Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency and other related disorders.
Speech pathologists work with people who cannot make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly. This includes individuals:
- With speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering.
- With voice quality problems, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice with problems understanding and producing language.
- Who wish to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent.
- With cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory and problem solving disorders.
- Who have oral motor problems which cause eating and swallowing difficulties.
Speech and language problems can result from a variety of problems including hearing loss, brain injury or deterioration, cerebral palsy, stroke, cleft palate, voice pathology, mental retardation or emotional problems. Problems can be congenital, developmental or acquired. Speech-language pathologists use written and oral tests, as well as special instruments, to diagnose the nature and extent of impairment and to record and analyze speech, language and swallowing irregularities.
Speech-language pathologists develop an individualized plan of care, tailored to each patient's needs. For individuals with little or no speech capability, speech-language pathologists may select augmentative or alternative communication methods, including automated devices and sign language, and teach their use. They teach these individuals how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their language skills to communicate more effectively. Speech-language pathologists help patients develop or recover reliable communication skills so patients can fulfill their educational, vocational and social roles.