Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012

Top left to right: Shauna McIntyre, Nikole Combs, Meghan Betis, Emily Kearl, Alysa Van Orman;
Middle left to right: Courtni Doherty, Jennifer, Donahue, Eva Erickson, Ashley Shank, Kristine Piper-Fangman, Lauren Tandy;
Caitlin Pfeiffer, Mia Anderson, Amy Dunn

ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

What is Speech-Language Pathology?

Fall 2012 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

What is speech-language pathology? Sarah Knudson, director of CSED Online Program, answers that question:

Speech-language pathology is the profession in which certified, master's-level clinicians assess and treat a variety of communication disorders. Many people think of speech pathologists as the people in school who help kids to say their sounds, but the profession really covers much more than that. Speech-language pathologists deal typically with the main areas of communication, including receptive language (what people understand), expressive language (what people say, or convey through alternative means, such as sign language or computerized voice output), articulation (speech sounds), fluency (more commonly known as 'stuttering'), voice (pitch, quality and loudness of speech), dysphagia (disorders of swallowing), and pragmatic skills, or the social use of language for communication.

Speech-language pathology is critically important to anyone who has ever experienced difficulty communicating, or loves someone who has experienced difficulty. We use communication to express our wants and needs on a very basic level, but we also communicate to connect with other people - share ideas, thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, all of which are critical to living a fulfilling life. Speech-language pathologists serve individuals across the lifespan - from infants to geriatric clients. These professionals work in a variety of settings: public schools, private practices, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), early intervention programs, and rehabilitation clinics. In children, they often assess and treat problems with speech sound production (perhaps everyone has heard a child who cannot say an 'r' correctly), and language delays. Some children have speech and language problems, when all other areas tend to develop normally. They also work with individuals with concomitant disorders that affect communication, such as autism, Down Syndrome, cleft palate, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, and many other lesser-known conditions. In the adult years, we work with individuals who have difficulty communicating secondary to a stroke, dementia or traumatic brain injury. Speech-language pathology is a very broad and diverse field, with many opportunities for employment working with clients of various age ranges and disorder areas.