What does a Speech Pathologist do?
Speech pathologists – also commonly referred to as Speech Language Pathologists – work within a medical or educational setting to assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent oral motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, and language disorders.
In whatever setting they are employed – and over half of those working as speech language pathologists in the US are working in schools and other educational facilities – speech language pathologists work with individuals whose oral motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, or language skills have been affected by a neurological disease or event, have suffered or are suffering from a head/neck cancer, or an underlying medical disease that has affected the speech systems.
A speech pathologist will devise an individual plan of action and treatment for each patient they encounter and in addition to helping the patient themselves follow it they must also educate family members and caregivers as well for the patient to obtain the best results possible.
Working with Children
A great many of the patients referred to a speech language pathologist are young children, usually aged between 3 and 12, which is why so many SLPs work within an elementary or other school setting. The reasons that a child may develop speech problems are wide ranging – from developmental disabilities to speech and language difficulties resulting from chronic ear infections which can affect the way a child a forms sounds as they cannot always hear them properly. For those who enjoy the idea of working closely with children to improve their lives overall, speech pathology can be a very rewarding career path.
Working with Adults
Adults who are referred to a speech language pathologist generally consist of those with general voice issues perhaps related to overuse, those for whom illness or disease has resulted in swallowing difficulties or individuals who have lost their ability to speak after a stroke. An SLP may see these patients in a hospital setting, a rehabilitative facility or even in private practice.