What is a speech pathologist?

A speech pathologist is a healthcare professional who diagnoses and treats disorders relating to communication. These include problems with speaking or stuttering, or communication relating to listening and understanding language, writing, reading or even social skills.
Speech pathologists can also help patients who find it difficult to swallow food and drink in a safe way. To qualify as a speech pathologist, they will need either an undergraduate or post-graduate degree, then register with Speech Pathology Australia, which enables them to become a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP).

What does a speech pathologist do?

A speech pathologist works with patients of all ages to help effective communication.

A paediatric speech pathologist or child speech pathologist will work with children with communication issues due to developmental delays, learning difficulties or physical disabilities, for example. They may work on a very specific issue, such as a stutter.

Speech pathologists also work with the adult community with learning difficulties, or who have had a stroke or brain injury, dementia or hearing loss that has affected how they use and understand speech and language.

They can also help patients who aren’t able to form speech to interact by introducing them to communication boards or other devices, or helping them learn to use devices that produce speech after having their voice box or larynx removed.

Speech therapist vs speech pathologist

You may be wondering what the difference is between a speech therapist and a speech pathologist.

The answer is that the terms are interchangeable, although the title “speech pathologist” is more commonly used in Australia.

In fact, it is considered a fitting way to describe the profession as it conveys the idea of identifying both the cause and effects of a communication issue, as well as providing a treatment plan. As a highly skilled health professional with a wide scope of work, it’s an appropriate way to describe this role.

Speech pathologist cost?

The cost of seeing a speech pathologist depends on a number of factors.

Public speech pathologist services are usually free, but you may incur some out-of-pocket expenses.

The cost of seeing a private speech pathologist will vary from practice to practice. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 – $250 for an initial consultation with a Medicare rebate of approximately $50-$75 depending on your eligibility. In general, subsequent therapy sessions are charged at a slightly lower rate.

A Medicare contribution applies for a set number of consultations with a speech pathologist under a range of Commonwealth government schemes. Some of these include: Helping Children with Autism, Chronic Disease Management Plan (Enhanced Primary Care Plan) and Better Start Disability. Further information is available on the Department of Health Speech Pathology Services page

Residents of aged care facilities and people of Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander descent may also qualify for Medicare rebates.

Some private health insurance policies cover speech therapy so it’s worth shopping around for an insurance provider and policy that will best suit your needs.

Before you make your appointment, it’s advisable to contact the practice to determine what the costs will be. While you do not need a GP referral to see a speech pathologist, a Medicare rebate may apply if you have one.

How do I find a speech pathologist?

Because speech pathologists treat conditions that often need extended therapy, finding the right one for you is important.

Use Whitecoat to search for speech pathologists in your chosen location and read reviews and star ratings from past patients. Many will include a bio and areas of specialisation, making it easy to find one that resonates with you.

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