On a daily basis, we use our ability to communicate through speech, language, and gestures to connect with people and our communities. We also eat and drink to support our health, nutrition and energy needs. For some, communicating efficiently or swallowing a simple meal is not so easy. Speech Pathologists play a vital role in supporting those experiencing communication and/or swallowing difficulties. Governed by Speech Pathology Australia, these accredited allied health professionals assess, diagnose and treat these individuals. Applying their clinical skills and expertise to support clients across all stages of life, Speech Pathologists can work with children with cleft palates, teenagers with stutters, adults with acquired brain injury through to elderly people with degenerative disorders.

Communication difficulties can arise due to stroke or brain injury, learning or intellectual disability, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, dementia and a variety of other conditions that can impact successful communication.

According to Care Squared, greater communication skills can lead to improved personal relationships, better connections with support networks and increased social engagement with both new and different members of the community. Speech Pathologists work with individuals across all communication channels, including listening, articulation, language, fluency, voice difficulties, use of gestures, reading and writing.

The ability to listen (and understand) direction and meaning is referred to as ‘receptive language.’ In contrast, ‘expressive language’ refers to the ability to assemble words and compose sentences, to convey meaning and messages to others (such as requesting items, asking and answering questions) and describing events. Speech Pathologists are equipped to support their clients with both.

You’ll often find that Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are utilised by Speech Pathologists, which help individuals speak or write with ease. This support could be manifested in the form of an unaided system (such as signing and gesture), or an aided system (such as picture charts, books, and devices like an iPad).

Speech Pathologists also assist in treating Dysphagia, a medical term used to describe difficulty with swallowing. Dysphagia is a complex condition, with services often requiring input from several professionals such as an Occupational Therapist, Dietitian, GP and specialist medical services. A Speech Pathologist will observe an individual’s environment as well as their food and drink consumption, and then develop mealtime management strategies to assist in comfortable and safe consumption..

Turning to a Speech Pathologist for support with the daily communication or swallowing struggles some face can be tremendously rewarding. These life-changing improvements impact both physical and mental health. You can learn more about Speech Pathology, and where you can access services, on the Care Squared website.