Speech Pathology Week 2017

Happy Speech Pathology Week!

It's the week where your local speechies are far too excited about getting you to try thickened fluids because yes, we assess and treat swallowing too!

Credit: @AmeliaLaurendet

Why am I excited?
I'm a 4th year student speech pathologist.

What's that and does it involve blood?
No, the pathologist part means we study, diagnose and treat disorders relating to speech, language, voice, stuttering, swallowing and more. We treat everyone from newborns to the elderly.

Quick surface level breakdown:

- Speech= the sounds we make

- Language= the words we use, how we put them together and how we understand others

- Literacy= reading (decoding words and understanding what you read) and writing (spelling and putting ideas together)

- Voice= loudness, pitch, quality (is it rough? is it excessively nasal?)

- Stuttering= repetitions of sounds, words and phrases, blocks in speech or prolongations (stretching out a sound or word)

- Swallowing= where we try and prevent food and drink going into your lungs and causing an aspiration pneumonia

- Multimodal communication= where we find other ways for people to communicate their message including gesture, pointing to words/images, key word sign, and technological devices

The theme of this year's Speech Pathology Week is Communication Access: Everyone gets the message. To me, communication is a basic human right. It's something we take for granted all the time. Being able to say hello, order food and enjoy eating it, understand street signs, and tell someone you love them involves a complex process involving many different processes all working together. That's even before you start getting into things like subtle social cues and sarcasm.

It's pretty amazing!

It's no secret I love working with patients. I particularly enjoyed working with people who have had a brain injury. Typically, a brain injury results in diffuse damage, which means many of the ways we communicate are impaired. Swallowing is also impaired in many cases. Our job is to try and restore some of that, and where we can't, find new ways to communicate. But our environment is not very conducive to people who have a communication difficulty or difference. Everything is written, everything is fast paced and everything relies on language.

So what can you do to help?
Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) have some handy hints on their site. But here 3 of my own tips that I think are really important for when you do encounter people who have a communication difficulty or difference:

- Don't assume someone is unintelligent because they cannot communicate the same way you do. It's like talking to someone who speaks a different language. Shouting, talking excessively slowly or being condescending doesn't help. You're talking to a fellow person. Respect them.

- Supplement your verbal communication with other methods. Point, gesture, draw, write, show!  There are so many ways you can communicate that don't involve words alone. Use them.

- Talk to them. They're people just like you. People who also want to be talked to, and cared about. We're a social species and we typically like to have networks of people who love us. So talk. Share experiences. Include them and encourage them to speak up if they haven't understood you. Be patient and inclusive. There's nothing worse than being left out, talked at or plain avoided because of a communication disorder or difference.

So get out there and be inclusive, so that everyone gets the message.

Note: Any information or advice given is my own and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. I'm a student so cannot claim that my advice is the equivalent of a professional's and would encourage you to head to SPA to see what they have to say on the matter!


  1. Speech pathologists are the salt of the earth. Thanks for what you do.


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