What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?
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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Who are Speech-Language Pathologists?

Speech-language pathologists are skilled, autonomous professionals with specialized knowledge, skills, and clinical training in assessment and management of communication and swallowing disorders. They hold a Masters or Doctorate degree in speech-language pathology and are regulated by the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario (CASLPO), which ensures that clinicians meet stringent professional and ethical standards. Speech-Language Pathologists have a scope of practice defined in the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Act (1991), are included in the Regulated Health Professions Act, and are qualified to certify speech and language impairments for both federal and provincial funding agencies.


What Services do Speech-Language Pathologists Provide?


A Speech-Language Pathologist's expertise includes prevention, identification, evaluation, and treatment of congenital and acquired communication and swallowing disorders. Service is provided to patients/clients of all ages, in a variety of health care, education, and private settings. The following is an overview of the broad range of services offered by speech-language pathologists:


  • Assessment and treatment of language disorders to improve ability to understand spoken and written language, convey ideas verbally and in writing, and communicate in social situations
  • Assessment and treatment of cognitive communication disorders to improve the reasoning, problem solving, memory, and organization skills required to communicate effectively
  • Assessment and treatment of speech disorders to improve articulation (pronunciation) and to help those who stutter improve their fluency
  • Assessment and treatment of voice disorders to improve vocal quality, pitch, and loudness
  • Assessment and treatment of swallowing disorders to ensure that patients/clients are on safe diets and not at increased risk for choking or food/liquid build-up in the lungs
  • Patient/client and caregiver counseling on communication and swallowing disorders, patient/client abilities and challenges, and strategies to improve function and help compensate for difficulties
  • Consultation with other professionals to provide comprehensive programs of care (e.g., audiologists, dietitians, nurses, occupational therapists, physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and teachers)
  • Clinical and academic research to investigate complex processes underlying human communication, explore the impact of various factors on communication and swallowing, and develop new approaches to treat people with communication and swallowing disorders.


Why Are Speech-Language Pathology Services Essential?


Often taken for granted, the ability to communicate effectively is essential to achieve and maintain quality of life. Speech, language and associated cognitive disorders can adversely affect academic performance, workforce integration, and social interaction. Treatments that speech-language pathologists are uniquely qualified to provide can help individuals with expressive and receptive language, articulation, fluency, voice, resonance and cognitive communication disorders (e.g., memory, organization, problem solving) reach their full communicative potential.


Also of concern: individuals with untreated swallowing disorders can find themselves at risk of dehydration, malnutrition, and pulmonary compromise. Speech-language pathologists are trained to provide therapies that lead to improved swallowing safety, function, and independence.


As a result, referral to speech-language pathology services ensures early identification and management of both communication and swallowing disorders, which in turn enables optimal social, academic, and vocational integration.