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December 17, 2017

What Does a Speech Therapist Do?

woman talking with alphabet letters in her head coming out of open mouthA speech therapist and his or her therapy program is crucial to the treatment of individuals who have language and communication disorders. A comprehensive speech therapy program implemented by a proficient speech therapist can help clients not only improve their language and communication skills, but also help them build confidence.

Speech Therapist Education and Role

It is important to know what education a speech therapist has and what a speech therapist does to understand the value of speech therapy for an individual with language and communication disorders. These individual clients can be of any age, from pre-school children to elderly adults.

Speech Therapy Education

First, a speech and language pathologist (SLP) typically has a master’s degree in language and communication disorders. The SLP also completes field experience under clinical supervision for the designated number of hours to satisfy the degree requirements. The SLP must also obtain what is known as the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association before he or she begins working independently as a speech pathologist. The SLP must also be licensed to work in his or her respective state.

Some speech therapists work under the clinical supervision of speech pathologists as speech language pathology assistants (SLPAs). They typically must possess an associate degree in education with a concentration in language and communication disorders. Like the SLP, the SLPA must also complete a designated number of hours in the field to satisfy degree requirements and to gain experience.

Speech Therapist Role

When considering the potential role of a speech therapist, we might wonder what a speech therapist does. Here are the basic responsibilities of a speech therapist.

Assessments. One of the first tasks of a speech therapist is to complete an assessment of the client. The assessments determine what type of difficulties or disorders the client may have. These speech difficulties can range from not being able to speak at all, to various language or communication disorders, such as receptive (hearing and understanding words) language disorders and expressive (forming and speaking words) language disorders. Some clients also have swallowing disorders, or other physical difficulties such as cleft palate, that interfere with speaking.

Treatment Plans Creation. The speech therapist then creates an individualized treatment plan to address the needs of the client as identified through the assessment. The treatment plan typically describes the type of therapeutic exercises and activities, number of repetitions of certain exercises and activities, and frequency of sessions, as well as objectives, goals, and anticipated outcome within a specified timeframe.

Treatment Plan Implementation. Next, the speech therapist holds therapy sessions to implement the treatment plan. The sessions are usually in 20- to 30-minute increments but can go up to 60 minutes, depending on the specific client’s needs. The sessions often include a variety of activities requiring the client to practice speaking or communicating.

Testing. At various increments, the speech therapist conducts additional or follow-up testing, to determine the effectiveness of the therapy. The follow-up testing also helps the therapist to modify the treatment plan, if necessary, for optimum outcomes for the client receiving therapy.

Interaction with clients, parents, and caregivers. The speech therapist must have good people skills and genuine compassion, not only to work with clients, but also to interact with parents and caregivers.

Paperwork. As in many jobs, paperwork is a must for speech therapists. They must therefore be well-organized, detail-oriented, and be able to write well to efficiently document their clients’ progress and any additional treatment needs.

Ultimate Goal of Speech Therapy

So what does a speech therapist do? Ultimately, he or she seeks to improve a client’s functionality in language and communication skills through a variety of strategic therapeutic activities and exercises. It’s primarily about improving a client’s quality of life.