What Does a Speech Pathologist Do?

Recently, I had a parent ask me if I could help their child work on their skills with writing. When I told the parent that I absolutely could, they said “I had no idea speech therapists do that too!” If you have ever found yourself wondering what speech pathologists do, you are in the right place! I will try to answer all of your FAQ’s in this post.

First off, speech pathologists go by many names: speech teacher, speech therapist, speech language pathologist and communication specialist. These all essentially mean the same thing. We are all have a Master’s level education, and are licensed as speech-language pathologists by our individual states. We just refer to ourselves by different nicknames.

Speech pathologists treat clients of varying ages, backgrounds and needs. As outlined by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) this includes:

  • Speech Sound Production Many people often think of speech pathologists as the ones who correct a child’s articulation issues. While this is true, we also help those with other speech production problems such as acquired or congenital speech apraxia (motor planning)  or dysarthria (muscle weakness); and neurological conditions such as stroke or brain injury.

  • Voice This includes problems with pitch, quality or loudness. Those in professions which rely heavily on voice, such as teachers or singers, often have difficulty managing their vocal quality. Voice therapy involves training strategies to promote safe and healthy voice use, as well as strengthening exercises to regain vocal function.

 

  • Fluency This category includes those who have stuttering/cluttering issues at birth and those who develop these problems later in life. Cluttering is a fluency disorder which is characterized by fast speech, poor grammar and poor speech rhythm. This disorder can have an impact on how well a speaker is understood.

 

  • Language Speech therapists see clients with language disorders which include the following domains: receptive language, expressive language, social language, and literacy. This category is vast, children can be born with language difficulties or adults may acquire them later in life. Language disorders can affect people across modalities such as speaking, reading, writing and listening. Many are surprised to hear that speech therapists are responsible to treat language disorders in writing and in reading.

  • Cognition and Memory Many cognitive skills fall into the hands of the speech pathologist including attention, memory, problem solving, and executive functioning. Executive functioning is the “CEO” of our brain. It is a group of skills involved in planning and sequencing  events; initiating and completing tasks; alerting, attending and focusing; and organizing belongings, events and/or language. An executive functioning disorder can be associated with ADD/ADHD, a concussion, or dementia.
  • Feeding and Swallowing Speech therapists see those with feeding and swallowing difficulties (this is called dysphagia). Feeding and swallowing disorders include problems accepting or managing different textures due to oral sensory sensitivities as well as problems related to oral-motor weakness, structural abnormalities, or neurological conditions. Swallowing problems can occur at any or all of three levels; mouth (oral),throat (pharyngeal), or esophagus (esophageal), and can be life threatening if not addressed.

 

As you can see, the scope of practice for the speech therapist is broad. It is no wonder that speech pathologists work in such a wide variety of settings from schools to hospitals to clinics, to nursing homes. There has been in the past, and continues to be a shortage of speech therapists in the United States due to our wide array of services, the growing geriatric population, and increasing incidence of developmental disorders, including Autism.

In future posts I will dig deeper into each of the above domains to increase understanding of the speech-language pathology profession, and when to seek help from a speech therapist.

 

Thanks for stopping by- Remember to like this post if it was helpful!

                          Niki

 

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