What is speech therapy or speech-language pathology?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) use a variety of speech therapy techniques to improve a child’s ability to communicate. Many factors can interfere with a child’s ability to speak, including physiological difficulties, hearing problems, cognitive and neurological challenges, and genetic disorders.

Speech-language difficulties can show up in many forms. Speech-related difficulties can include concerns about not speaking at all, stuttering, pronunciation or voice. Language-related difficulties can include concerns about vocabulary, grammar, comprehension discourse and social-emotional expression.

An SLP and a CDA works with a child, one-on-one or in a group, using activities and exercises targeted to their specific needs. For example, if a child has trouble using the “ing” suffix for verbs, the therapist can model how to do it, lead a game where there are a lot of “ing” words and give the child helpful feedback as they play. For children struggling to communicate overall, the therapist can use picture-based exercises, basic sign language, apps on a tablet or naturalistic activities including pretend play to facilitate conversation.

Who can benefit from speech-language pathology?

Speech-language therapy helps children improve their communication skills; it is a team approach. The therapist takes them step by step toward their goal, such as helping them to use basic speech, improving their articulation, gaining better understanding or improving their conversation skills.

At Morneau Shepell’s Children’s Support Solutions, SLPs often see children with:

  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Down Syndrome
  • Hearing impairment
  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Difficulties with pronunciation
  • Reading or writing difficulties
  • Receptive and expressive language difficulties
  • Stuttering
  • Voice disorders
  • Acquired Brain Injury

What role can parents play?

Parents play a huge role in helping a child improve their communication skills, and it is definitely a team approach. Parents often attend and participate in speech therapy sessions and then are able to use the same approaches at home.

The therapist will often give the parents one or two activities to work on; the activities might take 10-15 minutes a day. As the parents learn the speech therapy techniques, they can apply them in their everyday life whenever the opportunity arises.

How does Morneau Shepell use speech-language

Morneau Shepell’s Children’s Support Solutions is family-centred and interdisciplinary. This means that we always start with the questions, “What will work for this child?” and “What is right for the family?” If speech-language therapy is deemed to be useful, then the therapist will propose a treatment plan.

However, we do not think solely in terms of speech-language therapy; we think about the mix of therapies that will help the child. In the Morneau Shepell model, therapists are not just under one roof; they plan together, train together and work together on a client file. It is an integrated approach to helping the family.

SLPs work closely with other disciplines like occupational therapy, behaviour therapy and psychology. For example, the sensory regulation techniques from occupational therapy can be very helpful in enabling a distracted child to focus and regulate during their speech-language therapy session.

How are therapists trained and certified?

Speech-language pathologists in Canada hold a master’s degree or equivalent in Speech-Language Pathology, and are licensed by provincial Colleges or Orders according to each province’s certification standards. Many speech- language pathologists working with Morneau Shepell hold additional certifications with organizations such as Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) or the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA).

A Communicative Disorders Assistant (CDA) is support personnel under the supervision of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Communicative Disorders Assistants possess a graduate Certificate in combination with various undergraduate degrees or diplomas in areas such as Linguistics, Early Childhood Education, Social Work and Educational Assistants. Many Communicative Disorders Assistants working with Morneau Shepell are members of the Communicative Disorders Assistant Association of Canada (CDAAC).

Therapists may also be trained in specific techniques, such as:

  • Hanen Approach
  • Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol
  • Augmentative Communication Strategies, including sign language and PECS
  • WeeHands Sign Language
  • The Lidcombe Program for stuttering

Further reading

Online Speech-Language Pathology now available

Your child can participate in 1:1 therapy, live with their therapist from a computer or tablet. You will have unprecedented access to your child’s therapy and progress. It is suitable and effective for a wide range of challenges.

Learn more