Speech Language Pathologist

The profession of speech language pathology encompasses a wide range of competencies, pertinent to communication and its related disorders. Speech language pathologists (SLP), also called speech therapists, are trained to work with individuals of all ages who experience difficulties in communicating.

Some difficulties result from an identifiable source, such as an articulation disorder caused by a stroke, a hearing loss or cerebral palsy. Many others exist without a clear cause.

Speech language pathologists treat a variety of communication disorders that occur in the areas of articulation, language comprehension, language expression, cognition, oral-motor functioning and swallowing. They work with individuals in one-on-one and/or group situations, conduct speech and language evaluations and provide therapy services.

The primary goal of a speech language pathologist is to support an individual to be able to communicate effectively with others for meeting his/her needs and social relationships in every aspect of life. SLPs use written and oral tests to diagnose the nature and extent of impairment and to record and analyze speech, language and swallowing irregularities.

Then they develop an individualized plan of care, tailored to each patient's needs. For individuals with little or no speech capability, speech language pathologists select augmentative alternative communication methods, including AT devices and sign language. Then the individual is trained on its use.

Speech language pathologists teach individuals how to make sounds, improve his/her voice or increase language skills to communicate more effectively. Speech language pathologists also help clients develop or recover reliable communication skills so they may fulfill educational, vocational and social roles.

As the area of assistive technology has grown, it has become more and more common to find speech language pathologists who specialize in providing assistive technology services to individuals with disabilities. Speech language pathologists frequently receive training in the area of assistive technology and often serve on teams providing comprehensive AT services. These services may include evaluation, recommendation, acquisition and training of low and high technology products.

Speech language pathologists cover various areas, such as augmentative and alternative communication, environmental control, aids to daily living, computer access, positioning and mobility aids, assistive listening devices and low vision aids. Speech language pathologists may provide direct and/or consultative assessment and treating services utilizing one or more types of technology.

They often will consult and coordinate services with other professionals, including audiologists, physical, occupational and recreational therapists, special educators, rehabilitation counselors, psychologists and rehabilitation engineers. A common purpose in the provision of technology services is to support and supplement an individual's existing communication, education, and life skills. This provides an alternate means by which a person can function successfully within his or her environment.

A speech language pathologist can work in a variety of settings from schools and hospitals to private clinics, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities and individuals' homes. Speech language pathologists must earn a master's degree in speech language pathology and become certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).  Click here to visit the ASHA website or call 800-638-8255.  Email the Action Center by clicking here. 

Many states also require an AT Professional to become licensed by the state department of professional regulations. Some of the colleges with a master's program in speech-language pathology are the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, Purdue University, Indiana University, Western Michigan University, and Michigan State University.