What do speech pathologists do?

Speech pathologists help diagnose and treat a range of communication disorders.

Their expertise includes assisting people who have difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, using voice, social skills, stuttering, and even swallowing.

Speech pathologists can also help diagnose certain disorders like autism spectrum disorder and often work in a range of settings including private practices, hospitals, childcare centres, and nursing homes, helping diverse patients in countless different settings.

Sometimes known in Australia as “speechies”, speech pathologists provide personalised therapies targeting the needs of their patients, and have the goal of teaching new speech techniques that promote the best outcome for the person you care for.

Finding the right speech pathologist can be daunting – there’s no knowing for sure how your child or friend is going to mesh with their speech pathologist – but the first step is learning all there is to know about speech pathologists and their practice.

We want to arm you with all the information you need to find the right speech pathologist for your child, friend, or family member, so we’ve collected the absolute essentials to make the process easier.

Recognising the signs of speech and language impairment

Before heading out and hiring a speech pathologist, it’s best to put some research into the signs of speech impairment.

The signs of speech impairment often appear in childhood, but can start later in life due to medical problems, hearing issues, or even trauma.

However, most of the time speech impairments have no known cause, which makes them a little nerve wracking when the problem starts.

Speech Pathology Australia have some great resources to help parents and careers understand typical milestones for speech development in a child. Some signs of a possible speech impediment include:

  • Trouble understanding and following what people are saying
  • Producing speech which is unclear, even to people they know
  • Limited vocabulary for their age, e.g. fewer than 50 words by age 2
  • Pronouncing p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly at age 2
  • Incorrectly pronouncing k, f, t, d, and ng at age 3
  • Struggling to combining words in 2-3 word phrases by 3 years of age.
  • Minimal social interactions e.g. reduced eye contact, not smiling or interacting with others
  • Few sounds, words, and gestures
  • Not speaking at all

However, this is not to say that a young child struggling with certain words has a speech impairment. Some words are difficult for any child: for example, cat and pram are often mispronounced by toddlers aged 1-3 years.

Most people don’t know how to deal with speech and language impairments. The symptoms can vary depending on the condition, and the development of a speech impairment can be unpredictable, leaving parents, family members, and carers in the dark about how to treat the unique condition.

The first step of treatment is to find a qualified speech pathologist to help encourage positive growth in the communication skills of the person you care for.

What are the advantages of speech pathology for the person I care for?

Having clear, effective communication skills can open the door to opportunities like work, communicating in public (e.g. shops, services), and making friends – plus a major boost in confidence!

Adults can feel a significant increase in self esteem as a result of ongoing speech therapy. The ability to communicate is a huge part of adult life and a crucial element of building lasting relationships.

The benefits of ongoing speech therapy include:

  • Better confidence, self-esteem, and overall quality of life
  • Increased independence
  • Being able to understand others and express thoughts or feelings
  • Clear speech and being understood by others
  • Increased problem-solving skills
  • Improved swallowing functions, vocal quality, and fluency
  • Achievement of school-readiness skills
  • Development of strong learning skills
  • Better social skills and ability to make friends

Ongoing, enjoyable speech pathology can have a major positive impact on the life of the child or grown-up you’re caring for.

Who can access speech and language therapy?

Speechies work with people who have difficulties with communication. These difficulties could be because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, dementia, and hearing loss, or for unknown reasons.

Speech therapy is available on a public or private level.

Samaritans is a not for profit organisation that can offer services for a competitive fee for service clients or to anyone who has an NDIS plan in the Newcastle, Lake Maquarie, Lower Hunter, Central Coast, or Mid North Coast (Taree, Foster, and Gloucester) areas.

If you, or someone you care for, need a speech pathologist, get in touch with Samaritans via 1300 656 336 or email us via intake@samaritans.org.au. We’d be happy to discuss your speech therapy needs!

What exercises are involved with speech and language therapy?

Not all treatments are universal. Speechies use a range of different treatments and exercises to help improve communication skills.

For example, Samaritan’s speech pathologists are trained in The Hanen Centre’s approach to early language intervention for children. A key strength of Hanen, is it’s acknowledgement of the pivotal role parents and caregivers have in achieving positive outcomes. Speech Pathologists act as guides to both carer and child, ensuring that support continues outside of sessions.

Alternatively, a speech pathologist can set goals like mastering spoken language or learning non verbal communication skills such as signs or gestures.

Some speech pathologists use tablets and computer programs to help people come out of their shell, improve their speech, and have fun while doing it!

iPad apps are popular with kids in particular and hundreds have gained a lot from programs like Proloquo2Go, an app which gives a voice to people who can’t talk.

There are countless ways to treat speech and language impairments. Your speech pathologist can tailor the right treatment to suit the needs of your child or the person you care for.

Ongoing speech therapy can improve confidence, self esteem, and quality of life

Communication is a vital life skill that can’t be left to the last minute.

Professor Sheena Reilly (National Health and Medical Research Council grant winner) discovered through research that adults who had a language impairment at the age of five were up to seven times more likely to have poor reading skills, five times higher odds of mental health difficulties and three times higher chance of ongoing unemployment.

It’s crucial to catch speech impairment when the signs appear and find a friendly, qualified speech pathologist to help improve the communication skills of the person you’re caring for.

At Samaritans, we offer a huge range of disability support services, including speech therapy.

Our speech pathologists are experts in addressing challenges related to communication, eating, drinking and swallowing, plus we partner with you, your family, school or workplace to encourage positive growth in communication skills.

Want to get in touch with our speech pathologists in Newcastle, Central Coast, and New South Wales? Give us a call on 1300 656 336 or email intake@samaritans.org.au to be linked with the professional that’s right for you.