Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists, also called speech therapists, work with people who cannot speak or cannot speak clearly, who have speech problems (stuttering, an unwanted accent, or an inappropriate pitch), who have problems understanding language, or who have communication impairments such as attention, memory, and problem-solving disorders. Speech-language pathologists use special instruments and qualitative and quantitative assessment methods, including standardized tests, to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of impairments.

Speech-language pathologists develop an individualized plan of care, tailored to each patient’s needs. For individuals with little or no speech capability, speech-language pathologists may choose augmentative or alternative communication methods, including automated devices and sign language. They teach patients how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their oral or written language skills to communicate more effectively. They also teach individuals how to strengthen muscles or how to swallow without choking or inhaling food or liquid.

Speech-language pathologists counsel individuals and their families concerning communication disorders and how to cope with the stress and misunderstanding that often accompany them. They also work with family members to recognize and change behavior patterns that impede communication and treatment and show them communication-enhancing techniques to use at home.

In medical facilities, speech-language pathologists work with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists. In schools, they collaborate with teachers, special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents to develop and implement individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities.