Speech Pathologists are Allied Health professionals who primarily treat conditions around communication challenges and swallowing issues. They work in a range of settings, such as schools, community health centres and with NDIS-registered providers such as Better Rehab. Speech Pathologists can help people of all ages and abilities to develop the skills they need to communicate effectively, manage mealtimes and build social skills.
In this blog, we’re going to answer some common questions about Speech Pathology to help you understand exactly what it includes and how it can help you achieve your goals!
What is Speech Pathology?
Speech Pathology is a profession that focuses on human communication. It combines scientific study with extensive on the job training to help people with things like speaking, listening, understanding and being able to express themselves effectively through social cues like tone and body language.
Language is complicated. There are unwritten rules for things like conversing and storytelling, and they change depending on the context, for example if you’re talking to a toddler versus an elderly person. There are also lots of different ways you can use language to get what you need, whether that’s greeting someone, informing them about something or requesting something from them.
Speech Pathology breaks it down into manageable steps to give people the skills they need to use in everyday situations. It covers everything from making the right sounds to finding the right words and using the appropriate gestures, like shrugging or giving someone a thumbs up, to get a message across.
Speech Pathology also includes diagnosis and treatment of common swallowing disorders. According to Speech Pathology Australia, people swallow between 500-700 times a day and more than one million Australians have swallowing difficulties. These swallowing difficulties can develop at any stage of life. Speech Pathology includes a close study of all the muscles in the face and neck, which is why Speech Pathologists can help with functions like eating, drinking, chewing, sucking and making sure food and drink go down the right way. Swallowing is a vital skill that is critical for quality of life.
What does a Speech Pathologist do?
Speech Pathologists work to prevent, diagnose, treat and assess a range of communication and swallowing disorders. They typically attend university for four years, although they may study longer if they specialise in a particular area, and they complete extensive clinical training. They use a range of treatment techniques and strategies that can be tailored to the needs of the individual.
Develop communication skills
Speech Pathologists are perhaps best known for the work they do helping young children develop the skills they need to succeed at school. This can include learning to communicate verbally, improving listening and understanding skills, developing reading and writing skills and learning to pick up on things like tone and body language. Generally speaking, the school will refer the family to a Speech Pathologist as soon as it becomes clear the student needs a little extra help getting started.
Teach effective communication
They also work closely with people living with disabilities and elderly members of the community. Most of the time, this means helping with things like learning to say what you mean to say or speaking clearly without stuttering. Teaching effective communication can include everything from developing exercises to strengthen certain muscles to educating people on the use of augmentative and alternative communication methods or devices like sign language, communication boards and speech-generating devices.
Build social skills and relationships
Some people find social settings easier than others. Speech Pathology can assist those who struggle to read cues or interact with others. They can help develop the skills necessary to start conversations, understand how other people are thinking and feeling and learn to respond appropriately. Their goal is to help people build healthy and fulfilling relationships, which means learning the unwritten rules of society and developing the coping strategies needed to navigate a wide variety of social situations.
Assist with eating and drinking
Finally, when it comes to mealtimes, Speech Pathologists can help people eat, drink and swallow safely. If someone is frequently coughing, gagging, or choking, Speech Pathologists can assess swallowing function, provide therapy to help the muscles function properly, develop mealtime management plans and recommend diet modifications or make further medical referrals.
What conditions do Speech Pathologists treat?
Speech Pathologists help people living with a broad range of conditions and other help conditions to communicate better and experiencing a higher quality of life. This includes issues with motor skills, listening and comprehension skills, cognitive-communication disorders, and more.
Here are some examples of common conditions Speech Pathologists can treat:
- Spasmodic dysphonia, which is a chronic condition that affects the voice
- Aphasia, which is a disorder that affects the brain’s language capabilities
- Dysarthria, which is a symptom of nerve or muscle damage
- Dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing, eating or drinking
- Intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome
- Developmental language disorder
- Mutism and selective mutism
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Acquired brain injury
- Stroke recovery
- Hearing loss
This isn’t a complete list! If you or someone you know is experiencing any issues with communicating or swallowing, make an appointment to see a Speech Pathologist.
What is the difference between a Speech Therapist and a Speech Pathologist?
Nothing! Speech Therapists and Speech Pathologists are just different terms for the same role. Here in Australia, we tend to favour the latter, but you may see the words speech therapist used if you read health resources that originated in countries such as the United States. However, they still treat all the same conditions using the same techniques.
Where can I get Speech Pathology services?
Here at Better Rehab, we are passionate about providing quality Allied Health services to members of our community, without the bureaucracy and outdated funding models normally associated with disability services. Click through to learn more about who we are and how our Speech Pathology services can help, or contact us now to get started.