A speech-language therapist helps people who have difficulty with verbal communication, such as with the proper formation of words or word sounds, stuttering, disfluencies in grammar and speech, and associated problems with swallowing and breath control. Speech-language therapists typically work with young children and adolescents that have such problems with normal speech development, as well as with individuals who have suffered brain trauma from an accident or stroke.
With younger children, the speech-language therapist may be presented with a diagnosis from a pediatrician or other health professional. They observe and record speech patterns, observing regular conversations, memorized recitations and reading aloud; the therapist then typically offers strategies and practice exercises to help correct speech and language problems, as well as works with parents and teachers. In adults and older children, the speech language therapist assists the patient in recalling or visualizing proper speech and expression patterns. He or she works through a graduated process of exercises that rely on a variety of audio and visual stimuli to help the patient correct difficulties. In some cases, the exercises are aimed at retraining parts of the brain that control verbal communication to help a person who has had a stroke or some head trauma recover proper pronunciations and eliminate signs of aphasia.
A master's degree in speech pathology is typically required for this position. These professionals normally work either in private practice or for hospitals, clinics or school districts. Speech language therapists must possess outstanding verbal communication skills, work well with patients, and be able to communicate with other healthcare professionals as needed.
Speech-Language Therapist Tasks
Administer hearing, speech and language evaluations, tests and examinations to patients.
Evaluate hearing, speech and language test results, medical background to diagnose and plan treatment for speech, language, fluency, voice and swallowing disorders.
Develop, implement and monitor treatment plans for problems such as stuttering, delayed language, swallowing disorders and or voice problems, adjust treatments accordingly.
Document the initial evaluation, treatment, progress and discharge of patients.
Instruct patients in communication techniques and teach speech, muscle and breathing exercises.