The purpose of this article is to highlight the need for increased focus on cognitive communication in North American speech-language pathology graduate education models.
We describe key findings from a recent survey of acute care speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the United States and expand upon the ensuing discussion at the 2020 International Cognitive-Communication Disorders Conference to consider some of the specific challenges of training for cognitive communication and make suggestions for rethinking how to prepare future clinicians to manage cognitive-communication disorders.
Results from the survey of acute care SLPs indicated inconsistent confidence and training in managing cognitive-communication disorders. We discuss the pros and cons of several avenues for improving the consistency of cognitive-communication training, including a standalone cognitive-communication course, integrating cognitive communication in all courses across the speech-language pathology undergraduate and graduate curriculum, and using problem-based learning frameworks to better prepare students as independent thinkers in the area of cognitive communication and beyond.
Cognitive-communication disorders cut across clinical diagnoses and settings and are one of the largest and fastest growing parts of the SLP's scope of practice. Yet, surveys, including the one discussed here, have repeatedly indicated that SLPs do not feel prepared or confident to work with individuals with cognitive-communication disorders. We propose several avenues for increasing educational emphasis on cognitive communication. We hope these ideas will generate discussion and guide decision making to empower SLPs to think critically and step confidently into their roles as leaders in managing the heterogeneous and ever-growing populations of individuals with cognitive-communication disorders.