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What a career in Speech Pathology really means

Most people think of a ‘speech pathologist’ as someone who helps people to ‘speak properly’. This is completely understandable given the job title, however there is so much more to being a speech pathologist than you might think!

What is a speech pathologist?

Technically speaking, a speech pathologist is a university-trained allied health professional who studies, diagnoses, and treats a range of communication and feeding difficulties. Most importantly however, speech pathologists act as advocates on behalf of clients and their families to help them achieve their goals and to support their right to participate within their communities in all areas of life. As speech pathologists, we are firm believers in neurodiversity affirming practice. This means recognising that all people’s brains are unique and understanding the importance of embracing and affirming individual differences within the work that we do. This is what makes speech pathology such a rewarding career!

What does a speech pathologist do?

Speech pathologists provide support across a wide range of areas, including but not limited to;

Language -

Receptive Language – helping people to understand instructions and meanings.

Expressive Language – supporting people to put words together and be understood by others.

Social communication – helping people to develop and maintain successful relationships with others in ways that are meaningful for them.

Articulation – assisting people to correctly produce sounds to make words.

Fluency/stuttering - fluency refers to the continuity, smoothness and rate of speech production. Speech pathologists can assist those who may have persistent difficulties with fluency, such as by regularly repeating sounds or words when they speak (referred to as stuttering).

Literacy - supporting individuals to read and understand what is read in written form.

Voice – helping people to use their vocal cords to produce clear speech.

• Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) - providing various forms of communication aids for those who have trouble with speech or language skills and require an alternative means of communication.

Cognition – assisting with attention, memory, thinking, planning and organising.

Hearing – as hearing loss can significantly impact language development, speech pathologists can support those with hearing loss or impairment by supporting the use of sign or development of spoken language.

In addition to communication, speech pathologists also work with children or adults who may have feeding difficulties. This is because the same muscles used in talking are also used in eating and drinking. Feeding is the process involving any aspect of eating or drinking, including gathering and preparing food and liquid for intake, sucking or chewing, and swallowing. Speech pathologists can also be trained in various approaches to help children and adults who have aversions or sensory difficulties with certain types of food.

How do speech pathologists work?

Speech Pathologists use a mixture of formal and informal assessment tools to identify difficulties in any of the above-mentioned areas and use evidence-based treatments to address these. They often work within a multidisciplinary team including but not limited to, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, medical specialists, teachers and employers. Most importantly, speech pathologists work for and with people to help them achieve their goals.

Further information

Speech Pathology Australia Fact Sheets here

Speech Pathology Australia's explanation of a speech pathologist here

Raising Kids Network speech pathology guide here


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