SIKESTON -- Many remain unaware that people of all ages with a wide variety of conditions are helped every day by speech language pathologists.
Each year, efforts are made to change that by promoting May as Better Hearing and Speech Month.
"It's basically to raise awareness for the needs in the community," said Christy Jaynes, who along with Kathy Bohannon is one of two speech language pathologists at the Kindergarten Center.
With early intervention being promoted as the key to correcting speech problems, people are generally aware that speech therapists often provide services to young children as they enter the school system.
"The first step is identification," Jaynes said. "We do more testing and identification at the preschool and kindergarten levels."
Speech therapists are not limited to these entry-level grades, however.
"We have them all the way up through high school -- there are a total of five in the district," Jaynes said. "We service ages 3 through high school."
How long a student receives treatment from a speech language pathologist "depends on the child and what they're being serviced for," she said. "Once students meet their goals, then they no longer need our services, and that's the goal of early intervention."
Like other speech language pathologists, those in schools provide a wide range of services. "It could be speech, language, hearing, swallowing -- there's a lot of different areas it could cover," Jaynes said.
Speech therapy generally focuses on articulation and phonology, according to Jaynes, which is "being able to pronounce the sounds and put them where they belong in the word."
Language therapy, on the other hand, helps students in understanding vocabulary, formulating sentences, memory and comprehension.
"All of those things could affect them academically," Jaynes said, "and that's why we justify speech language pathologist services at the school."
A speech language pathologist can make a significant difference, but Jaynes also stressed the importance of "parental involvement -- reading to your child, and just talking to your child about their environment."
She also urged taking safety precautions in a loud environments, such as "making sure you are conserving your hearing by using earplugs."
Jaynes said they have seen middle and junior high school students whose hearing has changed after hunting or listening to loud music.