Speech-Language Pathology

What is Speech-Language Pathology?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech-language pathologists facilitate in preventing, assessing, diagnosing, and treating speech, language, cognitive-communication, swallowing and voice disorders in children and adults. 

In addition, according to ASHA, the following disorders fall under the umbrella of speech-language pathology:

  • Speech disorders : How we say sounds and words
    • Some example of speech disorders may include the following:
      • Pronouncing syllable/phoneme/sound correctly
      • Repeat sounds, words, phrases, unintentionally (stuttering)
      • Pronounce words incorrectly due to weakness and/or motor planning/programming deficits (motor speech disorders)
  • Language disorders: The words we use to share ideas and communicate wants/needs.
    • Some examples of language disorders may include the following:
      • Difficulties in expression, understanding spoken language, reading and/or writing (e.g., aphasia)
      • Communicating for social purposes  (e.g., greeting, commenting, asking questions), taking on perspective of the listener e.g., non-verbal communication). Some individuals who have difficulties in social communication may have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. 
  • Cognitive-Communication disorders: Any aspect of communication that is affected by communication.
    • Some examples of cognitive-communication disorders may include the following:
      • Attention, memory, and executive functioning (problem-solving/reasoning, organization, self-monitoring) These difficulties may arise as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia/neurodegenerative disease, or congenital. 
  • Swallowing Disorders: Difficulty feeding and swallowing (dysphagia)
    • Some examples of swallowing disorders may include the following:
      • More time and effort to swallow
      • Unable to swallow (saliva, liquids, solids, pills) safely 
  • Voice Disorders: Difficulty with voice quality, pitch, tone and loudness that differ from norms and usually has a suspected etiology (e.g., neurologic disease, voice misuse/abuse)
    • Some examples of voice difficulties may include the following:
      • Weak, breathy vocal quality
      • Too high/low pitch
      • Rough/Gravelly vocal quality
      • Reduced volume (sometimes due to neurological disease)

Speech-language disorders are often a result of medical conditions such as the following:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Laryngeal and oral cancers
  • Dementia
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Right Hemisphere Brain Injury

In children, speech-language disorders may be a result of language-based learning disabilities:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Autism 
  • Failure to Thrive
  • Stroke/brain injury
  • Tumors
  • Cleft lip/palate
  • Cerebral palsy 
  • Syndromes such as Down’s Syndrome 

What settings do speech-language pathologists work in?

  • Early-intervention, pre-school, K-12 schools
  • Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Public Health Departments
  • Colleges/Universities
  • Private Practice

Helpful Links: 

References: Speech-Language pathologists. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2021, from https://www.asha.org/students/speech-language-pathologists/

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