Speech-Language Pathologists (commonly known as SLPs) are professionals who treat communication disorders associated with language and speech impediments. They are responsible for providing advice, education, and treatment to patients for whom it’s difficult to express their thoughts, whether they have fluency or voice problems. SLPs use different techniques and methods to improve their patients’ communication skills, including as muscular exercising and speech therapy, as well as teaching sign language and lip-reading when necessary.
Speech-Language Pathologists usually work with children, but they may also work with adult patients when necessary. They deal with a great variety of speech disorders that may be caused by different conditions such as head injuries, psychological trauma, neurological diseases, or oral problems.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Speech-Language Pathologists are required to complete.
- Providing patients and their relatives with the necessary advice and guidance on communication disorders.
- Diagnosing and evaluating communication and swallowing disorders through various specialized tests.
- Creating, applying and monitoring therapeutic plans based on test and examination results in order to treat the aforementioned disorders:
- Identifying clients’ needs and goals and ensuring they work toward achieving them;
- administering customized treatments to patients according to their diagnosed disorder;
- coordinating a treatment plan with the patient, family, and other team members;
- maintaining records on the patient’s development, as well as the quality and appropriateness of the remedial program, in order to adjust treatment accordingly; and
- referring patients to further medical or educational services if needed (e.g. Physicians, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Social Workers).
- Monitoring and keeping track of patients’ progress during treatment and after completion.
- Documenting and filing patients’ profiles for referrals and follow-ups.
- Conducting development and designing studies for the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders:
- Attending interdisciplinary rounds, meetings, and quality initiatives of Speech-Language pathology, allied health, and other clinical/health programs; and
- documenting tests and examinations, carrying out analytic procedures, and publishing their observations.
- Ensuring that the equipment, devices, material, and any other resources used to perform their work are fully functional.
- Diagnosing communication and swallowing disorders through screening procedures.
- Creating, administering, and monitoring customized therapeutic plans based on test and examination results.
- Monitoring and keeping track of patients’ progress during treatment and after completing it, as well as providing accurate response to patients’ enquires and doubts.
The average salary for Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) related jobs is $79,005 per year or $41 per hour. This is around 2.7 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $55,000 while most experienced workers make up to $111,000. These results are based on 987 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Strong interpersonal, communication, and assessment skills:
- Communicating in an exceptionally clear way, both in writing and verbally, in order to effectively interact with children with disabilities, families, and team members;
- being good at gaining people’s trust and at getting them to open up in order to identify additional symptoms or difficulties;
- using tact, patience, and optimism when communicating with patients, parents, and staff to maintain effective and collaborative relationships; and
- displaying an extensive knowledge of the language, as well as the ability to teach it to others.
- Strong sense of empathy and compassion:
- Demonstrating sensitivity to individual needs of patients;
- being passionate about helping people reach their communication potential;
- displaying an inherent ability to make others feel cared about;
- being patient when dealing with frustrated and introverted people; and
- being able to work within a multicultural environment, showing consideration and respect to a diverse range of children and families of all backgrounds and abilities.
- Optimistic, can-do attitude, and a strong ability to motivate others.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Strategically structuring and customizing treatment programs in order to be able to regularly perform the appropriate examinations;
- prioritizing and planning work activities as to use time efficiently while managing a high volume, diverse workload;
- being able to determine and deal effectively with urgent situations and changes in tasks with short notice; and
- multitasking; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced team environment while maintaining a professional demeanour.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Being able to collect data, define problems, establish general facts, and generate valid conclusions;
- being able to use initiative and intuition in decision making, as well as to exercise good professional judgment;
- using creativity and imagination to develop new insights and to apply innovative solutions to problems; and
- referring patients to other medical/educational professionals, as required.
To perform this job, aspirants need to be licensed. Although requirements for licenses vary from state to state, most of them require aspirants to pass an examination, to be part of supervised clinical practices, and to have a master’s degree from an educational program approved by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), which is part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Although not obligatory, SLPs may be certified as it can improve their working skills and it is a common request among employers. They can aim for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), granted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or the clinical competence certificate for audiology and speech-language pathology, granted by the Council for Clinical Certification.
Speech-Language Pathologists also need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the following:
- SLP equipment (e.g. audio and video recorders, models, mirrors, tongue depressors, reinforcers, mouth exercisers, and other oral motor tools);
- research processes, and methodology, as well as other healthcare disciplines and their role in client care;
- adult and children education principles, methods, and tools;
- alternate modes of communication (e.g. sign language and lip-reading); and
- related legislation, including departmental and hospital safety standards, as well as emergency and infection control procedures.
Most SLP positions require a minimum of 2 years of experience treating patients who have multiple disabilities and communication disorders. Experience working in an early childhood development team environment and/or in an acute care hospital is often preferred.
Speech-Language Pathologists work full-time and are often required to schedule hours of work based on client convenience and might need to drive to various locations including homes, day cares, offices, and clinics.