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One Profession, Many Specialties

February 20, 2014

Regularly my classmates ask me what specialty area I would like to end up in.  This post looks at many, if not all, specialty areas I could dig up.

The major divide in the profession appears to be between the education system / community SLPs and the medical SLPs.  This division is significant enough that there are even programs in the U.S. that cater to one or the other, though they’re not as common.  These programs appear to give the same qualifications, but the medical SLP programs have more preparation for medical environments, such as hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

School SLPs are perhaps the best-known and most common among us.  They work in one, several, or many schools to identify and treat children who show signs or risk of disorder.  Often they work one-on-one with students, though in-class assessment and treatment is more common.  These SLPs are employed by the school board, or in the case of much of Alberta, the health care authority.  Child Language and Language Disorders is a recognized specialty area for those who work primarily with children who have language difficulties.  The other side of the coin are clinicians who specialize in Phonological and Articulation Disorders.  A fusion of these two skillsets are required for any school SLP, and certainly competence to at least recognize disorders in other specialty areas would be beneficial.

A challenging area is that of Fluency and Fluency Disorders; these specialists work with those who stutter, both in early intervention and the especially challenging area of adult fluency disorders.

UntitledFor those SLPs who work in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, much time will be spent working with Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.  This area requires the ability to judge a client’s success with swallowing using bedside and instrumental techniques, such as videofluoroscopy.  Related areas are that of Motor Speech Disorders and Voice / Resonance Disorders.  Those who suffer damage to their nervous system, due either to injury or disease, may exhibit difficulties with their speech, known as motor speech disorders.  Alternatively, when the speech mechanism or the physical structure of the head and neck changes, speech may sound notably different in what are termed voice and resonance disorders.


Aural Rehabilitation specialists are those who work with clientswho have lost part or all of their hearing, either very early in life or acquired sometime later.  This involves much collaboration with audiologists and medical specialists to best use amplification devices and implants, and to help integrate the client into their environment.  This discipline is shared with audiology and teachers for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

nicuSLPs who work in pediatric hospital settings sometimes specialize in working with Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients, or may become feeding specialists, clinicians who work with children and parents to overcome breastfeeding and bottle feeding difficulties.

aacLastly are the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialists; these clinicians help clients who have a temporary or permanent loss of the ability to communicate in a traditional way.  They use a range of technology, ranging from gestures and blinks, to pen and paper, to electronic voice synthesizers.

SLPs can also work in highly specialized settings that work with particular disorders:  aural rehabilitation, brain injury, learning delays / disorders, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, head and neck cancer, accent reduction, gender-reassignment voice therapy, autism, and more.

For those who are more research-inclined, there is really no limit to what you could study within the field, but here are a few sample areas:



Speech science

Hearing science and aural rehabilitation


Autism and other developmental disorder

Language and literacy

Language processing

Speech perception

I’m still unsure of where I will end up.  Which specialty did you or do you hope to get into?  Why?



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