Speech-language pathology is a field of expertise practiced by a clinician known as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), also called speech and language therapist, or speech therapist, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of communication disorders and swallowing disorders.
A common misconception is that speech-language pathology is restricted to correcting pronunciation difficulties, such as helping English speaking individuals enunciate their “s” and “r” sounds, and helping people who stutter to speak more fluently. In fact, speech-language pathology is concerned with a broad scope of speech, language, swallowing, and voice issues involving communication, some of which are:
- Word-finding issues, either as a result of a specific language problem such as a language delay or a more general issue such as dementia.
- Social communication difficulties involving how people communicate ideas with others (pragmatics).
- Structural language impairments, including difficulties creating sentences that are grammatical (syntax) and meaningful (semantics).
- Literacy impairments (reading and writing) related to the letter-to-sound relationship (phonics), the word-to-meaning relationship (semantics), and understanding the ideas presented in a text (reading comprehension).
- Voice difficulties, such as a raspy voice, a voice that is too soft, or other voice difficulties that negatively impact a person’s social or professional performance.
- Cognitive impairments (e.g., attention, memory, executive function) to the extent that they interfere with communication.