A Little About Me and This Blog

I have been a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) since 1987. I am a member of the American Speech and Hearing Association. I have worked in the states of New York, Hawaii and Florida. I am currently in New York State. I have worked in settings that include public schools, special education preschools, hospitals, adult day treatment programs, home health rehabilitation, early intervention and preschool homebased therapy. I have provided evaluation and therapy to people ranging in age from 6 months to 100 years. I have worked with a wide range of conditions and treatments including fluency, aphasia, apraxia, voice disorders, dysphagia, cleft palate, hearing impairment, articulation delay, language delay, augmentative/alternative communication, autism, and many others through the years.
The purpose of this Blog is to share information and answer questions that you may have. I will strive to provide the correct information to the best of my professional knowledge. I may not share the same professional opinion as other licensed speech pathologists and I encourage second opinions if you want to be as informed as possible.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Difference Between Speech and Language

     The difference between "speech" and "language" has been a confusing point for many people. I have been called a Speech Therapist, Speech Teacher, Teacher, or Speech-Language Pathologist depending on who is saying it.  Some people think I teach others how to give speeches, some think I teach kids how to speak and some think I am an English or reading teacher.  One of the biggest confusions in public schools is when kids "go to speech" but we work completely on language goals. Some kids, as well as teachers and other adults, are confused by this contradiction. To alleviate this confusion just a bit, I will provide some definitions and explanation to help differentiate. This is just the quick explanation.

SPEECH (ARTICULATION):  In the context of my profession, speech is the physical process by which we verbalize language.  It is a method of communication that uses voice and coordinated movements of the speech articulators (tongue, lips, jaw, teeth etc.).  When I am addressing "speech" in therapy, I am working on the person's ability to have adequate strength and coordination of the speech musculature through oral-motor exercises.  I am working on teaching them correct articulation or placement of articulators for production of specific consonant and vowel sounds.  For example, when a child produces an "f" instead of a "th" sound I first make them aware that they need to place their tongue between their top and bottom teeth, and blow gently rather than gently biting their bottom lip with their top teeth for making an "f."  Once they learn the correct placement, we practice the sound alone, then we practice it at the syllable level, we practice it in all positions of short words, we progress to multi-syllable words, then phrases, sentences, and finally conversation.  It is a lengthy process to correct an error sound because there is conscious effort needed on the person's part.  Eventually, with practice, there is muscle memory and a change from voluntary concentration on the sound to an involuntary carry over of correct production to all contexts. It can be compared to anyone attempting to change a habit.

 LANGUAGE: The understanding and use of our language is the focus of language therapy.  A few of the things I might address are concepts, grammar, use of language in social settings (pragmatics),  morphology (plural markers, possessive markers, irregular verb tense...), word finding, vocabulary, synonyms, homonyms, and written expression.  This is not a complete list, but it gives you an idea of the category.
When children are evaluated for their language abilities, there are assessments done in receptive and expressive language areas separately.  Children generally have better receptive skills than expressive skills since they can understand things before they can express the same things. Testing for specific areas of weakness helps to guide the development of goals for each child.
     Receptive Language:  The general definition of receptive language is the processing and understanding of language.
    Expressive Language: Expressive language is the use of the language. This can be in any form such as oral or written.


  1. Gosh, your post just came in time! it was just a matter of time for me to wonder this questions correctly. speech vs language.
    i have been head strong in having my son's school up the hours of his "speech therapy sessions". at first the school team said that he needs more with the special ed teacher instead. but when i had a chance to talk with the principal, she commented that adding more "speech time hours" may not be the right thing. so, from that, i googled if there is a difference between these 2 therapies. and thank you!!!!!!! i sent what i researched to the principal and now i may be able to help my son get more language therapy sessions with the SLP.
    Jeannie from Maui

  2. I an interview to study Speech and Language Therapy at university and one of the questions I think will come up is "What is the difference between speech and language?" This article has been invaluable in helping me prepare my answer.