What is a Speech Pathologist?

The speech pathologist plays a vital role in both assisting individuals with speech and hearing disabilities and helping those who have suffered injuries to recover speech, hearing, and language cognition. As a vital part of the therapeutic community, they assist individuals across all social and cultural realms to master or regain integral aspects of communication. The article below provides more information about what they do and with whom they work on a daily basis.

Resource: Top 50 Master's in Speech Language Pathology Degrees

Sounds: Making, Hearing, and Understanding

Language is far more complicated an undertaking than many might suppose. One of the most well-known roles the speech pathologist fulfills is to assist with the recovery or development of spoken language. Patients and clients of speech and language pathologists may experience issues known as apraxia of speech, phonological disorders, dysarthria, and even difficulties with articulation. But these specialists are trained to assist in many other ways.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA) they also work with clients whose needs may include language literacy and comprehension and social communication in all its aspects. These parts of their profession involve a deep understanding of the brain and the roles it plays in language development and use. A wide array of individuals may need assistance in this area, ranging from children who have autism spectrum disorders or dyslexia and its sibling challenge with mathematics to adults who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or are recovering from prolonged illness.

The Soft Machine

While these professionals work closely with many different individuals to master cognition, language formation and understanding, social communication, and even help to integrate spoken language into the rich context of Deaf Culture, they also work with the physical aspects of the body that make speech. Because spoken language came to humans long after the genus produced species that were walking upright, crafting tools, and living in complex communities, it's known as a secondary function of anatomy.

Modern humans utilize systems and parts of their bodies for spoken language that evolved for eating, breathing, and, in the case of the face, non-verbal social interaction. These parts did not adapt for the sole purpose of making noises. Because of this, speech and language therapists study all the primary ways these parts work within the body. They often assist patients who have dysphagia—a difficulty swallowing or eating.

Natural Habitats

Because they help so many different people, speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings. In hospitals, their role is often to assist individuals who have undergone significant surgeries that impact or infringe upon either the anatomy used to make words or the parts of the brain involved in comprehension and language processing.

They work in physical therapy settings and long-term care facilities with patients who may require extensive or ongoing coaching. They may work in specialized schools or engage in individual therapy sessions for young people with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, and a host of other challenges. But they also work with the elderly, working to maintain language and cognition skills as the brain and body age.

Speech-language pathologists also work in public or private secondary schools and on college campuses. The role of social communication and public speech can intimidate many young people. As a result, stuttering and other difficulties may mar their academic experience and hamper social development. Therapists work to coach students in this context, and to provide them with simple tricks that will help them overcome fear or awkwardness.

While it's not often something that many give profound consideration, the need for intelligible communication shapes lives. To understand and be understood, to fulfill social roles and experience the full scope of the human world are integral to a holistic lived experience. The speech pathologist recognizes that while many take for granted the learning, use, and comprehension of language, many different types of individuals require a little extra help to enjoy that holistic experience.

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