Speech Pathologist FAQs

  • Introduction

    Most people think speech pathologists help individuals with a stutter or a lisp. And while this is true, speech pathologists do much more. For example, a speech-language pathologist helps people with voice disorders or problems with speaking or communicating. They also help adults who have suffered from a stroke and need help with developing and strengthening muscles to swallow.

    A speech-language pathologist is a highly educated professional who handles various tasks, including diagnosis, identifying treatment options, keeping and updating records, and counseling individuals and families. Speech and communication issues can be detrimental to a person’s confidence and quality of life. Working with a speech pathologist will produce noticeable results. However, patients should know that it often takes dedication and months of work to see those results.

  • What is a speech pathologist?

    A speech pathologist, also known as a speech-language pathologist or a speech therapist, is a medical professional who helps people with communication, language, and swallowing disorders. Often, patients who see a speech pathologist will also see other specialists, such as psychologists, physical therapists, audiologists, or occupational therapists.

  • What does a speech pathologist do?

    Speech pathologists analyze, diagnose, and treat people of all ages. They work with individuals to improve and solve speech, language, and swallowing disorders. They help people with speech sounds, literacy, social communication, voice, fluency, cognitive communication, feeding, and swallowing. Typically this work requires one-on-one sessions in which the patient repeats actions to retrain their body or brain.

  • What is the difference between a speech therapist and a speech pathologist?

    There is no difference between a speech therapist and a speech pathologist. Today, most professionals in this sector prefer the title speech-language pathologist because it is more descriptive of the profession as a whole. Speech-language pathologists can treat speech problems, as well as issues around communication (i.e., language).

  • How do speech pathologists help?

    A speech pathologist will examine a patient, diagnose their condition, and offer treatment. Communication is a vital part of our everyday lives. If a person has issues with speaking or understanding others, it can make daily life more challenging. Working with a speech pathologist can help individuals improve their communication skills so they can better express themselves and understand others.

  • What is speech therapy for?

    Speech therapy can treat a wide ray of conditions, such as:

    • Fluency
    • Voice (hoarseness or abnormal pitch)
    • Articulation (slurring of speech, indistinct speech)
    • Aphasia
    • Language-based learning disabilities
    • Pragmatics (understanding social cues and rules around communication)
    • Swallowing disorder
    • Hearing loss
    • Language delays
    • Preliteracy and literacy skills

  • Who gets speech therapy?

    Anyone with speech, language, communication, or swallowing disorders can benefit from speech therapy. A speech therapist will treat patients of all ages. For example, they treat babies and children for swallowing disorders and seniors who have suffered a stroke and have a speech impairment.

  • What happens in speech therapy?

    What happens in speech therapy greatly depends on what condition is being treated. A speech therapist may use books, pictures, and objects to interact with a child and then correct any pronunciation errors. If swallowing is a problem, the speech therapist will teach tongue, lip, and jaw exercises. A lot of speech therapy is about repetition to retrain the body and mind. 

  • How do I get a speech therapist for myself or my child?

    If you believe your child needs to see a speech therapist, you can contact your local public school. Many kids work with speech therapists, so public schools often know professional speech-language pathologists they can recommend. A majority of speech-language therapists work in an educational setting. If you need a speech therapist for yourself, you can ask your doctor for a recommendation.

  • Where can I find a speech therapist?

    The best place to find a speech therapist is through the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Go to the ASHA site, select ‘Find an SLP,’ and you’ll find professional SLPs in your area. You can even filter results by location, ages treated, area of expertise, and bilingual service providers. Many work in schools, rehabilitation facilities, out-patient clinics, and hospitals. 

  • At what age should speech therapy begin?

    Speech therapy should begin as soon as language, communication, or swallowing problems present themselves. As with many conditions, the earlier you can start treatment, the better. A lot of speech therapy is unlearning specific patterns or behaviors and reteaching new patterns. The longer a problem continues without treatment, the more ingrained the behaviors become.

  • What does a speech therapist do for toddlers?

    A speech therapist will start by examining the toddler and diagnosing their condition. After which, treatment usually revolves around the practice of words, sounds, or mouth movements. Sessions can be as simple as practicing a word over and over. However, some conditions, such as learning disabilities, will require more complex treatment plans.

  • When should I get a speech therapist for a toddler?

    Some of the common warning signs that your toddler may need to see a speech therapist are:

    • Signs of a stutter or stammer
    • Using less than 20 words at 18 months or less than 50 words by age two
    • Using only a few sounds to pronounce all words
    • Difficulties understanding simple sentences, such as get your shoes, by age two
    • Talking infrequently

  • Can a speech therapist diagnose autism?

    Many of the typical signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) revolve around communication and language. As a result, speech pathologists can often recognize these signs and treat individuals with autism. However, a speech pathologist is not the professional to diagnose autism.

  • What is a typical day for a speech pathologist?

    A speech pathologist’s typical day is meeting and evaluating patients, administering tests, formulating treatment plans, documenting progress notes, and maintaining insurance and billing records. They also may develop individual or group activities, use sign language or computer programs to help individuals with communication issues, and meet with team members. Working with a speech pathologist usually takes time, so they see the same patients on rotation weekly.

  • How do I become a speech pathologist?

    To become a speech pathologist, you need to:

    • Complete an undergraduate degree in a related field, typically in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)
    • Complete a graduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology
    • Complete a post-graduate fellowship
    • Pass the national Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology test
    • Apply for your state license
    • Acquire a professional certification

  • How long does it take to become a speech pathologist?

    It takes approximately seven years to become a speech pathologist accounting for the undergraduate degree, graduate program, and post-graduate fellowship. Continued education is required to keep your license in most states, so speech therapists must stay updated on the latest practices. Continued education is often done online through webinars and courses.

  • What degree do you need to be a speech pathologist?

    A speech pathologist needs to complete two degrees: an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree. The undergraduate degree includes prerequisite courses to qualify for the graduate program. These courses are usually linguistics, phonetics, semantics, psychology, and human development. The graduate degree is in Speech-Language Pathology or Communicative Sciences and Disorders.

  • How much do speech pathologists make?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a speech-language pathologist is $80,480 per year or $38.69 per hour. However, this can differ depending on which state you work in, how much you work, and who you work for.

  • How do I become a speech therapist assistant?

    There are three pathways a person can take to become a speech therapist assistant.

    • Option One: Complete a two-year SLPA program
    • Option Two: Have a Bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders and complete the ASHA’s Online SLPA course.
    • Option Three: Have an associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, complete an SLPA certificate program, and complete the ASHA’s Online SLPA course.

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