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Speechie Spotlight: Hanna (your current blogmaster)

July 8, 2018


Hanna L.
Hlyle's face Hometown: Victoria, BC
Undergrad Degrees: Honours Bsc, double major in linguistics and psychology from the University of Toronto
Interests & Hobbies: rock-climbing, cycling, swimming, reading/podcasts, gardening, craft-beer, camping, if it’s active; I’m into it!
Favourite thing about Edmonton: Rock jungle boulders, Situation brewpub, all of the parks here – I can go cross-country skiing without driving for 4 hours!
Why did you decide to go into SLP? Circa ten years ago I was sitting in training to become a respite worker and they mentioned a human who was funding their way through their SLP degree while doing respite. My interest was sparked, and what follows is a multi-year love affair of combining school and work pursuits to eventually end up here!
Previous research or volunteer experience? Research experience; perfect zero – so there is hope if you haven’t followed that pathway! Volunteer experience; I volunteered for the Canadian Hearing Society in Toronto as a conversation partner for a hard of hearing newcomer to Canada. I also have accrued volunteer hours in both of my main work fields: respite and behaviour intervention – the kiddos I have worked with swiftly became my strongest motivators to pushing forth into SLP!
How did you find out you were accepted into the program? I was supporting one of my teens that I did behaviour intervention with; on that day we had met up with a bigger group. While snacking it up, I saw the notification on my phone and hurriedly opened the email (I think I knocked over a chair and a juice box in the process). I had initially been wait-listed so figured any news would be good news. I was right! I literally screamed in the middle of the rec centre and then hugged every nearby co-worker pal and at least half of the teens. My favourite part was after the dust had settled, a particularly gregarious teen got real close and asked “WHY ARE YOU SO EXCITED ABOUT SCHOOL?!”.
Hardest part of the program so far? For me personally? Probably the cadaver lab. I did not like the smell, but the process is pretty neat. That being said; don’t apply Vicks vapo-rub directly to your nostrils, it will combine itself with the formaldehyde smell and cause a burning sensation.
Favourite part of the program so far? Essentially everything! SLP at UofA is a very supported program – learning is collaborative, everyone wants to be here and I promise you will spend way more time than you thought imaginable with your cohort.
What do you wish you had known before entering the program? Don’t second guess yourself! Everyone in the program deserves to be here and we’ll all be great at our chosen careers.
One cool SLP related blog/article/website we should all check out: This IPA chart – it makes all of the sounds! Prior to this program, phonetics/phonology were long long ago – this chart saved my bacon many a time this year!



The Importance of Early Intervention

May 28, 2018

We’ve been talking a lot about advocacy and why it’s important. Part of the reason is that if people don’t know when or where to seek help, getting that help is delayed. And especially for kids, that can have really important consequences.

Let’s talk about two kids. We’ll call them Bill and Katie. They’re both four when this story starts. Katie has always been precocious with her language. She talks to everybody, about everything! People are always impressed by what she has to say. They talk to her a lot. Katie has a lot of experience with language and she can use her previous experience to understand new, harder language. She uses that new language to talk with people more, and they talk more with her.  Katie gets better and better. By the time Katie is six, she is already reading and writing, using her excellent spoken language skill to supplement the written language she is learning how to use. Katie has been set up to love school and to succeed well at it.

Bill has a language disorder. He talked late, and talking is hard for him. He likes new people, but his favorite games are running and pushing cars around. He doesn’t get talked to as much. Because he has a language disorder, he needs to hear things a lot more times than Katie to master them. He doesn’t have as much experience with language, so when he hears new, hard language, he doesn’t have as easy a time making sense of it as Katie. By the time Bill is six, he’s sounding okay in conversation, but he is having a really hard time learning the sounds of the alphabet and how they go together to make words. Bill is set up to find school frustrating and difficult.

The sooner the downward spiral outlined above can be stopped, the better outcomes can be for these kids. Early intervention is so important because it can stop the snowballing effect of that early language disorder. There’s increasing evidence that early intervention in spoken language can actually prevent deficits in reading and writing later on. If you’re concerned about your child’s speech, language, or hearing, it is never too early to seek help.

Why Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady is Not a Speech Pathologist

May 18, 2018

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” One of the most iconic scenes from My Fair Lady is the one in which upper-class gentleman Henry Higgins attempts to teach the lovely, Cockney accented Eliza Doolittle to change her vowels to sound more like himself. Unfortunately, this scene is often invoked as an example of speech pathology in film. To understand why what Henry is doing is not speech pathology, let me start with a question for you. What’s wrong with Eliza Doolittle’s speech?

That’s a trick question. The answer is nothing. Eliza is able to use her speech and language to communicate her needs, participate in everyday life, and share her joys, sorrows, struggles, and successes just as effectively as Henry Higgins. Eliza, like Henry Higgins – in fact, everyone on the planet – speaks a dialect. It is a myth, and a dangerous one, that there is one “standard” brand of English that people should adhere to. Speaking a dialect (including African American English, Spanish accented English, Indigenous English, Southern English, and so on) is not the same as having a disorder. If you want to learn more about your dialect and what makes it unique check out this article on vocabulary differences across Canada, or this one on vowel distinctions in Canada and the United States.

“But what does a Speech Pathologist DO?”

May 10, 2018

word cloud

What do you think when you think speech pathologist*?

*speech pathologist=speech therapist= SLP!  

If you think someone who helps kids who stutter, you’re not wrong. But there’s so much more! Read on to find out five things an SLP can help with that aren’t stutters and lisps.  

  1. Swallowing Disorders.

This is one of the most commonly forgotten aspects of SLP but one of the most important ones. If you or your loved one has a stroke, chances are, they will have to have a swallowing assessment. And the person watching that barium-coated cookie go down- hopefully the right way? Likely a speech pathologist.

  1. Coaching Singers, Teachers, and Actors in Good Vocal Hygiene.

Have you ever lost your voice? Well, people who use their voices all the time in an unhealthy way can hurt their vocal folds and cause what sounds like a permanent sore throat. This condition, called vocal nodes, can often be corrected through vocal rest, but will return if the person does not change their voice habits. SLPs can help teach people how to prevent the reoccurrence of vocal nodules or better yet, prevent them in the first place!

  1. Helping Transgender People Change their Voices.

This is a pretty new area of SLP but an up and coming one. When an individual takes testosterone hormones, their larynx naturally lowers, creating a lower voice pitch naturally. This is often desired if the individual is transitioning towards masculinity. But if an individual takes estrogen hormones, their voice is not medically changed, which can be stressful for that individual if they wish to have a higher pitch, which is often perceived as more feminine. The SLP can help them change their pitch without hurting their vocal folds.  Very interesting research on the subject of transgender voice is going on at our own University of Alberta- check out this interview if you’d like to learn more!

  1. Helping Kids Build Language- Not Just Speech.

Something SLP students (and linguists, and biologists) spend a lot of time talking about is the difference between language, speech, and communication. At the most basic level, speech is how you move your tongue and lips to make sounds. Language is the way you use words, build sentences, and craft stories. Communication is the way you get your message to another person or animal. Any of these can exist independently of the others. Animals can communicate, but they do not use speech or language. Deaf people can sign: they communicate and use language without speech. When we work on children’s stutters and lisps, what we’re working on is speech. But there can also be problems with their language. In fact, about one in thirty otherwise typical kids has a lot of trouble learning and using language. There’s a name for this disorder: Developmental Language Disorder. We’re not really sure what causes it, and there’s no easy cure. The good news is that early intervention with an SLP and good family support can make a world of difference in creating a happy outcome.

  1. Making Communication Easier For Everyone.

Sometimes, speech and language just aren’t possible. Whether the barrier is cognitive or physical, there are some cases in which talking and signing are not viable options. In this case, the end goal is communication- simply to get a message from one person to another. SLPs can help by training people in the use of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). There are high and low tech versions of AAC- from alphabet boards to iPads. SLPs can also help by training communication partners for people with special communication needs. For example, if someone has a stroke, and their ability to understand and produce language is compromised, there are lots of strategies to use to help them get their message across. Simply speaking slower, writing down key words, and gesturing can really help support understanding.

If you’re looking for more information or services, see ACSLPA’s website!


Why is advocacy important?

One of the first assignments we had in this program was to go out and ask some people on the street what a speech and language pathologist (SLP) does. Some of the answers we got were what we might diplomatically call interesting (no, SLPs do not perform palate surgery), but most of the answers fell along the same lines: “help children with stutters/r/lisps” and “help people after brain injury or stroke”. Now, these answers aren’t exactly wrong, but they do not capture the range of services SLPs provide. That’s important, because in our health care system, the burden is on parents to be the advocates for their children. It is difficult for parents to advocate to receive services for their child if they don’t know what their child can and should receive. Often, parents will ask pediatricians or teachers whether something is wrong with their child’s speech and language, and unfortunately, these professionals often also do not have a good idea of what SLPs can do.

These professionals are also not specially trained in child language, which SLPs are. To become an SLP, a person needs a minimum of a four year undergrad including many prerequisite courses in linguistics, psychology, child development, and statistics, followed by a graduate degree including course work, clinical hours, and a major research project. The point is, child language development is not simple, or intuitive, and the disorders of it are predictably equally complex. Language disorders can masquerade as behaviour issues, attention problems, and reading disorders. Lack of knowledge about what typical language development looks like and what it can look like when it goes wrong can delay the provision of service to children who could potentially benefit from those services. It is beneficial to the entire community to know what all allied health professionals do, including audiologists and speech and language pathologists. We advocate for our profession to empower the general public. It is your right to access reputable, ethical, trained professionals. It is our responsibility to let you know where you can find them.

To find a registered speech pathologist or audiologist near you:




The Problem with Pronouns

May 7, 2018


gender bubbles

(Photo: graphicsdunia4you/Shutterstock)

Hey, hi!

It’s speech and hearing month! And we SLP’s are very excited to be out and about getting the chance to chat with many folks about who we are and what we do.

But, there has been a topic that’s been nibbling at this particular SLP’s brain since they began studying to become a speech language pathologist.


Earlier this month we posted to our Facebook group the following post:

I wanted to take two minutes to dive into pronouns, how we use them, and how we teach them.

First though, I am not debating the importance of pronouns in general; they help us to provide a clear reference to the individual(s) that we are talking about. I am also not debating the importance of teaching the difference between first and second person, personal and possessive, plural and singular pronouns.

But there is one category of pronouns that gets thrown in with all of the others, for which we need to step back and think about what we are actually teaching.

Third person singular pronouns

He. She. They***.

The problem emerges when we think about how we teach these pronouns; short hair, blue clothing, likes sports? Must be ‘he’. Long hair, wears dresses, likes to bake? Must be ‘she’. Yes, these examples are incredibly stereotyped; but that’s just it. What about a person tells us that they are ‘he’, or ‘she’? When we teach children specific guidelines for what ‘he’ or ‘she’ is, it is difficult, and arguably impossible, to not avoid at least some form of these stereotypes.  The truth is, in the age of equality ‘he’ or ‘she’ can be whatever ‘he’ or ‘she’ chooses to be; a ‘he’ that enjoys baking, cuticle care and wears a long ponytail is just as likely as a ‘she’ that plays rugby, and feels passionate about engine repair and jorts.

But, the conversation needs to be expanded beyond just “he” and “she”.  It is becoming increasingly common for folks to identify with other pronouns, when he/him, she/her do not fit. This can take the form of ‘they’, such as “My friend Kai will be joining us for lunch, and they use they/them pronouns”, but it can also take many other forms including “ze/zir”, “xe/xem” “ze/hir” to name a few. All of these pronouns are equally valid both in their use at surface level, and what they represent to that individual in terms of identity. Take a look at this awesome blog post for more on gender identity and chosen pronouns!

So what does this mean, and what am I asking you to do?

I’m asking one thing and one thing only; try your absolute best to learn an individual’s pronouns, by directly asking that person. I often default to “they/them” before I know someone’s pronouns, but a better option is to use only their name before you know their pronouns. It can feel very intuitive to select pronouns for an individual based off of what they look like; and though you will often be correct in your choice, it is when you are wrong that it can be painful or frustrating for the person being mis-identified.  Once you know with certainty an individual’s pronouns, then it certainly becomes your responsibility to guide language learners to use those pronouns for that individual.

Imagine the following scenario: you and your little one walk into a grocery store; you have been working hard on pronouns for months so when your child says “Look! She has a million bags of Zesty Lime Tostitos!” you say “Sweetie, HE has many groceries, but let’s mind our own business”. The problem is, until you ask that person’s pronouns, you don’t know for certain what the correct ones are, so how can you provide the ‘correct’ ones to your child?

As SLP’s it is so, so, so important that we keep this in mind in supporting language development; third person singular pronouns cannot simply be taught in a one-size-fits-all manner. Doing so is irresponsible, and even damaging when the pronoun you give to a person is not the pronoun they give themself.

And if you do make a mistake? Own it, apologize, correct yourself, and move on – no-one is perfect but trying your best is key!


Speech and Hearing Month Resources Part 1 of 2

May 6, 2018

SACIt’s Speech and Hearing Month! 

Welcome, we are so glad you’re here! In this post you will find a guide to several resources from parents, SLP’s, audiologists, parents and teachers all created for anyone whose life includes an individual with atypical speech and/or language. The four sections covered this week are:

  1. Locations our Speech and Hearing booth will be set up this month
  2. Information about what SLP’s and Audiologists do
  3. Information about stuttering
  4. Guides for play and reading for children with speech and language delays

This is part 1 of 2 posts that will come out this month providing information and resources; thank you again for stopping by our blog!

Here are all the places you can come by and say hi this month:

Speech and hearing month where we will be

  1. What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?
    1. This info sheet gives you a brief look at who are, what we do, and where we work
  2. What does an Audiologist do?
    1. This info sheet gives a brief look at who audiologists are, what they do, and where they work



Perhaps the area of treatment most associated with SLP’s; stuttering is an incredibly diverse and variable speech impediment.

Here is an information sheet with the basic facts about stuttering, you may find this helpful if you are concerned about the stuttering of an individual in your life, or if you have questions about stuttering in general.

Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of misinformation out there about stuttering, but we’re here to set the record straight! You may find the following information sheet helpful if you’re wondering about what causes stuttering;

Here you will find an information sheet that discusses several of these myths


Toys and Books for Children with Speech and Language Delays

Play is a BIG part of development for all children; and play can be instrumental in speech and language development!

This amazing blog post talks about several different ideas for kinds of toys for your child with speech and language delays, as well as ideas for play to support their language development.

And this amazing post discusses how to introduce books to toddlers and babies. Introducing books and reading to babies and toddlers provides a pathway to literacy development. This early and frequent exposure to books, print, and reading can be especially important for children who have speech and language delays, in ensuring literacy development.


That wraps up the first section of resources, please leaves us any comments or questions you may have!







Speechie Spotlight: Darby

February 9, 2018


Darby Hometown: Marwayne, Alberta (10 points if you’ve heard of it!)
Undergrad Degrees: Bachelor of Education (Elementary)
Interests & Hobbies: I am a sports fanatic – growing up in a small community I was able to be a part of a number of different sports teams. From the basketball court, to the dance studio, to the ball diamond, to the skating rink, if there was a team, I was on it! I also LOVE all things camping; fishing, surfing, making s’mores, and everything in between!
Favourite thing about Edmonton: it’s the closest university city to my hometown! I am very much a rural Alberta gal and I am happy that home is only a two and half hour drive out of the city – especially when grad school gets stressful and I need to escape to my country roots. It’s also home to the largest mall in North America, oh and the Oilers (Go McDavid Go!).
Why did you decide to go into SLP? After realizing early on in my post-secondary career that pharmacy wasn’t going to be the best fit for me, I started to look into careers that involved working with kids (something I knew I loved to do). I talked to some of my teacher relatives and they had mentioned that an SLP visited their school regularly. After sitting in on a session where the SLP was in my grandmother’s classroom, I became very interested in this field. I did more research into the scope of practice of an SLP over Christmas break 2013, and in 2014 I enrolled in a bachelor of education, with my sights set on a masters in SLP (while not the most captivating story, it was the best decision ever!!).
Previous research or volunteer experience? I was fortunate enough to get onto two research projects during my undergrad – one through the Roger S. Smith Undergraduate Research Award program (if you are an Education student at the U of A, I strongly urge you to check it out), and one as a volunteer RA for one of my education professors. While the projects weren’t necessarily targeted towards communication sciences and disorders, they did give me very valuable experience, and I encourage future applicants to seek out research opportunities prior to applying to the program (while I know it is not a requirement, it is one more thing to set you apart from other applicants). In terms of volunteer experience, I spent many summers shadowing my local SLP and OT and was involved with many youth athletic teams. Having volunteer experience both in my future field and with kiddos in general has been an asset to me in this program so far.
How did you find out you were accepted into the program? I was in my Interactions classroom for one of my extra placements for my Ed degree and I was checking my email while the kiddos were having a snack. As soon as I read “congratulations” I started to cry and my mentor teacher and her EAs all started to hug and congratulate me – the one even cried a little with me ha! The kiddos were very confused at all the crying and excitement. From there I phoned all of my family and friends and shared the exciting news – And yes, each phone call ended with more happy tears. One of my favourite days to date!
Hardest part of the program so far? For me, the hardest part has been remembering that the focus of my studies is not on grades anymore, but rather becoming a better clinician. This is a tough transition from undergrad and is something I am still working on as I make my way through this program.
Favourite part of the program so far? Definitely the people – the professors, department staff and of course, my lovely classmates have made this program everything I could have hoped for. It’s so refreshing to spend your day with a group of very like-minded people; something I didn’t experience as much in my undergrad. It’s also pretty awesome to spend your days learning about stuff you are really passionate about; makes the days fly by!
What do you wish you had known before entering the program? Well cadaver labs came as a bit of a surprise – might have been my own fault that I didn’t realize we had these labs, but regardless I could have used the summer to get mentally prepared from them! Rest assured though, they aren’t as bad as they sound and you will get through them (if I can, you can). I also wish I would have known how accommodating and encouraging the faculty and professors are; I would have been way less nervous to start if I would have known that. Seriously guys, they are AMAZING.
One cool SLP related blog/article/website we should all check out: Well I may be a little biased because I am one of the SAC reps for my class, but the Speech Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) website has so much info about the scope of practice for SLPs and many other neat little tid-bits about the profession and the SAC itself! Definitely check it out: