Today, in America:
- 6-8 million people have some form of language impairment
- 29 million young children have a speech sound disorder, with approximately 16 million continuing with noticeable disorders into first grade
- 3 million people stutter
- 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices.
- 10 million people are hard of hearing and 1 million are functionally deaf.
These statistics, gathered from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, under the US Department of Health and Human Services are stunning, considering speech and language are the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief and behavior can be experienced, explained and shared.
As the national, professional, scientific and credentialing association for 204,000 speech-language pathologists, audiologists and affiliates, the American-Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) is dedicated to a vision of “making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable to all.” To that end, Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), founded in 1927 by ASHA, is celebrated nationally and state-wide every May.
ASHA’s original and ongoing intent is to raise awareness about speech and hearing problems, encouraging individuals to consider their own speech and hearing and to provide resources for those who may have communication problems. BSHM encourages parents to identify possible speech and language concerns regarding their children which might affect learning and self-esteem and also educates the public about signs of hearing loss. This year, the theme of Better Speech and Hearing Month was Communication across the Lifespan.
Some causes of speech and language disorders include hearing loss, neurological disorders, brain injury, intellectual disabilities, drug abuse, physical impairment and vocal abuse. Frequently, however, the etiology is unknown. Speech pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, fluency, voice and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Audiologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose and treat individuals with hearing loss.
Enhancing a child’s communication skills within a learning environment is the primary goal of CORA’s speech and language staff. Currently, 45 speech and language therapists provide screening, diagnostic and therapy services to students in non-public and charter schools, as well as in Early Intervention programs across the city. Speech and language therapy involves a series of evidence-based, clinical activities to meet specific goals developed within a therapist’s treatment plan. These goals are directly related to the difficulties exhibited by a student during the diagnostic evaluation.
CORA speech therapists utilize the opportunity of Better Hearing and Speech Month to educate the students, teachers, and administrations of their schools with a variety of creative and fun activities. Faculty are treated to candy treats with communication fun facts attached; speech and language students were invited to address the topic of Better Hearing and Speech to their classes and to the student body, including songs about communication written and performed in the classrooms, and participating in public address announcements throughout the school.
CORA therapists also helped to develop resources and activities with teachers that heighten awareness of communication skills, which can then be incorporated into their classrooms. In high schools, speech therapists met with guidance counselors to make them aware of the challenge and satisfaction of communications sciences as a profession. Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent from this year to the year 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the average of all occupations.
ASHA offered many resources for their annual BHSM campaign that were tailored for clients, health professionals and members of the public. Each week of May was highlighted with a special area of communication challenge on their website, www.asha.org
Because communication disorders can compromise physical and emotional health, as well as affect the social, educational and work aspects of living, CORA enthusiastically joins ASHA, PSHA, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) in observing Better Hearing and Speech Month each May.
Articled submitted by Marg Whitman, M.A. CCC-SLP is an ASHA certified speech pathologist and CORA’s Program Coordinator and Clinical Supervisor for Nonpublic schools. Marg has worked in direct service to over 20 Philadelphia parochial and nonpublic schools. While continuing to maintain a small student caseload, Marg’s primary responsibilities involve the supervision of 18 NPSS speech/language therapists, as well as guiding the speech and language program toward meeting the changing communication needs of students in Archdiocesan and private elementary and secondary schools throughout the city. With 34 years of experience, she has mentored many young clinicians over the years and views this aspect of giving back to the profession she loves with continuing satisfaction and enthusiasm.