A speech-language pathologist is a communication expert that specializes in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of communication disorders across the lifespan including: speech disorders, language disorders, cognitive communication disorders, and dysphagia. Speech-language pathologists value caregiver education and training in order to support progress towards goal within the client’s natural setting/home environment. Speech-language pathologists work as part of a multidisciplinary team with the purpose of making communication an achievable goal for all individuals.
Cognitive communication disorders
- Speech sound disorders impact one’s clarity of speech.
- Articulation disorders are characterized by difficulty physically producing intended speech sounds. For example, a child may have difficulty finding the correct tongue placement for "r" or may say the "s" sound by pushing the tongue between the teeth and make a "th" sound.
- Phonological disorders are characterized by difficulty learning the sound system resulting in speech error patterns. For example, a child may produce sounds that are supposed to be made in the front of the mouth in the back so that all "t" and "d" sounds are produced in the back like "k" and "g" sounds.
- Motor speech disorders are characterized by difficulty planning, programming, controlling, coordinating, and executing movement of speech muscles across a sequence of sounds.
- Fluency disorders impact the forward flow of speech production.
- Stuttering is characterized by repetitions, prolongations, and/or blocks which can also be accompanied by increased tension and nonverbal behaviors which disrupt the flow of speech.
- Cluttering is characterized by a perceived rapid and/or irregular speech rate and deletion or collapsing of syllables which result in poor clarity of speech.
- Voice disorders impact the voice quality, pitch or loudness of the voice. For example, a client may have a horse voice, breathy voice, or speak in a pitch that is not optimal for clearly communicating their message.
- Resonance disorders refer to the way airflow is shaped as it passes the oral and nasal cavities. For example, a client may have a medical diagnosis such as cleft palate which commonly presents with too much air moving through the nose.
- Language disorders impact the form, content, or use of spoken and written language.
- Receptive language disorders are characterized by difficulty understanding information. For example, a person may have difficulty identifying familiar items or following multi-step directions without supports.
- Expressive language disorders are characterized by difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas. For example, a 2-year old child may have only a small number of words and not yet combine words into phrases.
- Mixed receptive-expressive language disorders involve both the understanding and using of language skills.
- Social communication disorders are characterized by difficulties using language for a variety of purposes within the context of social interaction. For example, a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder may exhibit limited eye contact and difficulty maintaining joint attention and turn taking with a communication partner.
Cognitive communication disorders
- Cognitive communication disorders are characterized by difficulties with attention, memory, organization, problem solving/reasoning, and executive functions.
- Feeding disorders are characterized by difficulties with eating which may include food refusal, restricted variety or quantity, disruptive mealtime behaviors, and/or poor growth.
- Swallowing disorders are characterized by difficulty in maintaining airway protection during the transfer of liquids or foods from the mouth to the stomach through the four stages of swallowing.