A speech pathologist, also commonly referred to as a speech-language pathologist, diagnoses and treats communication and swallowing disorders in patients. A speech pathologist commonly works in a school, hospital, or healthcare facility; some speech pathologists see patients in their homes. A speech pathologist works with patients to develop and strengthen muscles used to speak and to swallow and also counsels patients and families on dealing with speech difficulties and communication disorders.
First, a speech pathologist works to evaluate and diagnose the patient's levels of speech or language difficulty. They determine the extent of communication problems and examine treatment options before forming an individualized care plan. They teach patients how to better communicate through improving the sounds and vocalizations they are able to create. When a patient is better suited to learning an alternative communication style such as American Sign Language, a speech pathologist often arranges or teaches that style of communication to the patient.
Speech pathologist need to be patient and effective communicators. They need good record-keeping and time-management skills. Some speech pathologists specialize in specific groups of people, mainly grouped by age (such as children or the elderly), or they can specialize in working with communication or swallowing problems that occur in patients who have had a stroke or have (or have had) a cleft palate. Speech pathologist commonly work in conjunction with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists. They must have a graduate degree in speech-language pathology, as well as relevant clinical experience and the successful passage of a national examination.
Speech Pathologist 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.