What Does a Speech Pathologist Do?


Quick Answer

Speech-language pathologists help patients overcome disorders that hinder oral communication and language comprehension. Speech pathologists build an extensive knowledge base to evaluate speech problems and recommend effective therapies for each patient. They also educate families and professionals who frequently work with people who have speech disorders.

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Full Answer

Speech pathologists work with patients of all ages, including children with language impairments and elderly people suffering from neurological disorders. Common conditions requiring a speech therapist include cleft palates, strokes, hearing loss, stuttering, brain damage and difficulty swallowing.

Pathologists often observe patients' speech to identify problems with vocalization, cognition, fluency, pitch and motor skills. For example, people with physical defects or neurological problems may have trouble pronouncing specific sounds and moving facial and oral muscles. Patients may be asked to read or complete standardized tests to help pathologists determine whether a learning disability is hindering language comprehension.

When patients have speech impediments, pitch irregularities or hearing problems, pathologists help them learn to articulate words clearly and speak at an appropriate volume. In cases where a patient's hearing loss is severe and long-term, therapists often recommend or provide sign language instruction.

Since patients with speech disorders need ongoing support at home, work and school, pathologists collaborate with social workers, teachers and doctors to help them develop learning programs and train support staff. They show caregivers and other family members how to foster language development and accommodate changes in lifestyle, such as special diets for people with swallowing difficulties.

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