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What does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

A speech-language pathologist may focus on a specific area of treatment or may treat all aspects of communication and the oral mechanism.


Speech is concerned with how sounds are made via the larynx, velum, tongue, teeth, and lips as well as the muscles executed for speech. A speech-language pathologist will assess what sounds a child is using, how s/he is making those sounds, and whether that child’s sound repertoire is representative of his/her developmental stage. Speech includes phonation, articulation, fluency/dysfluency(stuttering or cluttering), respiration and voice/vocal quality.


Language is concerned with what the child can understand and what he/she can express. How many words is she/he using? A speech-language pathologist will take a language sample and will analyze that sample in terms of what types of words (e.g. nouns, verbs and verb tenses, locatives, etc.) that child is using and whether it is representative of his/her developmental stage. The therapist will analyze the sample in terms of its morphology, syntax, semantics, and social/pragmatic aspects of communication so that you will have a comprehensive analysis of your child’s language expression. In addition, the therapist will assess your child’s comprehension, which is his/her ability to understand language, including words and their meanings and the ability to listen and follow directions. The therapist can also assess and treat the areas of comprehension (receptive language) and expression (expressive language) of oral, written, graphic, and manual language use as well as phonological awareness skills and literacy skills.

Oral Motor

Oral motor skills refers to how the lips, tongue, and jaw are working together and independently from each other. The muscles used for feeding are the same muscles used for speech. Sometimes speech therapy will involve intense focus on the muscles of face and mobility in the tongue.

Oral development begins in utero, and birth to 2 years of age is a critical learning period for mouth/oral development. Disordered lip posture, tongue resting posture, jaw stability, chewing, and swallowing can result in a variety of disorders leading to jaw, neck, and facial pain, tongue thrusting, sleep disorders, poor posture and relapsed orthodontics.

The therapist can go over the stages of feeding, mouthing, and oral development. In addition, the therapist can assess sensory awareness of the oral structure as it relates to oral functions.

Cognition & Play

How is the brain receiving information, processing information, synthesizing information and expressing information? The speech-language pathologist can assess your child’s cognitive functioning and its relationship to his/her linguistic ability, both receptively and expressively. Cognitive development and language development are closely related and it is so important that your child be given many opportunities to play. Play is the best way for a child to learn! Play is at the heart of language and cognitive development. A speech-language pathologist can assess your child’s play behavior and how this relates to his/her overall language and cognitive development.

When to see a Speech-Language Pathologist

Are you concerned about your child’s speech development?0%

Is he/she difficult to understand? Are some sounds particularly challenging?

Are other people and children having a hard time understanding your child? (depending on the child’s age, this could be very normal).

Are you concerned about how well your child is hearing or processing sounds? 0%

Are you concerned that your child is not remembering what he or she just heard?
Are you concerned that your child is having difficulty understanding instruction in the classroom?

Is your child not talking or not talking as much as you think he/she should?0%
Is your child getting overly frustrated trying to communicate his/her wants and needs? 0%

Are you noticing behavioral issues because your child is trying so hard to communicate and can’t seem to find a way to do so effectively?

Does your child not play like other toddlers or children?0%

Does your child prefer to play alone?
Do you feel like you need some pointers to help make your playtime more fun and effective?

Does it seem like your child is having a hard time making and maintaining friendships?0%
Is your child having a hard time reading and/or understanding what he or she just read?0%

Does your child have a hard time sequencing events and telling stories?
Is you child having a hard time organizing his or her thoughts to effectively tell you about an event?

Is your child a messy eater? Does she/he drool?0%
If you have any concerns like the ones above, you should contact a speech-language pathologist.