Speech-language pathology is the study of disorders that affect a person’s speech, language, cognition, voice, swallowing (dysphagia) and the rehabilitative or corrective treatment of physical and/or cognitive deficits/disorders resulting in difficulty with communication and/or swallowing. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) address people’s speech production, vocal production, swallowing difficulties and language needs through speech therapy in a variety of different contexts including schools, hospitals, and through private practice.
Communication includes speech (articulation, intonation, rate, intensity, voice, resonance, fluency), language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics), both receptive and expressive language (including reading and writing), and non-verbal communication such as facial expression and gesture. Swallowing problems managed under speech therapy are problems in the oral and pharyngeal stages of swallowing (not oesophageal).
Depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, common treatments may range from physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice and drilling, to the use of audio-visual aids and introduction of strategies to facilitate functional communication. Speech therapy may also include sign language and the use of picture symbols or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) (Diehl 2003).
The practice is called:
* Speech-language pathology (SLP) in the United States and Canada
* Speech and language therapy (SLTs) in the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. Within the United Kingdom a Speech and Language Therapy team is often referred to by clinicians as the “SALT” team.
* Speech pathology in Australia
* Speech-language therapy in New Zealand
Other terms in use include speech therapy, logopaedics and phoniatrics.