A communicative disorders assistant works with a speech-language pathologist or audiologist to treat communication problems. Communication impairments can be caused by disease, accident or difficulties with reasoning and perception. The job title communicative disorders assistant is used in Canada where there are several colleges that offer programs in preparation for this career. In the US the term speech-language pathology assistants or speech pathology assistants is often used for this position.
The main duties of a communicative disorders assistant are problem assessment and application of treatment suggested by speech-language pathologists or audiologists. Communicative disorders assistants handle patients with a variety of problems. Their patients could have speech or hearing limitations or cognitive impairment.
Communicative disorders assistants work with all members of the population, from children to adults, and the job requires a great deal of flexibility and insight. The right treatment must be applied based on the patient’s unique problem and personality. A communicative disorders assistant might use story-telling to improve a preschool child’s pronunciation of certain sounds, while an adult patient with aphasia — the inability of the brain to process verbal or written language, might require focused attention on conversation techniques and the use of writing or pictures to communicate. Communicative disorder assistants are also responsible for monitoring and reporting patient progress.
In addition to being knowledgeable about speech and hearing pathology, the communicative disorders assistant should also be familiar with occupational and behavioral therapy techniques. For example, an autistic child most likely will require the use of behavioral therapy methods and the reinforcement of good actions. An adult victim of a car accident will probably respond better to occupational therapy methods that focus on resuming normal daily activities.
Training and program length for communicative disorders assistants and speech-language pathology assistants vary between countries. Programs in Canada range in length from one to two years and generally require some post-secondary education. Two-year associate’s degree programs for speech-language pathology assistants are available in the US and are generally considered a preparation to move toward a more advanced degree.
Treatment for communication disorders occurs in a variety of places. Work settings include hospitals and long-term care facilities. A communicative disorders assistant might also work in a auditory clinic or a school.
Treating communication problems often involves the use of methods or tools to provide alternate ways to communicate. Examples of this are speech generating devices or pictures to aid understanding and interaction. Communication disorder assistants use phonology — the study of speech sounds, and audiology — the study of hearing, in treating difficulties with communication. Aural rehabilitation enables patients to adjust to hearing loss and learn new ways to overcome hearing impairment and relate to others.