Speech Pathology In Practice
A speech pathologist is a health professional, educated at university level in the study of human communication. Speech pathologists assess and treat a wide range of communication and feeding skills, including language, voice, speech, fluency, feeding and swallowing and literacy (Private Speech Pathologists' Association of Western Australia, 2011, p. 1). They provide a wide range of services, mainly on an individual basis, but also as support for families, support groups, and providing information for the general public. Speech pathologists can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, community health centres, rehabilitation centres and private practice. In addition, the role of a speech pathologist is also to act as an advocate on behalf of people with communication disabilities (Speech Pathology Australia, 2012, p. 1).
Human language is a unique mental equity and the use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Apart from being used to communicate and share information, it also has social and cultural uses, such as signifying ingrouping and identity (O'Connor, 2010, p. 1). The term language is often used interchangeably with communication and even speech, but it is important to define these terms in the context of speech pathology. Language can be defined as ‘code with structural properties characterized by a set of rules for producing and comprehending utterances’ (Nicolosi, Harryman, & Kresheck, 2004, p. 111). This is in contrast to speech; a ‘medium of oral communication that employs a linguistic code’ (Nicolosi et al., 2004, p. 254) or communication; ‘any means by which an individual relates experiences, ideas, knowledge and feelings to another’ (Nicolosi et al., 2004, p. 66).
For the majority of infants and children, language is an innate skill and begins at birth (Berk, 2003, p. 367). From approximately four months, hearing infants attend to the sound of their own language and engage in joint attention, whereby they share their gaze on an object with another person. This contributes greatly to early language development and infants who experience and engage in joint attention comprehend more language and show faster vocabulary development (Berk, 2003, p. 365).
Due to the importance of language, it follows that that the implications of language impairment can be far reaching. Snowling and Hulme (2012) noted that ‘longitudinal studies yield sobering findings for children with language impairments’ and that language impairments are consistently linked to learning, psychosocial and emotional disorders .
Impairments can occur at any stage in a person’s lifespan, and the causes of language impairment are varied and numerous. They can include genetic disorders, infections such as persisting middle ear infections, low birth weight, malnutrition, brain injury or environmental factors, such as poverty, abuse and neglect’ (O'Connor, 2010, p. 1). Adult language...