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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

  • Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent oral motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, and language disorders.
  • Speech-language pathologists work with people of all ages.
  • They work with individuals whose oral motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, or language skills have been affected by a neurological event/disease, head/neck cancer, or possibly debilitation related to an underlying medical disease process. This includes individuals:
    • With speech articulation and fluency difficulty such as Dysarthria
    • With voice quality problems, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice possibly related to vocal abuse or cancer
    • With cognitive-communicative impairments, including underlying attention, memory, abstract reasoning, or problem-solving deficits possibly related to a stroke, brain injury, or underlying medical disease process
    • With Aphasia (a language disorder) or Apraxia (a motor planning disorder)
    • Who have oropharyngeal weakness that places them at risk for “aspiration” or food/liquid entering the airway when swallowing that can lead to respiratory complications
  • Oral motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, and language disorders can result from a variety of neurological events, including brain injury, stroke, seizure, progressive disease, cancer, and/or debilitation related to other medical diseases.
  • Speech-Language pathologists use physical examination, instrumental technology, and standardized cognitive-linguistic and language tests to diagnose and guide treatment and develop an individualized plan of care.
  • Speech-language pathologists may recommend alternate nutrition based upon aspiration risk when swallowing or recommend diet-level modification to reduce aspiration risk when swallowing. Additionally, they may design an individualized augmentative communication system or prescribe a speech generating device for individuals with nonfunctional speech.
  • They provide education to patients, their family members and caregivers regarding impairments, disease processes, and compensatory strategies.
  • They develop daily home programs unique to each individual’s strengths and weakness that facilitate maintenance of swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, or language skills at an optimal level.