A speech-language pathologist has a comprehensive educational foundation and appropriate field experience to accurately diagnose and treat a range of communication and swallowing disorders. These disorders may be developmental in nature or due to a number of other conditions including stroke, brain injury, emotional conditions, cleft palate, or cerebral palsy. Given that optimal hearing is critical to be able to interpret language and respond, less than optimal hearing can also affect a person's receptive and expressive language skills.
Speech pathologists are licensed by the state in which they practice, and individuals become eligible for licensure through the completion of at a minimum, a master's degree, supervised clinical field placement, and often, successful completion of the national examination leading to a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career field is expected to demonstrate faster than average growth through 2020 due to a variety of factors. These factors include greater awareness of speech conditions and referrals to speech pathologists, a growing elderly population, and medical advances affecting the survival of premature or trauma patients that may ultimately display problems with their communication or swallowing skills. Statistics provided by the Bureau indicate that the median wage for speech pathologists was $66,920 in 2010.
Given that speech-language pathologists may enjoy the opportunity to work with all age groups, they also benefit from the ability to work in a variety of settings, including home-based therapy with patients. Some of the settings where speech pathologists are frequently employed are school systems, offices of physical, speech, audiology, and occupational therapists, hospitals, and home care companies. Professionals need to be prepared to work with patients that are frustrated by their communication problems, and need substantial support and empathy to develop and improve their language. It is important for a speech pathologist to think analytically and critically, often having to try different approaches to effectively treat patients.
Speech pathologists spend the majority of their working day in close patient contact. They are responsible for diagnosing and treating all factors related to communication and swallowing disorders. Diagnosis focuses on both the factors contributing to difficulties related to expressive and receptive speech, as well as evaluating the extent of difficulties experienced by the patient.
A speech pathologist often utilizes standardized measures to test the level and area of difficulty, in addition to giving the patient reading and speaking tasks to complete an assessment. Based on the results of testing and medical history, a speech pathologist is responsible for developing a treatment plan, individualized for the patient's unique needs. Treatment may include exercises to strengthen swallowing muscles and those muscles around the mouth, teach sign language and alternate ways to communicate for patient with severely restricted speech abilities, and help patients improve their quality of speech and voice through practicing techniques. Speech pathologists will also help patients learn to properly read and offer education to the patient and their family related to the patient's communication limitations.
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Choosing the right Speech Language Pathology College: Tips
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Tip 10:Best of Luck to your College Education! Get ready for the best time of your life!