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What is a Speech Pathologist?

Sep 11, 2014

A speech pathologist is also referred to as a speech-and-language therapist. They specialize in the treatment and evaluation of swallowing disorders and communication disorders, ranging from pediatric to geriatric levels.

According to speech pathologist Barbara Schacter, the development of speech and language begins with meeting certain key milestones such as eye contact, joint attention, turn taking, motor skills (gross and fine motor), and imitation. Dr. Schacter further states that in particular toddlers love to copy sound. For instance, when playing with a car, the parent might say “vroom vroom.” A toddler may copy this simple sound. Later on, this simple sound will turn into syllables, then into words, and finally into sentences.

The presence of language and speech problems in young children is not uncommon. Each child develops speech and language skills at his or her own pace. However, parents should pay attention to certain key indicators, which may point to a speech or language problem in their child.

According to Dr. Schacter, if parents notice any of the following signs in their children, they may need to seek assistance from a speech-language pathologist:

  • The child’s vocabulary is not growing from week to week.
  • The child’s voice is not corresponding to his or her gender or age.
  • The child is repeating first syllables or is prolonging the first sound of the syllable.
  • The child repeatedly chokes on solids and or liquids during and or after meals.

Other key indicators that parents and teachers need to look out for which indicate the child requires assistance from a speech-language pathologist:

  • Adults have difficulty comprehending what the child is saying.
  • Child’s age seems younger than their actual age based on how they speak.
  • Child demonstrates frustration because of how he or she speaks.
  • The child uses fewer words than children of his or her own age.
  • The child struggles with writing and reading.
  • The child develops a stutter.
  • The child has other underlying diagnoses such as hearing loss, developmental delay, auditory processing disorder, or an autism spectrum disorder.

While it is possible that some children may demonstrate all or some of the above mentioned symptoms, there should always be a sign of improvement in the child’s speech and language. By age three, other people should understand most of what the child is saying and communicating. If there is no improvement, then the parent may need to consult with a speech-language pathologist.

With early intervention from a speech-language pathologist, a child will learn to speak and use language more effectively. This will have a widespread impact, not only on the child’s academic performance but also in his or her social relationships.


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