Health Care Careers - Speech-language pathologist

Speech-language pathologists help people of all ages who have difficulty communicating. They treat people who stutter, have lost the ability to speak due to brain injury or brain disorder, have trouble speaking clearly, or have problems with the quality of their voice, meaning their voice is either too loud or too high. People who have hearing loss and speech problems because of emotional issues, or the inability to understand or produce language will also seek treatment from a speech-language pathologist.

With therapy and special equipment, speech-language pathologists evaluate patients, diagnose problems, and provide the appropriate treatment. Over the course of several weeks or even months, speech-language pathologists meet with patients and help them improve their voices, teach them to make certain sounds, and increase their language abilities. Sometimes, speech-language pathologists use a videostroboscopy, an instrument that allows them to view and monitor a patient's vocal chords for any abnormalities.

For both patients and speech-language pathologists, the therapy process requires patience, as it takes time to make significant progress. Sometimes, therapy is unsuccessful. With severe cases, speech-language pathologists may recommend an alternative to therapy. This includes sign language and devices, such as computers, that enable patients to communicate.

During treatment, speech-language pathologists may also work closely with parents or other family members to teach them how to cope with a loved one who has communication problems. They will also work with social workers or teachers, who can also help with a patient's progress and make sure the patient receives the best possible treatment.

Speech-language pathologists have many different job settings available to them. They may have their own private practice, while others may specialize in certain areas, working in schools with children, in hospitals with stroke victims, or in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. Some speech-language pathologists are more interested in doing research than working directly with patients. They are usually employed at universities and study the origins of speech problems, as well as the impact of communication disorders on patients. They may also develop new techniques, equipment, or drugs to treat patients.

Training to Be a Speech-Language Pathologist

Becoming a speech-language pathologist requires a master's degree in speech-language pathology from a university that is accredited by Educational Standards Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A master's degree involves classroom work, as well as 350 hours of practical experience. And, most states require speech-language pathologists to become licensed. To get a license to practice speech-language pathology, a graduate must pass a written exam, complete 375 hours of practical experience supervised by another licensed speech-language pathologist, and complete at least thirty-six weeks of professional experience in the field. Some states require that speech-language pathologists continue their education every few years in order to renew their license.

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