What Does A Speech Pathologist Do?
Parents who have children suffering from articulation disorders go to a speech pathologist who will diagnose the problem and provide the necessary interventions to correct how a child enunciates sounds and words. However, speech pathologists don’t just see children. They also diagnose and treat adults who are having speech and communication problems because of various medical conditions.
To find out the extent of the speech difficulty, speech pathologists usually talk with the patients first. They would then subject them to reading and vocalization tests so they can make their diagnosis. Aside from articulation disorders, speech pathologists may diagnose that a patient has auditory processing disorders, voice disorders, cognitive impairments, receptive language impairments or pragmatic disorders. Speech pathologists also address patients with stuttering disorders, swallowing problems or stroke or traumatic brain injuries.
Speech therapists may also work with patients who have autism spectrum disorders, cochlear implants, speech apraxia, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Asperger syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease and others. They may also help those who have just had a laryngectomy, cleft lip or cleft palate and feeding disorders. They may also work with foreign students seeking to learn the English language and need help working on their accents.
After ascertaining what the problem is, the next task of speech pathologists is to come up with a customized treatment plan for the patient. These can entail a variety of strategies. For example, they can model how sounds are made and ask patients to follow them. They may also teach strengthening exercises geared towards improving the muscles that are utilized for swallowing. They may also provide interventions for those who are learning to read. They may also teach those who constantly talk in their jobs, e.g. teachers, to use their voices more effectively so that they don’t keep on losing it.
For patients whose ability to speak has been rendered totally impaired, speech pathologists may teach sign language or other alternative ways to communicate. An important part of their job is helping families whose loved ones are suffering from speech issues understand and cope with the disability. Through the education they provide to family members and primary caregivers in the home, patients are able to recover because they have the physical and emotional support they need.
Speech therapists document every case they work with. Whenever patients are brought to them, they record the medical histories, what their initial evaluations are based on the symptoms presented and eventually, their final diagnoses of the condition. They also record the treatment plan being prescribed and note the progress made with each visit. They are especially careful to record changes in the patient’s condition while the intervention is being carried out. After the entire course of therapy is completed, they come up with a final evaluation of the patient.
Primary care physicians typically refer patients to a speech pathologist. For example, families will first bring their child to their pediatrician if they suspect that their kid is suffering from developmental delays. After evaluating the concern, the pediatrician will make the referral to a speech therapist who will determine if the child really has need for speech pathology services or not. Depending on the disability of the patient, speech pathologists also work with other professionals, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, special education teachers, psychologists, audiologists, nutritionists and social workers.
In carrying out the interventions for a patient with a speech disorder, the parent is considered the head of the interdisciplinary care team composed of the speech pathologist and other healthcare providers. The success of a treatment plan, particularly if there are interventions that need to be conducted at home depends largely on the active participation of the parents or guardians. Thus, speech pathologists need to educate them extensively on what they need to do so that the treatment strategies carried out in the clinic of the speech therapist can be followed up and reinforced at home.
Patience is a key trait that all speech therapists must have. There might be times when interventions take too long to produce results or when patients aren’t cooperative about the procedures being implemented. However, they know that with patience, the desired results can be achieved. They also know if changes need to be made to the treatment plan depending on the progress being made by the patient.