Speech Pathologists are allied health professionals specialising in communication and swallowing disorders. Speech Pathologists provide assessment, therapy, and management from newborn babies across to the later stages of life. Speech Pathologists assess and manage children and adults requiring assistance in several areas including, speech, language, voice, fluency, mealtime management, literacy, and alternative / augmentative communication.
Speech skills develop in children from birth. They include being able to make sounds (vowels & p, b, m, t, d, w), babbling, and beginning to say the correct sounds in words (like saying ‘goat’ instead of ‘toat’). Speech pathologists help to increase children's intelligibility, or clarity when talking.
Language is made up of both receptive skills and expressive skills. Receptive language refers to how we comprehend and understand words and sentences. Expressive language refers to how we use words and sentences.
Speech pathologists also help to develop pragmatic language skills (social skills). Pragmatic language refers to the social language skills we use when we interact with others. Examples include:
- Asking for, giving, and responding to information
- Introducing and maintaining topics
- Making relevant contributions to a topic
- Offering/responding to expressions of affection appropriately
When a person has difficulty swallowing, it is known as ‘dysphagia’. Dysphagia can occur at any stage in life and is caused by a range of underlying conditions. Speech pathologists can recommend changes to the textures of food or drinks, assist in the recommendation of mealtime aids, recommend strategies to improve swallow safety or provide exercises to improve the swallowing technique.
Stuttering is a problem that stops the natural flow of speech. Stuttering is a motor speech disorder and not an emotional/psychological disorder. Some children who stutter may repeat sounds (t, t, t, tap), syllables (mu, mu, mu, mother), words, or phrases. Other children may prolong certain sounds (mmmore). A speech pathologist can teach your child strategies for “smooth-talking” so that they can reduce their stutter.
A voice disorder occurs when the pitch, loudness, or quality of the voice distracts from what the speaker is saying.
Voice therapy involves patient-centered treatment methods that modify behaviors that contribute to voice disorders.
Literacy skills include the ability to read, reading comprehension, spelling, and written expression. Literacy therapy involves:
- building phonological awareness skills (skills which focus on teaching children to identify the individual sounds within words)
- understanding complex spelling patterns and rules
Alternative & Augmentative Communication
Augmentative or Alternative Communication (or AAC) is the term used to describe various methods of communication that can ‘add-on’ (augment) to or replace (alternative) speech. AAC includes pictures, gestures, and pointing, as well as more complex ones involving technology.