1 SLP (n.)
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is an individual, usually with at least a master’s degree, who is licensed to evaluate and treat disorders of speech (the motor act of articulation), language (the cognitive processes associated with making meaning), voice, fluency (smooth speech, as opposed to having problems such as stuttering), pragmatics (social language use) and swallowing SLPs work with clients across the lifespan, from toddlers with delayed speech and children with social and language deficiencies related to autism to singers and actors with voice disorders and adults with degenerative neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and dementia.
2 aphasia (n.)
Aphasia is difficulty producing and/or comprehending language; it is usually secondary to a CVA (cerebrovascular accident, aka a stroke)—or, in U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords’s case, being shot through a particular part of the brain.
3 dysarthria (n.)
A neurologic speech disorder that results in abnormalities in the strength, speed, range, steadiness, tone or accuracy of movements a person needs to be able to speak; caused by damage to the central or peripheral nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease.
4 apraxia (n.)
When someone’s ability to plan or program the motor sequences for speech is impaired, not because of any muscle weakness or paralysis but because there is a disconnect along the pathway between the intention in the brain and the execution where nerves meet muscle fibers. In adults apraxia may be caused by strokes, tumors or other neurological injuries or illnesses; developmental apraxia in children is idiopathic (the cause is unknown) and very frustrating to treat.
5 dysphagia (n.)
A person with dysphagia has difficulty chewing and/or swallowing food, liquid, saliva or pills; SLPs have to have special training in the anatomy and physiology of the mouth and throat.
6 diadochokinesis (n.)
Diadochokinesis (dye-uh-duh-ko-kun-EE-sis) is a test of people’s ability to rapidly articulate alternating speech sounds, as in “pa-ta-ka” or “buttercup”; it’s used in testing motor speech function.
7 executive function (n. phrase)
No, it’s not a party for CEOs—it’s pretty much about how we get through life, describing the cognitive abilities that are associated with the brain’s frontal lobes. These include planning, reflecting, inhibiting irrelevant responses, switching between different tasks and self-monitoring. The most famous historical case of frontal lobe damage was to Phineas Gage, a 19th-century railroad worker; after an iron rod went straight through his left frontal lobe, he survived and lived for many years. His friends, however, said he was “no longer Gage,” due to his subsequent difficulty in regulating his emotions.
8 theory of mind (n. phrase)
This is people’s ability to empathize and more generally to imagine another person’s mental states (thoughts, knowledge and feelings), something that is typically lacking in people with autism.
9 hyperlexia (n.)
The literal meaning of the Greek words this is derived from is “too much reading,” in SLP-speak a precocious ability to decode written text without actually understanding the meaning—for instance, a person who knows the sounds made by the letters of a foreign language’s alphabet but doesn’t actually know what the words those sounds make up mean.
10 prosody (n.)
The intonation, melody and rhythm of speech, which help to convey meaning—such as with questions (in American English) where the voice rises, declarative statements when it falls, and when lexical stress is used to emphasize particular words within phrases. In tonal languages such as Chinese, these elements can be even more important, since tone can actually change the meaning of a word altogether.—JACKIE EHRLICH
Jackie Ehrlich is a New York City certified teacher and speech-language pathologist.