What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A speech-language pathologist is also known as a speech therapist or SLP, and an SLP is a highly trained health professional specializing in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating delays and disorders related to communication, cognition, and feeding.  

Did You Know?

We SLPs do more than remediate pesky lisps!  

Did you know...

  • SLPs work with actors to modify accents
  • We help stroke survivors relearn how to talk
  • When a baby is born prematurely, it's an SLP who assesses his ability to suck and swallow
  • By providing training in computerized speech devices, SLPs give the gift of voice

You might be surprised to learn all of the areas we treat, populations we serve and where, and just what it takes to earn the title of speech-language pathologist.

What does an SLP Treat?

An SLP helps clients and patients with difficulties relating to the following areas: 

Cognitive Communication: thinking and ways it impacts organization, memory, problem solving, planning, and attention 

Feeding and Swallowing: safe and efficient sucking, chewing, and swallowing, which are vital to maintaining proper nutrition and a healthy weight

Fluency: smooth and uninterrupted speaking

Language: understanding others and directions (receptive language) and effectively expressing thoughts and ideas (expressive language)

Literacy: reading, writing, and spelling of individual words and text

Social Communication (Pragmatics): understanding and using verbal and nonverbal social rules to communicate and appropriately interact with different audiences

Speech- producing sounds individually and combining them to form words 

Voice- how the voice sounds and its qualities including volume, hoarseness, nasality, etc.

With Whom Does an SLP Work?

An SLP serves patients and clients throughout the lifespan from the newborn to geriatric population.  While this list is not exhaustive, an SLP can provide services to persons with:

  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia of Speech
  • Articulation Disorder
  • Autism
  • Degenerative Conditions Like Parkinson’s Disease
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down Syndrome and Other Congenital Conditions
  • Dysarthria
  • Dyslexia
  • Dysphagia
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Language Impairment
  • Language-Based Learning Disability
  • Selective Mutism
  • Speech Sound Disorder (including Phonological Disorder)
  • Stroke
  • Stuttering
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Speech-language pathologists often work collaboratively as members of an interdisciplinary team that can include educators, other healthcare providers, and specialists such as occupational therapists, social workers, physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, audiologists, etc.

Where is an SLP Employed?

Speech-language pathologists can provide services virtually online and practically anywhere in-person.  They are employed at a variety of healthcare, research, and education settings including:

  • Assisted Living Facilities 
  • Schools and Daycares
  • Hospitals and Physicians’ Offices
  • Private Practices or Clinics
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Skilled Nursing/Long-Term Care Facilities
  • College and Universities
  • Education and Training

Requirements of an SLP

To become a speech-language pathologist, applicants must first earn a bachelor's degree with specific prerequisite credits from an undergraduate institution.  Following admission into a speech-language pathology graduate (Master's or doctoral) program, the following are are required:

  • Graduate degree in the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) 
  • Passing of the national Praxis examination in speech-language pathology
  • Completion of extensive supervised clinical experiences totaling at least 300 hours
  • Post graduate clinical fellowship of professional employment lasting nine months 
Continuing education and professional development and adherence to an in-depth code of ethics from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) are required for maintenance of state licensure and national certification.

Spread Awareness

SLPs serve many different populations of all ages and in a variety of capacities.  Chances are high that you or someone you care about has worked with an SLP.  I hope that through this post you have learned something new about SLPs and will join me in spreading awareness about the important role we play throughout our communities.

- Johanna Sims, M.S., CCC-SLP

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