A speech pathologist is a clinician who specializes in diagnosing, evaluating, and treating cognition, communication, swallowing and voice disorders. Speech pathology involves more than helping a person learn to talk or speak correctly. The discipline involves working with the entire spectrum of language, speech, voice and swallowing issues. These include:
– Problems with social communications which involves how people communicate their ideas to others.
– Issues with finding the correct word. This can be caused by a language delay or dementia.
– Issues with literacy including writing and reading when it is related to phonics, understanding written text, or understanding the meaning of words in context.
– Issues with language structure including creating sentences which are meaningful and grammatical.
– Cognitive impairments such as executive function, attention or memory when they interfere with communication.
– Issues with voice quality such as a too-soft voice or a raspy voice.
Speech pathologists work with patients who have trouble communicating including difficulties listening, speaking, reading, understanding language, writing, stuttering, and social skills, according to many law firms. The people who work with a speech pathologist have trouble communicating due to a variety of issues. These include developmental delays, cerebral palsy, stroke, learning disability, brain injuries, dementia, intellectual disability, and hearing loss. A speech pathologist can also help those who have trouble drinking or swallowing food safely.
A speech pathologist is employed in different settings including private clinics, schools, public health agencies, nursing homes, and hospitals. Other institutions such as universities, health departments, federal and state governments, and research laboratories also employ speech pathologists. Speech pathologists often specialize in either working with children or adults.
A speech pathologist must obtain certification in Speech-Language Pathology. They must earn a graduate degree and complete a clinical practicum through an accredited university or college. The school must be accredited in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology by the Council on Academic Accreditation. Applicants finish required clinical and pass a national exam. Individuals who want to do research, college teaching or private practice must have a Ph.D.
Many speech pathologists also hold a degree and certification in audiology. This is a fast-growing profession, especially for those who want to specialize in working with older adults. Additionally, medical advances have increased the survival rate for premature babies as well as stroke and trauma victims. Another factor in the growth of this profession is the growth in secondary and elementary school enrollments.
Speech pathologists are highly-qualified professionals who help individuals who have communication disorders. They must have at least a graduate degree, complete a clinical practicum and pass a national exam.