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What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?

Surprise….it’s MORE than you think!


What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A Speech-Language Pathologist (commonly called a Speech Therapist) is a skilled, licensed, master’s level health care professional who diagnoses and treats communication and swallowing disorders.  In order to practice, A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) must obtain a Master’s Degree in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders, complete a variety of internships (3-4) in educational and medical settings, pass their board examination, and complete a supervised clinical fellowship year to obtain full board certification from ASHA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) and state licensure.


So what exacting does a Speech-Language Pathologist do?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

  • Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance.
  • Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language). Language disorders may be spoken or written and may involve the form (phonology, morphology, syntax), content (semantics), and/or use (pragmatics) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.
  • Social communication disorders occur when a person has trouble with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. These disorders may include problems (a) communicating for social purposes (e.g., greeting, commenting, asking questions), (b) talking in different ways to suit the listener and setting, and (c) following rules for conversation and story-telling. All individuals with autism spectrum disorder have social communication problems. Social communication disorders are also found individuals with other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. These disorders usually happen as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia, although they can be congenital.
  • Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are feeding and swallowing difficulties, which may follow an illness, surgery, stroke, or injury.

Additionally, SLPs:

  • Provide aural rehabilitation for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for individuals with severe expressive and/or language comprehension disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or progressive neurological disorders.
  • Work with people who don’t have speech, language, or swallowing disorders, but want to learn how to communicate more effectively (e.g., work on accent modification or other forms of communication enhancement).


Where would an SLP work?

Speech-Language Pathologists can work in a variety of settings including:

  • Hospitals
  • Home health agencies
  • K-12 Schools
  • Early Intervention or Preschool Education settings
  • Residential Health Care Facilities (skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities)
  • Nonresidential Health Care Facilities (Outpatient settings including MD offices and speech and hearing clinics)
  • Corporate offices (Grammar, accent modification, business writing, communication etiquette, other business related communication needs)
  • Local, State, and Federal Government Agencies
  • Public Health Departments
  • Uniformed Services (US Air Force, Army, Navy, and the U.S. Public Health Service)
  • Colleges and Universities
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