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What is Speech Pathology?

Speech Pathology is a health profession concerned with communication and swallowing difficulties in children and adults. Communication comes in many forms such as talking, using gestures or facial expressions. As a child, these skills develop over time until adulthood. When successful communication occurs, we naturally express ourselves and understand those around us in order to live our daily lives. However, for some individuals, these important communication skills fail to develop accurately in childhood or difficulties can happen later in life during adulthood. Similarly, swallowing difficulties can be present from birth and childhood or occur when an adult. It is estimated that over 1.1 million Australians have a communication and/or swallowing difficulty that impacts their quality of life.

 

There are many different reasons communication and swallowing impairments are experienced. These can range from: hearing loss resulting in speech delays, brain damage affecting language, speech and/or swallowing (e.g. stroke or traumatic brain injury), medical pathologies (e.g. vocal fold nodules) affecting the ability to produce a clear voice as well as difficulties relating to underlying syndromes (e.g. Down Syndrome), disorders (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder), diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease) or structural conditions (e.g. orofacial cleft).

How can a Speech Pathologist help?

Speech Pathologists are health professionals who are tertiary qualified to help people communicate and swallow effectively.

A Speech Pathologist can assess and treat children and adults who experience difficulty with:

  • Speech: clarity and accuracy of speech sounds.
  • Voice: speaking with adequate voice quality, volume and pitch to meet vocal demands.
  • Fluency: stuttering including repetitions of words, sounds and phrases as well as ‘sound blocks’ (involuntary silent pauses).
  • Language: expressive language (talking), receptive language (understanding) and pragmatic/social language (using language socially).
  • Literacy: written language skills (reading, writing and spelling) and pre-literacy skills (building blocks for developing written language skills).
  • Swallowing: paediatric swallowing difficulties (infant feeding/breastfeeding, fussy eaters) and adult swallowing impairments (due to nervous system damage such as stroke or other neurological conditions).