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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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5 thoughts on “What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?”

  1. Thanks for helping me understand more about speech language pathologists. It’s really cool that they can help treat so many communication disorders, like cognitive-communication problems that come about from dementia or a stroke. To be honest, I curious to learn if normal people who don’t have severe communication disabilities could benefit from this if they have a desire to improve their abilities. Either way, it makes me extremely happy to know that there are resources out there for people who want to fix any communication problem they may have.

  2. Thanks for explaining that language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others, and that language disorders may be spoken or written. My son has trouble sharing thoughts, and I wonder if he may have a disorder. Perhaps I should meet with a telemedicine speech pathologist to check on my son to see if he needs any professional help in developing his language skills.

    1. Hi Larry,
      Speaking with a licensed speech language pathologist would be very beneficial to directing you to the best option to help you child! Glad we could help you understand what a Speech language pathologist does!

  3. I like that you talked about how speech-language pathologists can help you to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech disorders in children and adults. My daughter is turning 4 soon, and I’m starting to worry because she doesn’t speak fluently yet. She mostly produces words but can’t compose sentences, and it’s important for me to have her diagnosed to get proper treatment. I will make sure to visit a speech-language with my daughter soon for help.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. We are glad you are able to use our information to help direct your child’s care!

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