SLPs are health care professionals who provide intervention, diagnostic, and therapeutic services to children and adults having a communication disability such as a speech and/or language disorder. SLPs are primary care providers for communication and swallowing disorders. Speech language pathologists are autonomous professionals; that is, their services are not prescribed or supervised by another professional. However, individuals frequently benefit from services that include speech-language pathologist collaborations with other professionals.

Speech and language therapy is the health care profession which is specifically concerned with the assessment, diagnosis and management of communication and swallowing disorders.

A speech and language disorder is a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, or language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Potential etiologies of communication and swallowing disorders include

  1. Neonatal problems (e.g., prematurity, low birth weight, substance exposure)
  2. Developmental disabilities (e.g., specific language impairment, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder);
  3. Auditory problems (e.g., hearing loss or deafness)
  4. Oral anomalies (e.g., cleft lip/palate, dental malocclusion, macroglossia, oral motor dysfunction)
  5. Respiratory compromise (e.g., bronchopulmonary dysplasia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  6. Pharyngeal anomalies (e.g., upper airway obstruction, velopharyngeal insufficiency/incompetence)
  7. Laryngeal anomalies (e.g., vocal fold pathology, tracheal stenosis, tracheostomy)
  8. Neurological disease/dysfunction (e.g., traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, cerebral vascular accident, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  9. Psychiatric disorder (e.g., psychosis, schizophrenia)
  10. Genetic disorders (e.g., Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, velocardiofacial syndrome).

Speech-language pathologists address typical and atypical communication and swallowing in the following areas:

  1. Speech sound production disorders (Articulation Disorder, Apraxia of speech etc)
  2. Resonance disorders (Hype nasality ,Hypo nasality ,Cul-de-sac resonance )
  3. Voice disorders (Puberphonia ,Vocal fold paralysis, Functional dysphonia or aphonia etc)
  4. Fluency disorders (stuttering ,cluttering )
  5. Receptive and Expressive language disorders (semantics-pragmatic disorders ,Aphasia etc)
  6. Prelinguistic communication (e.g., joint attention, intentionality, communicative signaling)
  7. Feeding and swallowing disorders(oral, pharyngeal & esophageal dysphagia,orofacial myology (including tongue thrust) ,oral-motor functions disorders

A speech and language therapist:

  • Evaluate and diagnose speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders. A variety of qualitative and quantitative assessment methods are utilized including standardized tests, and other special instruments, in order to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of speech, language and other impairments.
  • Treat speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders in individuals of all levels, from infancy to the elderly, utilizing an individualized plan with both long-term goals and short-term goals established for each individual’s needs.
  • Clinical services may be provided individually or within groups, depending upon the work site and individual’s diagnosis and needs.

Speech-language pathologists provide services in a wide variety of settings, which may include

  • Public and private schools.
  • Hospitals.
  • Rehabilitation centers.
  • Nursing care facilities.
  • Community clinics.
  • Colleges and universities.
  • Private practice clinics

A Speech language pathologist reserves a 17th grade government job in primary and secondary care centers and earns an average of 40,000-60,000 rupees per month. In clinical private practice SLPs can earn more than 50k.

These are all terms that describe the same profession, but “speech-language pathologist” is the preferred term because it captures the essence of our work (speech and language) and also signifies that we are qualified by our training and clinical experience to identify, assess, and provide remediation for pathological conditions.

People are not fully aware about SLP in Pakistan because it is a relatively new field compared to MBBS and Dentistry. Most students go for those disciplines…only a select few join this field. Now that the knowledge and awareness is slowly increasing throughout the country, there will be more people who will be interested in this remarkable line of work. Apart from that, there are deep seated misunderstandings like if a child is not speaking they are probably suffering from some black magic voodoo… if a person is stammering, people may say that if you focus on what you say and try harder its going to get better… but it doesn’t, because that’s not the proper approach. So we need to educate the people and change their opinions on such things.

BSc. Hon in Speech and Language Pathology is a 4 year program in which theory and clinical practice is given during this time period. During the first year, students are taught basic science subjects like Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Behavioral sciences etc., during the second year the student learns in depth sciences like ENT, Medicine, psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics. During the third and fourth year, the student is trained to deal with specific Speech and Language disorders like stammering, articulation disorders, voice disorders etc. along with clinical practices where students practice and observe in clinics what they are learning each day.