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SLP Skills Saturday #2: Finding Patterns

09 February 2013

It's time for the second installation of the SLP Skills Saturday series! As you can see in the title, today I'll be focusing on the idea that hopeful and current SLPs should be able to find patterns. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean putting the pieces together for a small 6-piece puzzle... professionals in this field have to also be able to complete those life-size 500 piece puzzles as well. Finding all the little things and piecing them together to find the underlying patterns that make the entire Shaquille O'Neal puzzle pattern. It's a very valuable skill to have, as sometimes these patterns can have the tiniest little details that need attending to or you might just miss it and spend an extra hour figuring out where that darn blue piece with yellow and white spots might go.

SLPs needs to have good auditory perception to help detect some patterns of speech. One example would be for phonological patterns. They must be able to tell if a certain sound is said correctly in each position in a word (Initial, Medial and Final).  Perhaps the client can say /t/ in the intial position (ex. [tɪn] "tin"), but then it resembles the flap/tap in medial or final positions when it shouldn't... like, [bʌɾn]  instead of  [bʌʔn]  for "button".  Or maybe the client omits specific phonemes, or just consonants in general in certain parts of a word. Sometimes this is just part of typical development, like omitting the final consonant in a word. You have to be able to identify patterns like that and discern if it is part of development or needs intervention.

To go along with this theme, perhaps you will have to use those pattern finding skills to pick out articulation issues. You'll have to watch and listen for misarticulation of sounds. Place of articulation seems to be a big one; is the client pronouncing the sound in the wrong area of the speech mechanism? /S/ is sometimes dentalized and said with the tongue near the teeth instead of the alveolar ridge (the bumpy part behind the teeth).  It's things like that where you have to find the pattern and determine the best method for therapy. Perhaps it's tied in with another issue and is only dentalized when after a certain phoneme or in a specific syllable position. That's when you are trying to find out where that blue piece with yellow and white spots fits into the life size puzzle. The big, crazy puzzle.

It isn't always about what the client says, but just getting the client to talk or finding a way to have him/her gain more interest in the activities! This piece of the puzzle will rely on your eye for creativity and adapting to the situation. What if you have a mute or autistic client that has communication issues with starting or continuing a conversation? Or even a fear of communication? You'll have to use multiple techniques to see which one is just right, and what piece of the puzzle will fit to have your client be enthusiastic about learning and talking. You want to find that one piece that encourages him/her to engage in therapy and conversing. Sometimes it's a simple hobby that fits in the 6-piece puzzle, other times it's a piece that you have to search for like a needle in the haystack of 500 pieces.

Of course there are other patterns that need finding. This is just a simple "taste" of some possibilities of possible patterns that SLPs (and those to be!) need to keep an eye out for. Pattern finding is an integral part of this profession. It's necessary to find what is going on and where it occurs so you can form an appropriate therapy plan for optimal progression. You probably won't completely fix and complete the puzzle, but you will at least be able to see more of the therapy picture puzzle.

*picture from: