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Speech in the Schools

What We Actually Do

September 4, 2015 10:59 AM by Teresa Roberts

A colleague told me that during the first Special Education staff meeting of this school year, an administrator pointedly asked her, “What is it that you actually do?” The principal was questioning team members about their individual roles and the services they provide for students. Members of the team were responding by listing curriculum kits and standardized intervention approaches. 

As my colleague attempted to explain the fundamentals of articulation therapy and language therapy, she became distressed and uneasy. The principal stared at her and said dismissively, “That all sounds wishy-washy to me.”

Education and Speech Language Pathology, like most disciplines, use a high level of jargon. People outside of the field will not have a sense of the breadth of services and supports offered. A complete description of the work that we accomplish across skill domains would be too extensive to provide an unfamiliar listener with a clear understanding.

We can answer questions about our work with a variety of examples distributed over time. Having a sentence that encapsulates one aspect of the field may help others understand how communication is inherent in learning and social relationships. Prepared sound bites may work like snapshots, giving another person a quick glimpse into all that we do. We can describe our activities in a succinct and confident manner.


  • Provide services for the five domains of language: (1) semantics (vocabulary), (2) syntax (sentence structure), (3) morphology (word forms and grammar), (4) phonology (sounds), and (5) pragmatics (social language)
  • Collaborate with Special Education teachers to use curriculum extension activities to increase skills in the language areas of semantics (vocabulary) and syntax (sentence formulation)
  • Co-teach lessons with Special Education and General Education teachers targeting pragmatic (social language) skill development for peer interactions


  • Offer literacy intervention in oral comprehension for students with language/learning needs
  • Lead whole class lessons in kindergarten and first grade on phonological awareness
  • Co-teach activities with the kindergarten and first grade teams for story narratives and sequential markers for story organization


  • Teach students placement of the articulators of the mouth for correct sound production
  • Partner with teachers and families for carryover activities to practice speech sound production


  • Teach students techniques to shape rhythm and smoothness of speech production


  • Teach students vocal health and hygiene fundamentals, and safe vocal use

Augmentative and Alternative Communication:

  • Partner with students and staff to provide meaningful opportunities to use dedicated voice output devices for interactions throughout the school day

Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Teach students social expectations, organizational systems, and conversational strategies for peer and academic situations

There are many more domains and examples to be shared. We can subdivide elements of our roles into manageable pieces, sharing tidbits throughout the school year. We are highly trained and we are specialized. We are able to speak with authority about the discipline of Speech Language Pathology. Every time the team meets, we can share just a little bit more about what we actually do.