Speech-Language Pathologist = Deglutologist

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May 14, 2014

Speech-Language Pathologist = Deglutologist

by Karen Sheffler, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S of SwallowStudy.com

Every May the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) celebrates May is Better Hearing and Speech month. ASHA and community raise awareness of the wonderful work that Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Audiologist do. In addition to working on difficulties in hearing and speech, we need to thank Speech-Language Pathologists for helping infants through geriatrics overcome their language, fluency, voice, cognitive, and swallowing disorders. It is especially our work with swallowing and swallowing disorders (dysphagia) that people do not realize is a specialty in the field of Speech-Language Pathology.

Speech-Language Pathologists who specialize in swallowing disorders are crucial team members in the diagnostic process.

In the words of Reza Shaker, MD, at the Dysphagia Research Society meeting in Toronto (March 9, 2012), we need to become “trans-disciplinarians.” Per Shaker, thinking of ourselves as “deglutologists” allows us to be specialists that address the swallowing disorder across the multiple disciplines. Dysphagia is not a disease in-and-of-itself. It is a symptom of many different diseases, disorders, structural/functional abnormalities, cognitive
changes, and even iatrogenic causes (i.e., adverse events during hospitalization, medications, intubation). Therefore, the evaluation and treatment of dysphagia requires a multidisciplinary approach.

Lateral view of head to show oral and pharyngeal phases of swallowing, but also to think about all that goes into the normal swallow.

Speech-Language Pathologist is a Transdisciplinary Deglutologist

The Speech-Language Pathologist is perfectly situated to be a leader in the diagnostic process. Based on our expertise and our clinical and instrumental findings, we can make appropriate referrals (i.e., whether the issue is requires further evaluation by a neurologist, gastroenterologist, otolaryngologist, or other). We cannot diagnose the underlying problem, but we can assist the medical team by providing information that will lead to a diagnosis. We can help coordinate the dysphagia care and treatment to ensure it is in the most appropriate, efficient, evidence-based, and cost-effective way possible.

Please see the menu at the top of this website for the multitude of Clinician Links, Clinician Resources, Patient Links, Patient Resources, and Product Reviews. Contact me with ideas and requests for more information.

I hope this website will help the SLP navigate the complex world of dysphagia to become a transdisciplinary deglutologist!

By Karen Sheffler

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