Speech-Language Pathologist

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Speech-Language Pathologist


Speech-language pathologists marvel in helping people learn how to speak. Imagine working with a six year old boy who has never uttered a word in his life. After months of treatment, he says his name! Talk about rewarding work. Or remember that kid who lived down the street from you with the lisp. She was hard to understand sometimes, however with the help of a speech-language pathologist, she communicates clearly now. Speech-language pathologists help individuals to overcome and prevent communication problems in language, speech, voice, and fluency. These difficulties may be caused by accidents, genetic disorders such as cleft palate, or by delayed development.

Someone who has recently suffered a stroke or major trauma may have lost the ability to speak. People with stutters, lisps, slurs and learning disabilities often see speech-language pathologists, as well as those with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or swallowing disorders. A speech-language pathologist is trained to help these people overcome speech disorders through various therapeutic methods.

Treatments for developmental or medical conditions may involve a variety of activities, including one-on-one therapy and group or family therapy. Yet each form of treatment is specialized to individual needs. For example, if the speech-pathologist's goal is to make a patient's speech understandable, they will work on sounds and pronunciation. Sign language and automated devices are two of the many methods they employ. Other methods include books, pictures, toys, sound analyzers or multimedia computer programs.

Some speech-language pathologists work with people that have heavy accents, who are trying to adapt to a new society or country. There are also a few pathologists who work with actors, singers and broadcasters to work on accentuation, enunciation and proper pronunciation.

Speech-language pathologists may specialize in working with people who have a particular type of disorder (e.g. stuttering), or in working with a particular age group (e.g. pre-schoolers). They often work in teams, which may include audiologists, physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, teachers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

While speech-language pathologists can help people of all ages, the pre-school years are the most critical for speech and language development. Referrals to a speech-language pathologist are made by family doctors, public health nurses, infant development specialists, pre-school teachers or social workers.
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  Interests and Skills  
Speech-language pathologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, with patience and sensitivity to their patient's needs. They need the intellect and perseverance required to complete the long educational training involved. Speech-language pathologists must have good concentration skills and be able to pay close attention to details. They are trained educators in hearing disabilities therefore they enjoy teaching prevention methods. Finally, they enjoy working in a team environment and helping families and individuals with their speech.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Administer tests and procedures to observe patients and diagnose speech, language, voice and swallowing disorders
  • Plan and implement remedial programs to correct speech, language and voice disorders
  • Provide consultative and intervention services regarding communication and swallowing disorders
  • Design and employ alternative communication strategies and devices
  • Consult with physicians, nurses, psychologists and other health care personnel to help plan treatment programs
  • Consult with educators regarding speech and language stimulation, communication strategies, and teaching strategies for children who have communication disorders
  • Conduct research on speech and other communication disorders and on the development and design of diagnostic procedures and devices
  • Speech-language pathologists generally work about eight to ten hours per day. Those working in private practices generally tend to have more flexibility in their schedules, however may also work evenings and weekends to accommodate their patient's schedules. They are found in offices and treatment rooms. Those who work on a contract basis may be required to travel between the various locations they work, such as day care centers, hospitals, and schools.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Speech-language pathologists work in private practices, hospitals, schools, and community care centers. They are also employed as researchers in hospitals, universities and government agencies, which requires a PhD, or administrators of speech and hearing programs.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for speech-language pathologists? Since they specialize in teaching clear communication, they could use their skills to move into a career in public relations or human resources. Otherwise, they could specialize in voice training and make presentations to companies and universities on how to present good speeches and presentations. They could also work as researchers or representatives for hearing aid companies or teach speech-language pathology at the graduate level (with proper education of course).

  Educational Paths  
Speech-language pathologists require a bachelor's degree in communication disorders, psychology, linguistics or a related field. The next step is a master's degree in speech-language pathology, which will include a working internship in a hospital, private hearing clinic, rehabilitation center or health facility. Finally, most employers require that speech-language pathologists become certified with the American Board of Audiology. This includes passing a national exam and completing continuing education courses on an ongoing basis. Finally, while in undergraduate studies, volunteering is a great way to find out if this might be the career for you.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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