What is a Speech-Language Pathologist: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of What is a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you missed Part One, you can read it HERE.

In Part One, I talked about all the education and training that it takes to become an SLP. But what is it that we do once we finally finish all this education and training?

As I mentioned in PART ONE , the simple answer to what is an SLP is its professional who is trained to assess and remediate communication disorders (and swallowing disorders) in people of all ages.

So what exactly do we do?

What is a speech langauge pathologist what do we do

In children, we assess and remediate:

  • delays in receptive language (what we understand)
  • delays expressive language (what we say)
  • delays or disorders in articulation and phonology (the actual sounds we say that make up words)
  • disorders in motor speech skills (i.e. Apraxia or Dysarthria)
  • oral motor skills
  • communication skills in those with hearing loss
  • disorders of fluency (i.e. stuttering)
  • social/pragmatic skills
  • disorders in swallowing (if working in a medical setting)
  • disorders in feeding
  • disorders in voice and resonance

Who does an SLP treat then?

An SLP treats anyone with a communication or swallowing disorder/delay.

As SLP’s we treat a wide range of abilities from mild delays to severe or profound delays. We treat typically developing children who simply can’t produce an /r/ sound as well as treat children with severe cognitive impairments….and everything in between. The specific categories of children an SLP will serve will depend on his/her specific employment placement and may vary over his/her career.

For example, in one position I held, my caseload was made up entirely of children with more severe cognitive impairments. At another position I had about 1/2 a caseload of regular education children and 1/2 a caseload of mild-moderately impaired children. Year-to-year caseloads can change and placements can change, so an SLP is CONSTANTLY researching and learning about new conditions, syndromes, and treatments.

Wait, didn’t you mention adults earlier?

YES! SLPs also treat adults. Usually adults are seen by an SLP when they have suffered some kind of damage to the brain, typically from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or from a stroke. Just like with children, we assess and remediate skills in adults who have (usually acquired) the following:

  • disorders of receptive language (what we understand)
  • disorders of expressive language (what we say)
  • disorders of motor speech skills (i.e. Apraxia or Dysarthria)
  • disorders in swallowing (common in stroke survivors)
  • disorders of voice and resonance
  • disorders in cognitive reasoning and executive function
  • disorders in fluency (i.e. stuttering)

Where might a Speech-Language Pathologist work?

The most common places you see SLP’s are:

  • Early Intervention Programs
  • Elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Hospital/medical setting (acute, rehabilitation, or skilled nursing)
  • Private practice
  • Universities

SLPs can work in a variety of other settings (like clinics and research labs) as well, however most work in the above settings.

I hope that my posts on What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist have enlightened you on what it takes to be an SLP. We are not simply “speech teachers” but rather skilled and trained medical professionals, many of whom choose to work in the field of education. It isn’t an easy profession, and even four years straight of nothing but speech/language/communication/hearing/swallowing classes did not totally prepare me. It is a profession where you are CONSTANTLY researching and learning.

And I personally find it exhausting, but VERY rewarding.

For more information about what an SLP is, you can check out this fact sheet from the American Speech Language-Hearing Association HERE.


Photo Credits
School Zone by Anankkml
Chattering Teeth

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About Katie

Katie is a licensed, credentialed and certified pediatric speech-language pathologist and mom to three (5, 3 and 9 months). Her passion about educating, inspiring and empowering parents of children with all abilities led her to start her blog Playing With Words 365 where she shares information about speech and language development, therapy ideas and tips, intervention strategies and a little about her family life too. Katie has been working in the field of speech pathology for 9 years and is certified in The Hanen Centre’s It Takes Two to Talk ® and Target Word ® programs and holds a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In addition to blogging and being a mommy, Katie works part time in her small private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. You forgot feeding specialst :) I know you mentioned swallowing, but what about those feeding tube kiddos with food/texture aversions? Otherwise, awesome list and very well explained.

    • You are correct, I forgot feeding specialist! Because I have NO training in this (not something that was part of my Masters Program), and because it overlaps so much with OT, I forgot all about it! Good call! :)

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