The term “speech-language pathologist” might seem intimidating, but, to put it simply, a speech-language pathologist is someone who helps individuals -- kids and grown-ups alike -- communicate. In the Philippines, the term is used interchangeably with speech therapist, Jerilee Casas, a certified speech pathologist, told SmartParenting.com.ph.
“Speech pathologists work with individuals -- children and adults -- with speech, language, voice, fluency and other related communication disorders,” says Casas.
These individuals can include those with conditions that affect communication and speech like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, cleft lip and palate, stuttering, stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Usually, a parent finds herself in need of a speech pathologist after a doctor has diagnosed a disorder or developmental delay in her child. “However, family or caregivers, and teachers can also come to us for consult if they suspect delays, atypical behaviors and difficulties in communication and swallowing,” says Casas. Problems and difficulties can include stuttering, saying sounds incorrectly, and being completely unable to speak. Speech therapy can also help those who have difficulty hearing and swallowing, and those who don’t understand speech at all.
So how does speech therapy work? As every person is unique and different, so is their therapy. Casas says that each program created by a speech pathologist is highly individualized. The speech pathologist tailor fits a program for a child's individual needs by gathering information, evaluating and assessing the child’s birth, medical and developmental history. “For children, sessions are usually done through play,” adds Casas.
But, don’t expect to idly stand at the sidelines. “It is important that parents ask about [the program] and understand what is being done with their children. In fact, they are encouraged to take a pro-active role in their child’s intervention program,” adds Casas. The speech therapist can even show you how to work with your child at home so his therapy extends outside the clinic, according to KidsHealth.
However, parents are warned to be careful in choosing speech pathologists for children. There is no licensure exam for speech pathology, and the Philippines currently has no law that regulates the practice of speech-language therapy at the moment.
Casas advises parents to look for two criteria in speech pathologists. First, the person is a graduate of a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) accredited university that offers the Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology. In the Philippines, there are only four: University of the Philippines (also the sole university to offer a Master's Rehabilitation Sciences Degree in Speech Pathology and open only to BS Speech-Language Pathology degree holders), University of Santo Tomas, Cebu Doctors’ University (in 2017) and De La Salle Health Science Institute (in 2019). Be wary of those who did not graduate from these said schools.
Second, the person is a member of the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP), a non-profit organization (and self-regulating body) that provides certification to speech pathologists in the country. Check if your child’s speech pathologist is certified through the PASP directory found on their website (pasp.org.ph/directory). It’s is also a good starting point if you’re trying to find a speech pathologist for your child. “It provides information on the clinicians’ location of practice, areas of specialization, and clientele age,” says Casas.