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The Image of Speech-Language Pathology

July 30, 2013

I have only honestly known about speech-language pathology for about twice as long as I have been in the program.  I received very few opportunities to observe and volunteer with practicing SLPs, so I didn’t have the chance to develop an internal image of what an SLP looks like or does.  An example of my naivete: the first SLP I shadowed was male, so of course there must be many male SLPs, right?  Turns out, the five men in my class are an all-time record for the program.

Let’s take a look at the public’s perspective of the SLP or speech therapist.  The biggest public speech therapy icon in my recent memory is Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist who treated King George VI, as portrayed in the film The King’s Speech.  Though the methods of today are immensely different, what can the public take from this portrayal?  Hopefully that the speech therapist is a dedicated, hard-working professional who does his/her best to solve the puzzle of your communication issue.


A quick Google Image search for ‘speech therapist’ gives us these main categories:


So, at first glance the literal image of SLPs is that the profession involves making creative logos, using lots of clipart (that much I know is true), and making money.  Well, it’s a job, so the money part is true to varying extents; the logos appear to be for various organisations and private clinics; and using clipart makes activity creation easier.  Despite my reframing, these are not the first things I hoped to see.

Scrolling down the page I see many more images of my profession-to-be:


The first two images (and the pages to which they link) show white-coated individuals with stethoscopes around their necks.  Besides perhaps portraying an air of expertise, I can’t help but think that these misrepresent SLPs.  [Side note: When I asked him, our local dysphagia expert said that cervical auscultation really has no firm evidence supporting it, so don’t buy a stethoscope anytime soon!].  Most of the other images line up with my experience so far: getting in close with a client and creating an engaging experience for them.

Searching ‘speech-language pathologist’ instead gives a somewhat different depiction:


This shows a bit more of the ‘pathologist’ part of the profession by depicting different techniques and tools used in finding a diagnosis; it also shows that SLPs work with various types of patients in different settings.  I feel this search provides a more holistic picture of the profession, but… I honestly don’t know any better.

Lastly, there’s an Aflac commercial released earlier this month.  What do you think about it?

In some respects I’m lucky to not have a well established image of the SLP.  It allows me to create my own brand of practice without the need to emulate someone.  However, having a role model or two couldn’t hurt.

Who are the role models that inspired your interest in SLP?  What are some of the positive and negative portrayals and opinions of the profession?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anum permalink
    July 30, 2013 8:00 pm

    One of the first people to inspire my (initial) interest in SLP was fictional: Marie-Josée Croze’s character, Henriette, in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

  2. Marla B permalink
    August 13, 2013 7:49 pm

    Have you seen the most recent Geico commercial? He’s learning /r/!! 🙂

    • Richard permalink
      August 17, 2013 7:06 pm

      What about My Fair Lady??

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