Who Are Speech-Language Pathologists, and What Do They Do?

Speech-language pathologists, also called SLPs, are experts in communication.

SLPs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLPs treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. These include problems with:

Speech sounds—how we say sounds and put sounds together into words. Other words for these problems are articulation or phonological disorders, apraxia of speech , or dysarthria .

Language—how well we understand what we hear or read and how we use words to tell others what we are thinking. In adults this problem may be called aphasia .

Literacy—how well we read and write. People with speech and language disorders may also have trouble reading, spelling, and writing.

Social communication—how well we follow rules, like taking turns, how to talk to different people, or how close to stand to someone when talking. This is also called pragmatics.

Voice—how our voices sound. We may sound hoarse, lose our voices easily, talk too loudly or through our noses, or be unable to make sounds.

Fluency—also called stuttering, is how well speech flows. Someone who stutters may repeat sounds, like t-t-t-table, use "um" or "uh," or pause a lot when talking. Many young children will go through a time when they stutter, but most outgrow it.

Cognitive-communication—how well our minds work. Problems may involve memory, attention, problem solving, organization, and other thinking skills.

Feeding and swallowing—how well we suck, chew, and swallow food and liquid. A swallowing disorder may lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, and other health problems. This is also called dysphagia.

Where can I find a speech-language pathologist?

  • Private practices
  • Physicians' offices
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Rehabilitation centers, long-term and residential health care facilities

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