The Role of a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologist: A specialist sometimes called a speech
therapist or speech pathologist with a role to assess, diagnose, treat and help
prevent speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency
and other related disorders.

Speech pathologists usually have an M.A., M.S. or Ph.D. in their specialty, as well
as a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) earned by working under
supervision. Some states in the US also require a state license.

Nature of the Work: A speech-language pathologist works with a full range of
communication disorders including the following:

– Evaluate and diagnose speech, language, cognitive-communication and
swallowing disorders. A variety of qualitative and quantitative assessment
methods are utilized including standardized tests, and other special
instruments, in order to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of
speech, language and other impairments.

– Treat speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing
disorders in individuals of all levels, from infancy to the elderly, utilizing an
individualized plan with both long-term goals and short-term goals
established for each individual’s needs.

– Clinical services may be provided individually or within groups, depending
upon the work site and individual’s diagnosis and needs.

Speech-language pathologists often work as part of a “team”, which may include
teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation
counselors and others. There are also corporate speech-language pathologists
who work with employees to improve communication with their customers.

Work Sites: Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings
• Public and private schools
• Hospitals
• Rehabilitation centers
• Short-term and long-term care facilities
• Colleges or universities
• Private practice offices
• State and local health departments
• State and governmental agencies
• Home health agencies
• Adult day care centers/Centers for developmental disabilities
• Research laboratories

Clients Served: Speech-language pathologists work with a variety of clients
including but not limited to:

• Infants with feeding/swallowing difficulties
• Toddlers with delayed language development
• Preschoolers and school age children with articulation and phonological
disorders, language delays/disorders, delayed play skill development,
delayed pragmatic language skills.
• Children with Autism or other syndromes
• Children with language processing disorders and language-based learning
• Individuals who stutter.
• Individuals with voice disorders
• Individuals with difficulty swallowing
• Hearing impaired individuals
• Individuals who have a stroke, head injury, or neurological disorders that
affects speech, language, cognition, or swallowing
• Individuals who wish to modify their accent.

Other Related Occupations SLPs Work with as a “Team”:

• Work with people who have hearing, balance, and related ear problems.
They examine individuals of all ages and identify those with the symptoms
of hearing loss and other auditory, balance, and related sensory and
neural problems.
Physical therapists:
• Provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain,
and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering
from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall
fitness and health.

Occupational therapists:
• Help patients improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working
environments. They work with individuals who suffer from a mentally,
physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition.
Occupational therapists use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain
the daily living and work skills of their patients. The therapist helps clients
not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but
also to compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal is to help
clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

Study the human mind and human behavior. Research psychologists investigate
the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human behavior.
Psychologists in health service fields provide mental health care in hospitals,
clinics, schools, or private settings. Psychologists employed in applied settings,
such as business, industry, government, or nonprofit organizations, provide
training, conduct research, design organizational systems, and act as advocates
for psychology.

Special education teachers:
• Work with children and youths who have a variety of disabilities. A small
number of special education teachers work with students with severe
cases of mental retardation or autism, primarily teaching them life skills
and basic literacy. However, the majority of special education teachers
work with children with mild to moderate disabilities, using or modifying
the general education curriculum to meet the child’s individual needs.
Most special education teachers instruct students at the elementary,
middle, and secondary school level, although some work with infants and

Education Requirements for a Speech-Language Pathologist:
In order to become an SLP, a bachelor’s and master’s degree is required from an
accredited university by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and
Speech-Language Pathology. Within each graduate program, students are
expected to complete a total of 400 training hours; 25 of which are observation
and 375 hours in direct clinical contact. Only upon completion of a graduate
program can you then apply for state licensure and begin the process for earning
the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech and
Hearing Association (ASHA).

According to ASHA, ASHA Certification is defined as a voluntary credential that
verifies an individual’s achievement of rigorous, uniform, and validated standards
that are nationally recognized.

Certification from the American Speech and Hearing Association
Upon completion of an accredited graduate program (which includes all academic
coursework and clinical practicum requirements), the student enters the Clinical
Fellowship (CF) period. This period is completed under a licensed and certified
Speech-Language Pathologist in the setting of their choice for a period of 36
weeks of full-time clinical practice. In addition, applicants for certification must
successfully pass an examination in Speech-Language Pathology. Upon
completion of CF, the applicant can then complete the necessary paperwork to
obtain their Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).

State Licensing
ASHA defines State Licensure as a mandatory credential that grants permission
to practice in a particular state. Each state may differ in their requirements.
State Licensing Laws in Connecticut require a Speech-Pathologist to have:
• a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology is required from an
accredited university
• completion of 36 weeks and 1,080 hours of full-time or a minimum of 48
weeks and 1,440 hours of part-time employment under the supervision of
a licensed speech-language pathologist or audiologist
• passing of written examination

Maintaining Certification and Licensure
Once ASHA CCC’s are obtained, SLPs are required to maintain their certification.
An SLP must accumulate 30 contact hours of professional development over the
3-year period by attending conferences/seminars, independent study or
attending university courses. Each individual state may also require a certain
amount of professional development hours to maintain licensure.