When I walk into a room and tell a patient I’m their speech therapist, I brace myself for the inevitable: “I can talk just fine.”
That’s the usual response. Unless I don’t even take a breath and rush my words in… “With speech therapy, we focus on everything from here up!” as I take my right hand like a battle axe and wave it from the bottom of my neck to the ceiling. Whatever that means.
Clearly, we need a new title. Or maybe it will just be one of those things. Like the way ibuprofen is pronounced even though it has a U in it. Or the way that classy people know how to pronounce the word bourgeois.
Tell someone at a party that you’re a speech therapist and you’re probably going to not get talked to for the rest of the night. Everyone will be wondering if you notice that slight lateral lisp of theirs or if you can tell they got pulled out of P.E. in 1st grade so they could learn how to pronounce an R.
In reality, speech therapists live inside a world of abstractions linked to everyday realities. Numbers and letters are abstract concepts but are linked in very real ways to the very functional realities of bills and schedules. Our patients are often unwilling at first. It takes guts to realize that things that used to be easy are now very, very hard in ways that seem impossible to comprehend.
Let me tell you, if I’m in a hospital and a speech therapist walks into a room, I can tell you exactly what I’ll be thinking: No. No. Not speech therapy. Get me out of here!
Because speech therapy is hard. It’s not just about speech. It’s about re-learning things that we took for granted when we learned them with brains full of easily connected neurons void of gaps or blackouts or shutdowns.
Recently, I posted a piece about the importance of space design for speech therapy offices. A friend commented:
Little did my sister and I know, when our Dad was dealing with the aftermath of encephalitis and two strokes, that speech therapy would be CRITICAL to his recovery. Speech therapy does not just deal with one’s speech as its name would imply, SLP was critical in helping my Dad regain his cognitive function as well as working with swallowing so that he would not aspirate and develop pneumonia. He has had several swallowing tests done at the hospital and the SLP therapist administering the test was a lifesaver as she explained the importance of eating techniques to my Dad. Never did I realize that all of this work was part of a speech and language therapist’s function.
This profession and the work that the SLP therapists engage in is monumentally important on so many levels. Thank you for choosing this line of work.
We indeed are a part of something to take joy in. Though we are called “speech” therapists, we are the ones who embrace the ambiguous and the abstract. We invite people on a journey to reconnect the parts of their brain that allow them to live and connect and relate in a world that they love.
And that, THAT, is worth it. #morethanspeech
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I sometimes grow weary of explaining what it is that I do. When I say I am a speech therapist, people think I only correct speech problems. Theses are a great idea!