What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A few years ago,  I made this flyer for CSD Awareness Month – What is a Speech Language Pathologist?. Yet, I think I still missed the mark. Let me break it down – Speech…Language…Pathologist…

  • Speech – the coordination of the brain and necessary muscles used to produce speech
  • Language – a system of codes, symbols, and sounds that convey meaning and is rule-governed
  • Pathologist – a person who deals with the theory and causation of disorders

A Speech-Language Pathologist is qualified to evaluate and diagnose speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders. We treat individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly…and people wonder why a Master’s degree, Clinical Fellowship, and a series of tests are required.

Often times, therapy with children, especially the little kiddos, looks like SLPs are ‘playing’. It used to bother me that parents would comment on how simplistic therapy can look; how can playing Go Fish, rolling a ball back-and-forth, or talking about silly topics make a difference in speech and language?
While drill has its place in therapy, many times children are more cooperative, engaged, and excited about speech therapy if it feels like ‘fun’.  There are so many blogs and websites dedicated to creative ways to make speech-therapy fun, parents may choose to take the do-it-myself approach. They would ask “Why do I even need this fancy Speech-Language Pathologist?”.
As I complete my Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology, I understand why reading a blog or website isn’t enough to “evaluate and diagnose” speech, language, cognition, and swallowing difficulties. An in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the face, head, neck, and torso, knowledge of the brain and corresponding functions, International Phonetic Alphabet, hearing impairments, interpretation of evaluations, signs and symptoms of disorders, and so much more is involved in being a Speech-Language Pathologist. We are a science-based profession; everything we do is based on evidence based practice and tracking data.
Teacher’s use quizzes, tests, and assignments to track progress throughout the school year. Speech-Language Pathologists use short and long term goals to collect data during each session and throughout the treatment process. We are an evidence based profession; we pride ourselves on considering client input, our clinical judgement, and the most current evidence available.
We may go by different names – speech teacher, speech therapist, ‘that lady/man at the end of the hall who makes me talk right’ – but we  have common ground. We are invested in “Making effective communication a human right, accessible and achievable for all.


ASHA Mission Statement 

Playing With Words 365 Post – What is a Speech-Language Pathologist- Part One

Playing With Words 365 Post – What is a Speech-Language Pathologist – Part Two

ASHA Fact Sheet for Speech-Language Pathology

United States Department of Labor – Speech-Language Pathologist

Super Duper Inc. Handout – What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

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