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Speech-Language Pathology Assistants

The Job

Speech-language pathology assistants assist speech-language pathologists who provide direct clinical services to individuals and independently develop and carry out treatment programs. In medical facilities, they may work with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists to develop and execute treatment plans. As some speech and language skills disorders may be associated with hearing problems, speech-language pathologists and assistants may work closely with audiologists. In a school environment, they help develop individual or group programs, counsel parents, and sometimes help teachers with classroom activities.

People who seek speech-language pathology treatment have speech and language skills problems. They may not be able to make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly. They may have trouble with speech rhythm and fluency such as stuttering. Other problems that speech-language pathology assistants help to treat include voice quality issues, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice, trouble understanding and producing language, and cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory, and problem-solving disorders. They may also work with people who have oral motor problems that cause eating and swallowing difficulties. Clients' problems may be congenital, developmental, or acquired, and caused by hearing loss, brain injury or deterioration, cerebral palsy, stroke, cleft palate, voice pathology, mental retardation, or emotional problems.

Speech-language pathology assistants help pathologists in examining clients. They conduct written and oral tests and use special instruments to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of impairment. They assist in developing an individualized plan of care, which may include automated devices and sign language, and they implement the treatment plans and protocols under the direction of the pathologist. They may be involved in teaching clients how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their language skills to communicate more effectively and help clients to have reliable communication skills.

Assistants are responsible for a variety of support duties, including preparing materials for exams and tests, keeping records, and maintaining supplies. They prepare or choose the materials for speech-language instruction for clients and their families. They also test and maintain the devices and equipment used in client screenings and assessments. Assistants use a variety of computer software programs in the job. Some of these programs include language and signal analysis software, biofeedback software, text-to-speech software, and e-mail and spreadsheet software.

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