What is a Speech Pathologist?
A Speech Pathologist is a trained health professional who can diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders. They may also be referred to as a Speech Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist.
Speech Pathologists can help across a wide range of areas:
- Speech delays and disorders – articulation and producing speech sounds
- Expressive language – using language to share thoughts, feelings and ideas
- Receptive language – understanding language, word meanings and instructions
- Augmentative and alternative communication for people with difficulties speaking and writing e.g. using pictures, communication boards or assistive devices to support understanding and expression of language
- Fluency – supporting people who stutter to speak more fluently and with confidence
- Feeding and swallowing difficulties – supporting infants, children and adults who have difficulties eating, drinking and swallowing safely
- Pre literacy and literacy skills – learning to read, write and spell
- Voice – disorders of the voice including pitch, quality, volume
- Social communication difficulties – communicating for social purposes and following the rules for conversation
- Cognitive-communication disorders – organising thoughts, planning, reasoning, paying attention, remembering and problem solving
- Aural rehabilitation for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Accent modification (source)
How can a Speech Pathologist help your child?
Communication is such a pivotal aspect of our lives. Even from an early age, babies start to babble and use non-verbal cues such as smiling or pointing to interact socially.
Each child develops at their own pace, however this Communications Milestone Kit from Speech Pathology Australia outlines the expected developmental milestones for children aged 12 months-5 years. If your child is not meeting these milestone, a Speech Pathologist can do an assessment.
Early childhood educators or teachers may also indicate your child needs a speech pathology assessment. Fortunately, problems with speech and communication can benefit enormously from early intervention.
A Speech Pathologist can also help your child if they have:
- learning difficulties including dyslexia and dyspraxia
- hearing loss
- auditory processing disorder
- cerebral palsy
- intellectual disability
Do you need a referral to see a Speech Pathologist?
No referral is necessary to see a Speech Pathologist. However where relevant, a GP can refer to a Speech Pathologist through a treatment plan (or chronic disease management plan) that may entitle you to Medicare rebates as Speech Pathology is only covered by Medicare under certain circumstances.