What is a Speech Pathologist?
‘Speech pathologist’ is a term often used interchangeably with ‘speech therapist’; the two terms basically mean the same thing, although the term ‘therapist’ was gradually replaced by ‘pathologist’ to reflect more accurately the diagnostic aspect – as well as the identification, assessment and treatment of speech and language disorders that speech therapists deliver.
A speech pathologist works with individuals to help correct issues with their speech and language, including swallowing, fluency and voice. Some disorders and conditions of speech and language that a speech pathologist may deal with are:
- Fluency (stuttering)
- Delayed language
- Voice disorders
- Articulation (such as lisps)
- Expressive/receptive language skills, and listening skills
A speech pathologist will also help educate carers and patients, perhaps reassuring them that the difficulties their child is having are normal (and more importantly, that their child isn’t ‘delayed’), giving them homework to practice, and finding strategies that work for the patient. They can also work with adolescents to teach more appropriate social language, correct use of grammar or even understanding directions. With that said, a speech pathologist may work with children in an educational setting, in hospitals or in private practice (sometimes with other specialists such as occupational therapists or physiotherapists).
A speech pathologist might work with the elderly, assessing swallowing disorders (dysphasia) that can occur after a stroke or with other disorders. Some disorders can bring about aphasia, which is very basically an inability to understand language, and a speech pathologist can assist individuals by assessing the level of disability and recommending treatments to either maintain the current level of ability or reverse the disability.
A speech pathologist will use many techniques and assessments to diagnose an issue; the cause of a disorder may not even be apparent at first glance, or be less obvious that first thought. For this reason they utilise exercises that work the respiratory system (as well as the mouth, lips and tongue).