The Differences Between Speech and Language

Janine Shapiro, Co-Clinical Director of Access Behavior Analysis

The technical term for my job title is “speech-language pathologist,” which sometimes is shortened to the acronym “SLP.”  More often though, I’m known to the public as a “speech therapist.”  In fact, when introducing myself, I’ve often found it easier to simply refer to myself as a speech therapist, as the technical term is a bit of a mouthful, and can sometimes lead to requests for repetitions.  And I’ll admit it, as an SLP, it’s embarrassing not to be understood.

But there’s a reason why the technical term for the profession uses the words “speech” and “language.”  They’re not redundant terms.  When parents use the word “speech” as a synonym for the word “language,” they run the risk that a professional may misunderstand their concerns about their child.  Here’s a quick primer about the meaning of each term:


Speech describes vocal communication.   Speech concerns are related to intelligibility, or how well the sounds, words, and sentences spoken can be understood by others.  Speech disorders include articulation disorders, phonological disorders, and apraxia. 


Language is the form, content, and use of words and their combinations.  Form refers to grammar/syntax, content encompasses vocabulary, and use relates to pragmatics, or the ability to use language to meet social and other needs.  Language does not have to be vocal. Sign language as well as a picture exchange communication system are forms of language.  

Below is a video that further explains the differences between speech and language:

Access Joins the Lighthouse Family

Alysia, Ashley and I started Access in 2013 to create therapy programs that fuse the best practices of speech-language pathology and behavior analysis. We envisioned thoughtfully curated spaces that would inspire communication and laughter. We wanted every learner who walked through our doors to feel understood and supported as they worked to realize their potential. … more »

The Power of Gestures

My most used tool in my practitioner’s toolbox is one that at first glance often seems foreign to both speech-language pathologists AND Board Certified Behavior Analysts.  Many of my therapy sessions feature a variety of hand gestures that either supplement or replace my verbal speech prompts with learners.  The gestures aren’t American Sign Language or … more »

New Access Clinic Opening in Fishers

We are thrilled to announce that a new Access clinic will be opening at the beginning of May in downtown Fishers, conveniently located just a couple minutes drive west of I-69.  This new location will exclusively serve children between the ages of eighteen months and eight years.  We admittedly pondered long and hard whether to … more »

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