The Role of Speech Pathologists in the Public Schools

  • Communication Problems in School

    • Speech sounds. Difficulty producing speech sounds, causing a student to be difficult to understand and hindering their access/benefit from education
    • Language and literacy. Trouble understanding provided education (written, auditory). Difficulty following directions and/or answering questions. Challenges clearly and effectively expressing thoughts, feelings and knowledge. 
    • Social communication. Difficulty engaging in the social aspects of education, including classroom dynamics, developing and maintaining friendships and following the "hidden curriculum" of school. 
    • Cognitive communication. Challenges with executive functions (e.g., planning, organizing, initiating, working memory, self-monitoring, emotional regulation) that limit access to education. Learning disabilities and brain damage can cause these types of problems.
    • Feeding and swallowing. Physical difficulty eating and drinking safely, which negatively impacts ability to learn and socialize in the academic setting. 
    • Stuttering. Notable dysfluenices in speech, including repetitions, blocks, secondary characteristics and more, which cause difficulty effectively communicating. 
    • Voice. Difficulty producing voice, which can be related to vocal fold function, nasal quality, volume etc. 

    Effect of Speech and Language Problems on Learning

    Language skills are needed to communicate, and communication is needed in order to learn. Reading, writing, gesturing, listening, and speaking are all forms of language. 

    Students with speech and language problems may not be able to do grade-level work. They may demonstrate difficulty reading, writing, and spelling, understanding social cues, starting and completing projects, working in a group, having conversations and following school norms. 

    Role of the Speech Language Pathologist

    To qualify for Speech Language intervention, a student must be evaluated and a disability must be identified. Once identified for service, a student may receive services in a variety of ways (e.g., individually, in a group, in the classroom, outside of the classroom, etc.). The goal of Speech and Language services is to help students be successful in school. The Speech Language Pathologist works closely with a student's team (which may include teachers, school psychologists, administration, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and mental health professionals) to best support students. 


    Adapted from: ASHA