Speech Pathologist

Community and Health

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Speech pathologists diagnose, treat and provide management services to people of all ages with communication disorders, including speech, language, voice, fluency and literacy difficulties, or people Future Growth Very Strong who have physical problems with eating or swallowing.

These programs could be education programs for parents, play-based activities for children or muscle retraining exercises to improve swallowing, eating or drinking skills. Speech pathologists may work with young children, older children or adults who have speech difficulties because of an injury, illness, congenital condition or a stroke.

ANZSCO description: Assesses and treats people with communication disorders, such as speech, language, voice, fluency and literacy difficulties, and people who have physical problems with eating or swallowing. Registration or licensing is required.

Alternative names: Speech Language Therapist (NZ), Speech Therapist

Specialisations: Intellectual and/or physical disability, Paediatrics, Voice Therapy

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A Speech pathologist needs:

  • a good background in English, Mathematics and Science

  • excellent communication, listening and interpersonal skills

  • an ability to deal with complex and unusual situations

  • to be able to communicate with a variety of different people and enjoy working with people

  • to be able to inspire confidence and cooperation

  • to be able to work with a variety of other health professionals as part of a team

Duties and Tasks

Speech pathologists may perform the following tasks:Baby

  • establish the exact nature and severity of each client's communication problems, which may require the use of special equipment and tests

  • plan and carry out treatment and management, taking into account age, past and present social environment, and physical and intellectual abilities

  • treat children who are unable to communicate effectively due to conditions such as cleft palate, hearing loss, delayed speech or language development, cerebral palsy or emotional disturbances

  • treat adults whose language, speech or voice has been affected by surgery, disease or disorders of the nervous system, brain damage or hearing loss

  • help children and adults overcome stuttering

  • assess and treat children and adults who have difficulty chewing and swallowing

  • act as a consultant to education, medical, dental and other health professionals

  • provide ongoing counselling, advice and information to clients and families as a part of overall treatment.


Working conditions

A Speech pathologist's normal workday would be 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. However, in some cases evening or weekend work may also be required. Most Speech pathologists work in an office in the public sector This could be in a school, hospital, nursing home or community centre. Some Speech pathologists go into private practice.

Speech pathologists work closely with other health professionals as part of a team.

Cleft lip
Child with Cleft Lip

Tools and technologies

Speech pathologists may be involved with technologies associated with the acoustic analysis of voice and speech, and the control of movement for swallowing and speech. They may also use new technologies for speech recognition or electronic communication.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a speech pathologist you need to study speech pathology at university.

Graduates are eligible for membership with Speech Pathology Australia. To work with children in Australia, you must obtain a Working with Children Check.

Did You Know?

What is Speech Pathology

A Speech Pathologist is qualified to assess and provide treatment to people with communication difficulties. A Speech Pathologist is called a Speech-Language Pathologist in America and a Speech and Language Therapist in the UK.

One in seven Australians has some form of communication disability. This means that one in seven people has a problem understanding other people or being understood by people.

Communication disorders include difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding, fluency, reading and writing.

According to Speech Pathology Australia:

•Children with Autism, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy often begin their life with a communication impairment.


•20% of four year old children have difficulty understanding or using language.

•14% of 15 year olds only have basic literacy skills.

•Children with language impairments are six times more likely to have a reading problem than children without.

•46% of young Australian offenders (eg in juvenile detention centres) have a language impairment.

Isolated boy

•There is a high correlation between communication difficulties and poor mental health.

•Three in every 1000 newborns have hearing loss, which without intervention can affect their speech, language and literacy.

People with communication disorders may feel frustrated, angry or embarrassed as they try to communicate with people.

Research shows that speech and language disorders in childhood can lead to difficulties with reading and spelling, difficulties with school curriculum, social challenges and low self-esteem.

 Further long term outcomes include risk to mental health, limited employment options and social isolation.
(Source: Liberty Speech Pathology)

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