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Speech Pathology Print this page

Speech Pathology

What is speech pathology?

Speech pathologists (or speech therapists) assess, diagnose and treat children or adults who are unable to communicate effectively.

Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink.

Speech pathologists often work with a client individually.  Alternatively they may work with a child’s parents, family members, child care staff or teachers.

Why do we need speech pathologists?

Communication – the process of being able to understand and to be understood – is something most of us take for granted.

Communication disabilities are the result of problems with speech, using and understanding language, voice, fluency, hearing or reading and writing.

One in seven Australians has some form of communication disability. This means that one in seven people has a problem understanding other people or being understood by people.

Where do speech pathologists work?

Speech pathologists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • kindergartens, primary and secondary schools
  • nursing homes
  • hospitals
  • universities
  • rehabilitation services
  • mental health services
  • community health centres
  • private practice
  • specialist services for those with complex communication needs, arising from disorders such as autism, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability.


How do speech pathologists work?

Speech pathologists may provide individual therapy, work in small groups, work within a classroom or become involved in home-based programs.  They may provide resources and information, as well as giving advice and direction to clients, their carers and other professionals.

They coordinate the management of clients, work as part of a multi-disciplinary team, consult with other agencies, provide workshops and support family members and other caregivers. A speech pathologist is an important member of an early intervention team, an aged-care services team and a school therapy team.

The role of speech pathologists is to advocate strongly for appropriate care and services for people with communication disabilities.

Speech pathologists complete a degree at university which encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures.

Who do speech pathologists work with?

A speech pathologist’s workload might include:

  • giving advice on feeding to a mother who has a baby with a cleft palate
  • working in a child care centre with a group of children who are hard to understand
  • working with a school child who can’t understand what his teacher says
  • working with a high school student who stutters
  • training a teacher who constantly loses her voice to use it more effectively
  • rehabilitating a young man who has severe brain injury due to a motorcycle accident
  • liaising with the carers of an elderly man, who has dementia
  • helping a woman who has had a stroke to regain her communication skills and offering advice to her husband and family
  • providing education for teachers, doctors or parents
  • providing communication strategies for a person with intellectual disability
  • treating a person who has swallowing problems following a stroke
  • assisting children and adults who are learning to read


Specially for Children

Learning to Talk

Children usually achieve language milestones such as babbling and first words at particular ages, however there is a large amount of individual variation among children. 

Many children learn language naturally through their environment and their interactions with parents, siblings and other people in their life.  Some children need assistance with speech and/or language – so they can understand and be understood by others.

Making the most of your child’s speech pathology sessions

It is recommended that you always sit in on your child’s speech pathology sessions. Children whose parents are involved in therapy and practise regularly at home make the best progress. You can also ask your speech pathologist for regular homework.

Finding a speech pathologist

Speech pathology can be accessed through government services such as Community Health Centres, through organisations such as Pathways and Lifestart or privately.

To find a private speech pathologist look on the Speech Pathology Australia website (www. under ‘Find a Speech Pathologist’. Alternatively you can look online to find private practitioners near you or speak to your GP, child care staff or school for recommendations.

Speech pathologists or speech-language pathologists were formerly known as speech therapists. They are different from speech and drama teachers.


Speech Pathology Australia -

Speech Pathology Australia has some easy fact sheets:

Speech Language Therapy resources -