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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

You may have heard of the term speech therapist, speech-language pathologist, slp, or even speech teacher. Have you wondered if these even refer to the same profession or what the heck do these terms even mean?

First of all, yes, they all refer to the same profession. A speech-language pathologist is an SLP, a speech therapist and even a speech teacher (mostly called this by their young clients/students)! So what exactly does a speech-language pathologist do? Well, first of all, speech therapists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. In addition to this, SLPs also provide aural rehabilitation for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. They provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for individuals with severe expressive and/or language comprehension disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or progressive neurological disorders. They also work with people who don't have speech, language, or swallowing disorders, but want to learn how to communicate more effectively (e.x., work on accent modification or other forms of communication enhancement).

In order to be prepared to to assess and treat people with any of the following conditions:

  • autism spectrum disorders

  • aphasia

  • brain injury

  • literacy disabilities

  • receptive/expressive language disorders

  • fluency disorders

  • speech sound disorders

  • cognitive-communicative disorders

  • voice disorders

  • developmental delay

  • social communication disorders

  • cleft palate

  • feeding and swallowing problems

  • motor speech disorders

  • deaf and hard of hearing,

A speech therapist must have a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology, complete a supervised clinical experience as part of an Accredited Graduate Program, pass the Praxis Exam in Speech-Language Pathology, complete a Clinical Fellowship (CF) and finally, obtain a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). SLPs must maintain their certification (CCCs) by completing 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years.

Due to the varying nature of the job, speech-language pathologists need to be good at working with all types of clients and situations. A skilled SLP is caring, resourceful and able to develop individualized treatment plans for each client's specific need. Not only does the speech therapist evaluate each client, diagnose and then treat the communication disorder, but he/she also develops individual treatment plans, helps each client develop the communication skills that are delayed and also train and educate family members and caregivers on how to best help develop those skills outside of the treatment room. Collaboration with other professionals that are also involved with each client, such as doctors, teachers, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, or even other speech therapists is also key to providing the best possible treatment.

You can find speech therapists in clinical or educational settings (ex., hospitals, private practices, schools, local intermediate units or early intervention settings, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers).

If you have any questions about the role of a speech therapist or about your child's communication abilities, please feel free to contact us!

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