Throughout our lives we encounter many different medical professionals from the moment we are born, through our childhood, adulthood, parenthood and into our senior years, but how many of us ever need the services of speech pathologists? More to the point, how many people genuinely understand what a speech pathologist is and what they do?

Well, if you are someone who is not sure what speech pathologists do and would like to find out, read on and we will explain it all, including some of the specific ways they can help their patients.

What Is A Speech Pathologist?

The main roles of speech pathologists are that they diagnose and treat communication disorders, and those disorders mainly relate to difficulties with speech, listening, language development, writing, reading, voice, and social skills. Much of the work that speech pathologists do is with children and especially young children whose speech and language development is slow or lacking in some way.

Speech pathologists also work with adults whose ability to communicate has been compromised in some way. Common causes of this include learning disabilities, strokes, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, dementia, and loss of hearing. In addition, speech pathologists also treat those with difficulty swallowing food and drink.

What Training And Qualifications Do Speech Pathologists Need To Have?

As with most medical professions, speech pathology requires a university qualification and the oversight for these qualifications and the assessments for them sit with Speech Pathology Australia which is given this authority by the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training.

Budding speech pathologists can qualify from university as either an undergraduate or with a master’s degree. Thereafter, as the profession is self-regulated, to qualify as a speech pathologist individuals must meet the Speech Pathology Association’s standards, whereby they will be deemed a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist and thus able to work as a speech pathologist in Australia.

In What Ways Do Speech Pathologists Help Their Patients?

One of the facets of speech pathology is that it can be used to treat a broad range of communication difficulties and disorders. Speech pathologists will use a wide and varied number of treatments, tools, aids, and therapies to help their patients, based on what they are being treated for and their age. Outlined below are some specific examples of the patients and disorders a speech pathologist may treat and some of the additional work they also do.

  • Work in a child care centre to help children who struggle to communicate with others
  • Help school-aged children, including teenagers, to overcome stuttering
  • Help young children to understand and follow what their teachers are saying
  • Advise adults who often lose their voice when speaking on how they can use their voice more efficiently
  • Help those who have suffered strokes or head traumas to recover their ability to communicate fully
  • Advise parents on how to feed children who have a cleft palate
  • Helping those who have difficulty swallowing to reduce their risk of choking
  • Helping adults and children who have reading difficulties
  • Assisting those with dementia on how to communicate with their loved ones
  • Provide training to teachers, parents, police, and other medical professionals on communication skills

Speech Pathologists’ Work With Young Children

One of the most common areas in which a speech pathologist will work is the language development of young children. Given how important the ability to communicate effectively is for everyone, this is a key element of the work speech pathologists do. Children who show signs of delayed speech, limited language skills, difficulties in making certain sounds, and who struggle to form combinations of words, are all examples of those a speech pathologist will treat.

An important note here is that whilst it is the child who is deemed the patient, a crucial role in any child’s language and communication development is played by their parents. This is why much of the time a speech pathologist spends during treatment is with the parents of a child to identify and educate them on ways in which they can help their child’s speech development.