What does speech pathology actually do?
Speech pathology (or speech therapy) is an allied health service dedicated to supporting people of all ages to develop skills in their speech, language, communication and swallowing.
Speech pathology can be provided in homes, schools, hospitals and just about anywhere in the community. Therapy venues can be wherever the person feels comfortable and ready to participate.
People seek speech therapy when they are experiencing a concern or challenge with their ability to communicate or swallow. Speech therapists will usually gather background information, undertake relevant assessments and then determine treatment options to provide the best outcomes for the person.
Best practice in therapy is to be “person-centred”- this means listening to and understanding what is important to the person seeking the service, and aiming the therapy approach to focus on the areas that are most important to them.
There are a range of areas that are supported by speech pathology:
Teaching speech sounds and improving speech clarity: the speech therapist will assess the person’s speech and determine which sounds are impacted and what is underlying the speech difficulty. A treatment plan for learning to correctly produce the sounds will be provided and implemented during therapy sessions. Once the sounds have been learnt in therapy, it is important to generalise the clear speech in everyday life.
Supporting the understanding of language: the speech therapist will assess the person’s language system to determine their level of understanding and use of language and prioritise areas that may have gaps or errors. Therapy will then focus on teaching such as following classroom instructions.
Using an alternative method of communication for a person who is not using speech: the speech pathologist will explore strategies and tools for communication such as keyword signs, picture symbols, chat books/boards, high-tech communication devices and apps. These can expand a person’s communication and support them to express themselves fully in their daily life.
Eating safely and developing chewing and swallowing skills: the speech therapist will assess the person’s swallowing and determine safe textures of foods that can be chewed and swallowed with reduced risk of choking or aspiration. This works towards mealtimes that are a safe and enjoyable experience.
Rehabilitation for people who may have experienced a brain injury or stroke: the speech therapist will assess and determine communication skills to support a return to the person’s usual roles and activities at work, study or in life.
No matter what the focus area of speech therapy is, the most important part of speech therapy is to support the person to discover their strengths, learn useful strategies to help them grow in their skills and confidence, and to overcome challenges that they may have experienced. Ultimately, speech pathology supports people as they are living, working and playing in the life they choose.
If you or someone you know is seeking support for speech difficulties or looking to explore the potential of speech therapy, reach out to us at Creative Therapy Adelaide. Our team of dedicated speech pathologists combines expertise with a touch of creativity to guide people on their unique journeys. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation.
More information can be found on the Speech Pathology Australia website, the national peak body for the speech pathology profession in Australia.