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What is Speech-Language Pathology?

Posted on September 21, 2020 in Employee Feature

a few speech-language pathologists at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation center
Pictured from left to right: Mary Margaret Preston, Tania Parton, Wendy Callahan-Tingle and Stephanie Brang.

Speech-language pathology (SLP) at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center (PNRC) is a key component of a patient’s care following a debilitating injury or illness. Often thought just to be teaching people how to talk, SLP after a stroke or traumatic brain injury assists with many critical areas of recovery and independence.

“Many times our patients are focused on their physical deficits, but their cognitive or speech/language deficits affect their ability to improve in physical therapy,” said Tania Parton, an inpatient speech-language pathologist for traumatic brain injury patients at PNRC. “We help them become aware that they will have difficulty making progress in physical and occupational therapy if they are unable to understand instructions, unable to communicate with the therapist, unable to focus on the task at hand or unable to remember what the therapist needs them to do.”

Pat Neal’s SLP program assesses and treats individuals of all ages with communication, cognitive, hearing and/or swallowing problems due to developmental delay, progressive or chronic neurological processes, traumatic brain injury, cancer and other diagnoses.

“It’s not just talk therapy,” said Stephanie Brang, an inpatient speech-language pathologist for stroke patients at PNRC. “Patients will say ‘I know how to talk. I don’t need this.’ People don’t realize that we also treat swallowing, cognition, attention/concentration and pragmatic skills – areas that aren’t just related to speech.”

In addition to speech treatment, Pat Neal speech-language pathologists do the following:

  • Assess and treat language, swallowing and voice disorders
  • Address cognitive aspects of communication
  • Address sensory awareness related to communication and swallowing
  • For patients who have lost the ability to communicate, establish augmentative and alternative communication techniques and strategies, including developing, selecting and providing helpful systems and devices
  • Conduct hearing screenings
  • Select assistive listening devices and train patients and family members to use them
  • Perform treatments for swallowing including Deep Pharyngeal Neuromuscular Stimulation (DPNS), VitalStim and Neuro-Developmental Training (NDT)
  • Help manage tracheotomy and Passy Muir Valve (speaking valve) training and usage
  • Provide education and counseling to patients, families, caregivers and persons in the community

“Speech-language pathology treatment services, which also includes cognitive therapy, is important and beneficial in helping patients succeed,” said Mary Margaret Preston, an outpatient speech-language pathologist at Patricia Neal Outpatient Center. “For example, when treating the brain injury population, physical therapy will train the patient to walk to the edge of the cliff, but without cognitive therapy, the patient wouldn’t be able to understand what to do once he or she reaches the edge of the cliff. That’s where our services make a difference. We help patients re-learn how to problem solve. Speech therapy has a positive impact on the patient as a whole.”

The speech-language pathologists at PNRC hold graduate degrees, Certificates of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and a Tennessee state license. Many also have additional certifications such as Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) and VitalStim certifications. Combined with their passion for excellent patient care, these professionals are prepared to provide the best care to the region.

“Seeing patients’ long-term improvement is why I do what I do,” said Wendy Callahan-Tingle, an inpatient speech-language pathologist for stroke patients at PNRC. “I love it. I develop relationships through our support group, and I get to see that improvement because of the little part that I contributed. It makes you feel good when you wake up in the morning.”


Learn more about the qualified staff at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.