A speech-language pathologist, otherwise known as a speech therapist, is a health professional who works with patients to diagnose and treat communication and swallowing problems. Their work entails developing individual treatment plans, providing therapy, and maintaining records to track a patient’s progress. 

What do SLPs do?

SLPs carry out a wide range of therapies corresponding to the range of disorders they treat. For example, they can teach patients how to form sounds, and to speak clearly. They can teach patients exercises to strengthen the muscles used to speak or swallow. They can help patients to increase their active vocabulary. They can work with patients to improve their grasp of syntax. They can design augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for patients with severe language disorders. They can help patients and their families to overcome challenges related to these problems. They can provide aural rehabilitation, to help improve the quality of life of patients with hearing loss.

What specific conditions do SLPs treat?

Clinicians who work in speech pathology jobs offer therapy to patients suffering from communication and swallowing problems or hearing loss, and children with developmental issues. They treat speech disorders such as apraxia, dysarthria, stuttering, and articulation and resonance disorders. They also treat language disorders such as aphasia, and auditory processing disorder. SLPs also provide therapy for cognitive-communication disorders. These types of disorders usually result from an injury to the brain, resulting for example from stroke, or dementia, which leads to issues with memory, attention, organization, or reasoning. This can hamper a patient’s ability to speak, listen, read, or write. In addition, SLPs treat social-communication disorders which can be caused by autism spectrum disorder or traumatic brain injuries. Finally, SLPs provide therapy for dysphagia, the medical term for swallowing disorders. These result in problems related to eating which can lead to weight loss, dehydration, and pneumonia.

Some reasons for seeking treatment from an SLP.

It might be a good idea to seek treatment from an SLP if you or a family member are suffering from any of the following issues. If you experience difficulty communicating clearly after suffering from an injury or illness, speech therapy could help you regain the ability to express yourself clearly, maintain relationships, and even carry out simple everyday tasks. If you experience difficulty with eating after sustaining an injury or illness, an SLP can provide therapy to strengthen the muscles used in eating, and help patients to relearn swallowing coordination.

Specific issues experienced by babies and children.

Babies and very young children with swallowing disorders can develop a pattern of being fussy with their food. They may develop sensory aversions which lead them to try to avoid certain food textures or temperatures. They may experience vomiting during or after meals. SLPs can offer feeding therapy to overcome these issues and help children to learn to eat independently. Finally, if you feel that your child might be suffering from delayed speech development your doctor can refer you to a speech-language pathologist for evaluation. Getting therapy for your child at an early age can help them immensely.