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So what exactly does a Speech-Language Pathologist do anyway?

November 19, 2010

I often get asked what I’m taking in school, and after the initial shock of realizing I didn’t just graduate from high school, a slightly confused look usually crawls across my listener’s face when I tell them I’m going to be a Speech-Language Pathologist.   “Oh!! So you help kids who stutter and have speech impediments?”  Typical.  And after hearing this same response a countless number of times, it really got me thinking about the lack of knowledge surrounding what the profession is really about. So I think it’s about time we clear up the thought on everyone’s mind: what exactly does a Speech Pathologist do anyway?

They teach people how to talk good.”

To be honest, I had to keep from bursting out with laughter when my friend said this to me; I didn’t want to insult them but I found it both amusing and wrong on so many levels. And in spite of sounding blunt, no, no they do not. So, I think it’s best if we start thinking about it on the general level first: A speech pathologist will assess, plan and implement treatments for those with a variety of communication-related disorders. Articulation, Stuttering, Late-Talkers galore! Deafness, Aphasia, Autism and more!

“They help kids with the cute little lisps and wittle wabbit type talk.”

Although I would never put it that way, it is partially true. But, it’s time to get over the idea that SLPs only focus on treating an inability to produce certain sounds. They deal with ALL aspects of speech and language – both receptive and expressive. Intonation, fluency and rhythm of speech, voice quality, turn-taking, loudness, processing what we hear, attention, memory and problem solving – just to name a few. In addition to speech, they also work with people in developing alternative forms of communication.

“It seems like they just get to play games with kids all day.”

Do I sense a hint of jealousy? It may seem like they have it easy, but really they are working hard to get their client to practice speech and language skills, all while trying to keep it fun and engaging! And although children do comprise a large part of a SLPs client load, they work with people of all ages; even adults, especially in rehabilitation settings. And I’m not talking about the Li-Lo type rehab, just to be clear. I’m talking along the lines of speech and language recovery in patients who’ve had a stroke, or a brain injury, through retraining speech muscle control, strength and coordination, for example.

And just when you thought we were done…

They even do swallowing! What I mean is, Speech Pathologists also work with clients with swallowing disorders, helping to prevent aspiration, pneumonia, weight loss, and choking.

Want to modify your accent because of communication challenges? Hey we can help you with that too. But just don’t ask me to help you with rolling your r’s, because honestly, I can’t even do that myself.

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