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Home 9 Communication Sciences and Disorders 9 What Is a Communication Disorder?

What Is a Communication Disorder?

Speaking, hearing, and understanding the spoken word provide the foundation for typical human communication. An impairment in one or more of these areas may interfere with a person’s ability to be successful in school, to interact socially, to become employed, to be well-adjusted, and to reach one’s full potential. Conditions which interfere with communication may be present at birth or may occur at some point later in life. Many conditions may be temporary: others are permanent. Communication disorders range from mild problems, which may be easily remediated, to severe problems, which may require an alternative way to communicate (such as using sign language or using computerized or other devices).

Nearly 10 million Americans, or 1 out of every 20 persons, have this type of disability. This number is expected to increase over the next several years as a result of the growing number of people in the older and preschool age groups. Between now and the year 2050, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (or ASHA, the national professional organization of the Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists), the number of persons with speech and /or hearing impairments will increase at a faster rate than the general population will increase for that time period. This is even more impressive when we take into account the shortage of Speech-Language Pathologists, both in Kentucky and nationwide. Yet the U.S. Department of Labor lists this field as one of the fastest growing in the country.

Who is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A Speech-Language Pathologist is a professional with a master’s (or doctoral) degree in this field of study and having state and/or national (ASHA) certification. The Speech-Language Pathologist is trained in the study of human communication, its normal development, and its disorders. This professional may also be called an “SLP”, a “Speech-Language Clinician,” or a “Speech Therapist.”. The Speech-Language Pathologist evaluates the speech and language skills of persons ranging in age from infancy to geriatric. Based upon that evaluation, this professional will determine if a communication disorder exists and, if so, plans and implements a treatment (or therapy) program to remediate the disorder. Typical disorders include: articulation (difficulty in pronouncing speech sounds); phonation (problems in pitch, loudness, and quality of the voice or even the inability to vocalize); fluency (stuttering and other difficulties with the rate or rhythm of speaking); and language (problems in vocabulary development, syntax, semantics, information processing, and use of language rules). Sometimes these disorders may be associated with such conditions as: aphasia resulting from a stroke or other injury to the brain: cleft lip/palate (or other facial defect): mental retardation; developmental delays; deafness; learning disabilities; cancer of the larynx; or neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, MS, or MD.

Where does a Speech-Language Pathologist work?

Many Speech-Language Pathologists work in school systems. Others work in settings such as: community hospitals, residential facilities, private practices, clinics, US Military Services, Head Start programs, Job Corps centers, rehabilitation centers, university training programs, and some business corporations. To be employed, requirements typically include a master’s degree and ASHA certification. A state license may be required in states (such as Kentucky) which have a licensure law. A certificate issued by the state’s Department of Education is usually required for Speech-Language Pathologists employed in the public schools. Just as in most occupations, salaries for Speech-Language Pathologists will vary depending upon the setting in which they are employed.

Who is an Audiologist?

“An audiologist is the professional who specializes in evaluating and treating people with hearing loss. Audiologists have extensive training and skills to evaluate the hearing of adults, infants and children of all ages. Audiologists conduct a wide variety of tests to determine the exact nature of an individual’s hearing problem. Audiologists present a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment. Audiologists dispense and fit hearing aids, administer tests of balance to evaluate dizziness, and provide hearing and balance rehabilitation training. Audiologists refer patients to physicians when the hearing problem needs medical or surgical evaluation.” *

*from the American Academy of Audiology

Department of Clinical Therapeutic Programs


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