So….what does a Speech Pathologist do?

“So… what does a Speech Pathologist do?”

This is a question I am commonly asked when I introduce my occupation to people.

I also get asked, “Are you a Speech Pathologist or Speech Therapist?” The answer is – Both! They mean the same thing. In Australia the technical term is “Speech Pathologist or Speech Language Pathologist”.

Those with stronger accents say to me, “Oh no, don’t listen to me! I think I need some speech therapy!” Occasionally, my role is confused with the 18th century study of elocution. This is where formal pronunciation, emphasis, gesture, grammar, and stance were the focus. It has lost popularity nowadays. A Speech Pathologist does aim for some of these aspects, but from a physiological and functional perspective.

The confusion about my occupation is fair as “Speech Pathologist” is a relatively new profession. The idea of speech correction was recognized in the mid-1920s and gained traction as soldiers with brain injuries returned from WWII and professionals began to research speech techniques to help them recover.

Funnily enough, I find it a difficult question to answer, “What does a Speech Pathologist do?” In my opinion, a shorter list would be what DOESN’T a Speech Pathologist do! We can work with adults or children…or both! We can work in hospitals or the community, or schools or private practice… or a mix!

Speech Pathologists commonly work with child development, hospitals, aged-care, and disability sectors. However, we have other more surprising roles: like using technology to help communicate (using things like the movement of an eye to help a person express themselves), assisting in feeding issues (the muscles we use for talking are the same as for eating), supporting voice changes for transgender people, and even providing language impaired people with a fair trial in the legal system.

As a Speech Pathologist myself, I see my role as this:  somebody who cares (a lot!) about the people they work with and enjoys spending time supporting them to reach their communication (or feeding) goals. I love my job! The diversity of clientele, location, and goals makes for an interesting work life!

Katie Milton

Credit: SpeechEasy website