Speech pathology involves the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders that relate to speech, language, swallowing, fluency, voice, and communication. A speech pathologist helps people who struggle with speech disorders because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disabilities, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and other problems that can affect speech. People who experience problems with stuttering, speaking clearly, swallowing, and other tasks that make speech challenging can receive the services of a speech pathologist in order to overcome such obstacles. By using standardized tests and assessment tools, the speech pathologist has the ability to diagnose specific problems of each patient. After diagnosing the problem, the speech pathologist devises a treatment plan that suits the needs of each specific patient that needs assistance.
Speech pathology is a career field that can be practiced in a variety of settings. Some professionals in this field may work in schools, while others work in an office or medical setting. Speech pathologists may even visit their patients' homes in order to offer their services. If a person desires to work in the speech pathology field, he or she must first earn a master's degree in this field. If the student earns a degree from a university or college accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, he or she will find it easier to obtain a license as a speech pathologist.
Typical courses offered in a speech pathology graduate program include classes in anatomy and physiology and courses that relate to the mechanics of speech and swallowing. Students will learn about speech disorders and how communication relates to psychology. Since many states require speech pathologists to be licensed, new graduates will have to pass an examination that focuses on speech pathology. They will also need to complete several hours of supervised and professional clinical experience.
Speech pathologists can specialize in different areas, working with either adults, school-aged children, preschoolers, people with learning disabilities, or patients with speech disorders. As a speech pathologist gains more experience, he or she can serve as a mentor to new professionals or advance to an administrative position. In order to be effective in their jobs, all speech pathologists must be able to work well with patients, effectively diagnose speech problems, and treat the various disorders encountered in their patients. Above all, those who seek a career in speech pathology must exhibit patience, good listening skills, and empathy in order to work with patients on a daily basis.