What Does a Speech Pathologist Do? Well, quite a lot!
If there’s one thing we can always count on as Speech Pathologists, it’s that we’ll always need to explain what it is we actually ‘do’. Whether we’re at a family BBQ or meeting a new client and their family for the first time, we happily take on the responsibility to open people’s eyes to the wonderful world of Speech Pathology.
It may not be one of the most common career paths of choice, but Speech Pathologists do a lot of things to help people of all ages. From helping small babies in the NICU to learn how to breastfeed to working with someone after a stroke to re-learn how to speak, to advocating for an elderly person’s right to quality of life when eating or drinking whilst keeping them as safe as possible, our scope of practice is wide and every part of it is incredibly rewarding.
There’s no doubt about it, we love being Speech Pathologists. So, if you’re curious to learn more about what a career in Speech Pathology looks like, or you’ve recently started Speech Therapy and are keen to get to know us better, keep on reading.
What Does a Speech Pathologist Do?
In the words of Speech Pathology Australia, our national peak body for the profession, this is what a Speech Pathologist is qualified to do:
“Speech Pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech and language. People who experience difficulties swallowing food and drink safely can also be helped by a speech pathologist.”
Let’s break this down a bit further and explore the different areas of Speech Pathology practice.
The different areas of Speech Pathology practice:
When someone is experiencing difficulties with their voice, a Speech Pathologist can lend a helping hand! We’re trained to evaluate and support people who have noticed their voices taking on a husky, low, strained, or even croaky quality. We can also work with people who are experiencing challenges with their voice being too loud or too quiet during day-to-day life.
This is one of the areas of Speech Pathology that most people probably think of when they first meet us. When working with someone on articulation, we’re helping them to say their speech sounds correctly so that they can be understood by those around them. This is a particularly common Speech Therapy goal for young children still learning to talk.
While this may surprise you, Speech Pathologists are trained to be able to help clients build the oral language skills necessary in order to successfully decode the written word. This includes things like phonological awareness, sound-letter relationships, and reading comprehension.
Another area that you may have heard of is fluency. Although that term might not ring a bell at first, we think you might have heard of stuttering before. With fluency goals, we can help our clients to improve the rhythm and flow of their speech. This includes stuttering!
Social Communication Skills:
Social skills are one of the more unheard-of areas of Speech Pathology that often surprises people when they first learn of it. When you think about it, there’s a lot of moving parts in social communication that can be difficult for someone with social or behavioural challenges to comprehend. We can help our clients to develop social skills like greetings, starting a conversation, asking and answering questions, as well as more nuanced skills that help people to develop friendships and play with others.
There is a lot more to language than most people expect! One of the areas we can work with clients on are their Expressive Language skills. This is where an individual has trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings with words, whether due to a cognitive challenge caused by an injury all the way through to language delays in children. People with Expressive Language challenges may have a limited vocabulary and use fewer words than expected, or even make grammatical errors when speaking.
The other side to Language Skills that we work on in a Speech Pathology setting is Receptive Language. This means understanding the language that others use when talking to you. As you can imagine, this is a pretty important skill for every-day life! In this area we focus on helping people to understand the meaning of words, questions, and slowly build upon their ability to follow verbal and written instructions.
Feeding & Swallowing:
Feeding and Swallowing are both crucial to our health and wellbeing – not to mention satiating our appetites! This is another area that Speech Pathologists work in to help people of all ages, from the NICU to Aged Care Facilities, to swallow safely. Difficulty with swallowing is known clinically as Dysphagia, and it’s important that help is sought out quickly as it can be very dangerous when things ‘go down the wrong hole’. It can actually cause Pneumonia!
We can also assist children who are very fussy eaters to increase the variety that they’ll accept on their plates, taste and swallow.
AAC + Assistive Technology:
Finally, one of the areas that we enjoy the most at SpeechEase is helping our clients with AAC! Whether it’s helping our clients access Alternative and Augmentative Communication methods for the first time and helping them to learn to use it in every-day life, to building on communication skills using AAC, it’s an area that lights us up.
Did you learn something new about Speech Pathology today? We sure hope so. If you’re keen to learn more about what a career in Speech Pathology is like, join us for a day in the clinic! We’ve designed an interactive and enjoyable experience for students and those considering entering the profession. Learn more by visiting our A Day in the Clinic page.
On the other hand, if you’re someone considering Speech Therapy services for yourself or a loved one, please get in touch with our friendly team today. We have private practice clinics in Mackay, Townsville, and Brisbane ready to help you.