Spoken Language Disorders

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a critical role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of preschool and school-age children with spoken language disorders (SLD). The professional roles and activities in speech-language pathology include clinical/educational services (diagnosis, assessment, planning, and treatment), prevention and advocacy, and education, administration, and research. See ASHA's Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016).

Appropriate roles for SLPs include:

  • providing prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for SLD, as well as to individuals working with those at risk;
  • educating other professionals on the needs of persons with SLD and the role of SLPs in diagnosing and managing SLD;
  • screening individuals for the presence of language and communication difficulties; determining the need for further assessment and/or referral for other services;
  • recognizing that students who have been identified as having SLD have heightened risks for later literacy problems;
  • conducting a comprehensive, culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment of language and communication;
  • taking into consideration the rules of a spoken dialect or accent, typical dual-language acquisition from birth, and sequential second-language acquisition to distinguish difference from disorder;  
  • understanding potential situational bias and test-item bias in assessment;
  • diagnosing the presence of SLD;
  • referring to other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine etiology, and facilitate access to comprehensive services;
  • making decisions about the management of SLD;
  • developing treatment plans, providing treatment, documenting progress, and determining appropriate dismissal criteria;
  • counseling persons with SLD and their families regarding communication-related issues and providing education aimed at preventing further complications relating to SLD;
  • consulting and collaborating with other professionals, family members, caregivers, and others to facilitate program development and to provide supervision, evaluation, and/or expert testimony, as appropriate;
  • remaining informed of research in the area of SLD and helping advance the knowledge base related to the nature and treatment of SLD;
  • advocating for individuals with SLD and their families at the local, state, and national levels;
  • serving as an integral member of an interdisciplinary team working with individuals with SLD and their families/caregivers;
  • providing quality control and risk management.

As indicated in the Code of Ethics, SLPs who serve this population should be specifically educated and appropriately trained to do so.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.