

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