The 6th March is the official European Speech Therapy Day as a result of an initiative by the Permanent Committee of Speech Therapists within the European Union (2004) (www.cplol.eu)
Let us take advantage of the anniversary of this day to reflect a little on its history. In Spain the first university degree in Speech Therapy (Logopedia) was awarded in 1979 in the educational city par excellence, Salamanca.
Much later other universities offered the possibility to study speech therapy. It took years to slowly increase the number of qualified professionals. At the same time, courses which were more or less accredited, offered the specialization to various professionals, to legally practice as speech therapists. Today, I think that this was a positive thing – that the profession has developed from professionals and experts in other disciplines, since speech therapy depends on a multidiscipline, interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary perspective. In 2012 the General Council of Speech Therapy Schools defined Speech Therapy in a sufficiently complete manner as indicated in the following statement:
“Speech Therapy is the discipline of professional health care that is dedicated to the prevention, detection, promotion, education, administration, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, rating, prognosis, direction, advising, teaching and investigation of the areas of human communication and its variations,… providers of primary care for both communication problems and in nonverbal oral functions (suction, mastication,…)” (CGCL, 2012).
A definition of such amplitude and complexity is limited and must be determined according to three pivotal questions
How to practice speech therapy? As a health professional
What functions do speech therapists carry out? Prevention, detection, promotion, diagnosis, treatment etc…
On what human capabilities does a speech therapist work? Communication – both nonverbal and oral functions.
In summary and in a general context, the goal of a speech therapist is to improve the quality of life in patients’ communication problems and/or with nonverbal oral functions.
A public holiday, as today, for Speech Therapy; helps to raise public awareness whilst serving to remind us of the principles that we live by. On the other hand it also enables professionals to contribute some reflection on present times.
In this sense it is probably simpler to demonstrate two separate points of view, with their implications upon professional life
From the patient/ user perspective: I have the impression that the patient requiring the services of a professional speech therapist is frequently disoriented, sometimes with unusual and/or erratic behaviour, and with insufficient knowledge of what to expect from a speech therapist.
To my way of thinking, the advice and criteria to follow would be very simple: the patient has to search for professional honesty and for quality of service.
From a professional perspective : I see speech therapy more and more removed from the simplicity that I experienced years ago, and which more or less said: “you are a speech therapist,… then you dedicate yourself to correct pronunciation of the language and movements of the lips”.
However, it is necessary to believe mainly in the age of professionalism and to fight in favor of a sufficiently realistic vision. To assume the responsibilities as indicated in the definition above, and to fight for a good base of professionals, who will maintain an ample perspective that supports its trans-disciplinary character, and who are qualified to work hand in hand, in coordinated harmony and without fear , with other medical disciplines, – “who dominates the game”,…
Let us trust that the professional colleges and the universities are on the right path…..
Happy European Speech Therapy Day to all the users and professionals.