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Speech pathologists (or speech therapists) assess, diagnose and treat children or adults who are unable to communicate effectively.
Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink.
Speech pathologists often work with a client individually. Alternatively they may work with a child’s parents, family members, child care staff or teachers.
Communication – the process of being able to understand and to be understood – is something most of us take for granted.
Communication disabilities are the result of problems with speech, using and understanding language, voice, fluency, hearing or reading and writing.
One in seven Australians has some form of communication disability. This means that one in seven people has a problem understanding other people or being understood by people.
Speech pathologists work in a variety of settings, including:
Speech pathologists may provide individual therapy, work in small groups, work within a classroom or become involved in home-based programs. They may provide resources and information, as well as giving advice and direction to clients, their carers and other professionals.
They coordinate the management of clients, work as part of a multi-disciplinary team, consult with other agencies, provide workshops and support family members and other caregivers. A speech pathologist is an important member of an early intervention team, an aged-care services team and a school therapy team.
The role of speech pathologists is to advocate strongly for appropriate care and services for people with communication disabilities.
Speech pathologists complete a degree at university which encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures.
A speech pathologist’s workload might include:
Children usually achieve language milestones such as babbling and first words at particular ages, however there is a large amount of individual variation among children.
Many children learn language naturally through their environment and their interactions with parents, siblings and other people in their life. Some children need assistance with speech and/or language – so they can understand and be understood by others.
It is recommended that you always sit in on your child’s speech pathology sessions. Children whose parents are involved in therapy and practise regularly at home make the best progress. You can also ask your speech pathologist for regular homework.
Speech pathology can be accessed through government services such as Community Health Centres, through organisations such as Pathways and Lifestart or privately.
To find a private speech pathologist look on the Speech Pathology Australia website (www. speechpathologyaustralia.org.au) under ‘Find a Speech Pathologist’. Alternatively you can look online to find private practitioners near you or speak to your GP, child care staff or school for recommendations.
Speech pathologists or speech-language pathologists were formerly known as speech therapists. They are different from speech and drama teachers.
Speech Pathology Australia - www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au
Speech Pathology Australia has some easy fact sheets: www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/publications/fact-sheets/easy-english-fact-sheets
Speech Language Therapy resources - www.speech-language-therapy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11&Itemid=117