What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?

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What is a Speech Language Pathologist?

Also known as: Speech Pathologist, Speech Therapist, Speech and Language Specialist, Speech and Language Therapist, Speech-Language Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathologists diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders in patients. Most speech and language pathologists work in schools or healthcare facilities. Some work in patients’ homes

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What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?

Speech and language pathologists typically do the following:

  • Communicate with patients to evaluate their levels of speech or language difficulty
  • Determine the extent of communication problems by having a patient complete basic reading and vocalizing tasks or by giving standardized tests
  • Identify treatment options
  • Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan
  • Teach patients how to make sounds and improve their voices
  • Teach alternative communication methods, such as sign language, to patients with little or no speech capability
  • Work with patients to increase their ability to read and write correctly
  • Work with patients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow
  • Counsel patients and families on how to cope with communication disorders.

Speech and language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speech, such as being unable to speak at all or speaking with difficulty, or with rhythm and fluency, such as stuttering. They may work with those who are unable to understand language or with people who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice.

Speech and language pathologists must also do various administrative tasks, including keeping good records. They record their initial patient evaluations and diagnoses, treatment progress, any changes in a patient’s condition or treatment plan, and, eventually, their final evaluation when the patient finishes the therapy. Some speech and language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Others focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems, such as those resulting from strokes or cleft palate.

In medical facilities, speech and language pathologists work with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists. In schools, they work with teachers, special educators, other school personnel, and parents to develop and carry out individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities.

What is the workplace of a Speech Language Pathologist like?

Almost half of all speech and language pathologists work in schools. Most others work in healthcare facilities. Some work in patients’ homes.

The following industries employed the majority of speech-language pathologists in 2010:

  • Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private - 44%
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists - 15%
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private - 13%
  • Nursing care facilities - 4%
  • Home health care services - 3%

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. Those who work on a contract basis may spend considerable time travelling between facilities to treat patients


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Further Reading

  • Speech Pathologist Salary

    The overall salary for a speech pathologist is determined by a wide range of factors such as working industry, years of medical experience, type of employer and the city one works in.

  • What Personality Traits Do Speech Pathologists Need?

    The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has identified several “must have” characteristics for SLPs.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Speech Language Pathologist

    At its simplest, speech-language pathology is the treatment of communication disorders, so a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a therapist who works with clients to help them communicate more clearly, more easily, and more effectively.

  • Audiologists And Speech-Language Pathologists In Canada

    Over the last few years, the number of audiologists and speech-language pathologists has grown sharply. This can be explained by the many newcomers to the profession and by rising needs among children and seniors. Considering that universities have increased the number of spots for students and the impact of immigration, the number of people in this occupation should continue to grow sharply over the next few years.

  • Careers In Speech-Language Pathology

    Working with the full range of human communication, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) evaluate and diagnose speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders and treat such disorders in individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

  • Speech Pathologist: Career Profile

    Speech pathologists, officially called speech-language pathologists and sometimes called speech therapists, work with people who have a variety of speech-related disorders. These disorders can include the inability to produce certain sounds, speech rhythm and fluency problems, and voice disorders.

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