Speech, Language, and Swallowing/Feeding Services

Difficulties in the development of speech, language, and swallowing abilities may interfere with cognitive, social and academic development. Speech-Language Pathologists in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh are experts in evaluating and treating children with a wide variety of communication and swallowing disorders. In addition to providing quality care, speech-language pathologists are involved in professional education and clinical research. Speech-language pathologists hold the Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and are licensed by the State of Pennsylvania.

Each year over 40,000 evaluations and treatment sessions are conducted by the department’s Speech-Language Pathologists. The department provides a wide range of services, including both outpatient and inpatient evaluations and treatment, as well as specialty assessment services and clinics. Department clinicians are also closely integrated with many other departments in the hospital, including otolaryngology, cleft/craniofacial center, cerebral palsy clinic, and more.


Outpatient Services

Outpatient services include evaluation and treatment of all communication disorders.

Speech and Language Evaluations

These evaluations determine if the quantity and quality of a child’s speech and language are within normal limits for his or her age. The evaluation provides information about various aspects of communication ability including language comprehension (understanding), language planning, speech production, articulation, fluency, voice, and hearing.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment provides comprehensive intervention tailored to the child’s needs. Treatment is provided to both individuals and groups, one-to-three times per week as needed. Session are 30 minutes in length.

Evaluation results and treatment progress are shared with parents regularly. Family participation is critical for a successful outcome, so parents are encouraged to observe and participate in the treatment process, both in sessions and through home-based practice.

Inpatient Services

Inpatient services include assessment, treatment, and discharge planning.

Diagnostic assessments

These assessments provide information concerning aspects of communication and swallowing, including language comprehension, language formulation, speech sound production, fluency, voice, and resonance.

Short- or Long-term Treatment

Treatments are individually designed to help children and their families achieve optimal communication/swallowing ability, in the hospital setting and beyond.

Discharge Planning

Discharge planning is an important service that assists in determining appropriate outpatient services after a child leaves Children’s Hospital.

Inpatient assessment and treatment are also available for infants and children at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Specialty Assessment Services

Swallowing/Feeding Evaluation

Swallowing/feeding evaluation determines if an infant or child has a swallowing/feeding disorder and identifies treatment to ensure adequate nutrition and optimal feeding. Assessment involves detailed medical and feeding histories and observation of typical feeding behavior. A Modified Barium Swallow Study (“Cookie Swallow”) may be performed in conjunction with Radiology. Additional services are coordinated through the multidisciplinary Feeding and Swallowing Center (FASC), which includes Occupational Therapy, Dietetics, Nursing, and Speech-Language Pathology.

Voice and Resonance Evaluation

This evaluation determines whether a child’s voice is functioning normally and if not, whether there is a physical cause for the problem. Evaluations are generally provided in conjunction with the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, & Throat) in the Voice and Resonance Clinic.

Aerodigestive/Airway Evaluations

Aerodigestive/airway evaluations include speech-language pathology whenever there are any concerns regarding swallowing or speech production problems associated with disorders of the upper airway. This includes children who undergo surgical procedures such as tracheotomy or reconstructive surgeries which may impact communication or swallowing.

Language Processing Evaluation

This evaluation determines if the child’s ability to used the rules of vocabulary and grammar are within age expectations. It examines the effect of attention and verbal memory skills on retrieving words, producing language and understanding language in more complex communicative situations (such as classroom discussions and social conversation). Recommendations are provided to both the family and school personnel.

The department also provides support and consultation to other hospital clinics such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy Clinic
  • Epilepsy Center

Cochlear Implant Services

Children's Hospital provides Speech Language evaluations and therapy for children of all ages with hearing loss whether they have hearing aids, cochlear implants or both. The evaluation may be one of several evaluations needed to determine candidacy for cochlear implantation. An auditory verbal approach is typically used with children who require speech language/aural rehabilitation therapy. Family involvement in the therapy process is essential. Evaluation and therapy for hearing impaired children is available at all Children's locations.

Specialty Programs

In addition to evaluation and treatment of general speech, language, and swallowing disorders, speech-language pathologists in the department have also developed advanced clinical skills in numerous specialty areas, including:

  • Stuttering (fluency disorders)
  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Social Skills/Pragmatic Language Disorders
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD)
  • Habit Cough
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Cochlear Implants

Education and Research


The education of those who would like to work with children experiencing speech, language, or swallowing/feeding disorders is a strong commitment of the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. As a clinical training site, the department attracts students from the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, as well as interns and clinical fellows from programs throughout the country. Clinical staff provide educational training programs on advanced diagnostic and treatment strategies of children with communication disorders for University Health Center member hospitals as well as for physicians, educators, parents and others in the community.


Research conducted by department staff is aimed at adding to the knowledge about communication development, disorders, and effective intervention in infants, toddlers, school-aged children, and adolescents. Current research projects include the evaluation of the effectiveness of treatment for children with speech and language disorders and development of new procedures for improving the communication abilities of children with language, speech, and voice problems.