The Importance of SLPs


Taylor Lavigne, Writer

What are SLPs, you may ask? SLP is the abbreviated form for Speech-Language Pathologist. Speech-Language Pathologists are professionals who are trained to help treat children and adults who have speaking disorders and language difficulty.

They work with people of all ages who have various disorders from different causes. They do not work with one specific physical or mental challenge. They work with people who have literacy, language, speech or fluency issues, due to a variety of reasons.

SLPs are most common in schools and other healthcare facilities like physician’s offices and more. About two out of five of SLPs worked in schools in 2016. (

SLPs are important to many students who need a little extra help with speaking and language. Their main priority is to create a better environment for students to learn, understand and interpret.

They help various students with various disabilities, from helping a deaf student to helping a student who has a hard time speaking.

On average, about 40 million Americans have communication disabilities, which costs the USA about $154 – $186 million dollars a year. 5% of that is children who are in 1st grade or younger that have a noticeable speaking disability. (

The SLP career has an area of shortage across the country, but BFA is fortunate to have two SLPs to help students.

Those two SLPs are Marissa McGrath and Julie Shaffner. Technically, they comprise one and a half SLPs at BFA. Julie Shaffner works both at Saint Albans Town Educational Center and BFA, although McGrath spends most of her time at BFA.

Marissa McGrath’s work focuses on developing a stronger set of skills for the students she works with. With these sets of skills, students develop more comfort with being independent.
Speech and language disorders transpire when a person has an issue with producing sound, putting correct sounds together or their resonance.

“We provide both individual and group communication services both in and out of the classroom setting, developing strategies and tools for students to improve their communication skills so that they can increase their communicative participation in their activities of daily life,” McGrath said.

Speech disorders mainly revolve around an inability to produce sound while students with language disorders have a harder time comprehending, understanding and producing language.

SLPs treat and alleviate student difficulty with these disabilities. Amongst these two general ideas, disabilities that revolve around speech and language are very broad. Each student is very different in terms of the way that they learn.

“We provide services to students who have diagnoses of expressive and/or receptive speech-language impairment, Autism Spectrum disorder, Down’s Syndrome, etc. Essentially, we help students who have difficulty with skills falling under the broad category of communication, whether it be specific to speech, language, cognitive or social skills,” McGrath said.

Along with McGrath, Julie Regimbal, Special Education Director of the Maple Run Unified School District (MRUSD) also strongly believes in furthering students’ education by having SLPs in schools.

SLPs are essential when it comes to learning environments and Regimbal recognizes that.

“We have a lot of individuals in our community with developmental disabilities who have more intensive special needs and our high school serves many people with developmental disabilities,” Regimbal said.

Regimbal is a strong advocate for SLPs, and anything relating to creating a more positive and welcoming environment for students in the Maple Run community.

The amount of students affected by these disabilities make SLPs essential in nearly every school. Unfortunately, SLPs are not very common in the USA. BFA is blessed to have Marissa McGrath and Julie Shaffner.

“It’s an area of shortage across the country and certainly an area of shortage in our community. I feel we are lucky enough in Saint Albans and Fairfield to have the number we want,” Regimbal said.

The lack of SLPs in communities affects the students negatively because they are not getting the help that they need. Without an SLP, it’s harder for a student with these disabilities to understand and interpret the work that’s being taught.

“Sometimes I’ll have SLPs, particularly at the high school where they may be working on their social use of language. Or functional language — How do you ask directions? How do you find out how much something costs at a store? How do you interact with a stranger at the supermarket? — Those kind of things folks with significant disabilities don’t just catch automatically. They need to be explicitly taught,” Regimbal said.

Feel free to say hello to these two professionals who help BFA students communicate better every day, if you see either of them in the halls!