Think about the kids you knew in elementary school who had a lisp or a stutter. Imagine how difficult life would be if you couldn’t accurately and effectively communicate due to a speaking disorder. Would you feel comfortable or capable dealing with those problems alone?
Stuttering and lisping are just two examples of common speech disorders. Speech disorders come from a person’s inability to produce sounds correctly or with fluency. And the problems can be even more complicated than that. A person can also suffer from communication disorders: receptive and expressive. A receptive communication disorder means the person is unable to accurately understand others, while an expressive communication disorder means they are unable to accurately express themselves. It must be a troublesome existence to be stuck in your own thoughts and ideas with no way to explain yourself. Fortunately, these difficulties can be remedied with the help of a speech-language pathologist.
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a specialist who works with those who struggle with speech and articulation, communication disorders, and fluency. Sometimes known as a speech therapist, an SLP’s work also allows them to assist those who have difficulty feeding or swallowing. SLPs are educated with a master’s degree and licensed or certified to diagnose and treat a number of speech communication and swallowing disorders. They work with clients of any age who may be suffering for any number of reasons, including cerebral palsy, cleft palate, traumatic injury, and mental illness.
Salary and Career Opportunities
Because the money is generally good and the field is growing, speech therapy can be an attractive career choice. A certified speech-language pathologist can make upwards of $70,000 a year. One can choose a concentration under the umbrella of the field, narrowing the work down to specific types of disorders and complications. Speech therapists typically work in research, educational, or healthcare environments. Because a majority of clients tend to be in their youth, SLPs often work in school settings, but research shows that speech difficulties can increase with age, creating a bigger need for SLPs among the elderly as well. This means that the job prospects arguably look bright for future SLPs as the field grows with each passing year.
What’s more attractive than the blossoming career opportunities, however, is the fact that SLPs can have a significantly positive impact on society. The work they do fosters the notion that everyone should be able to communicate clearly, accurately, and effectively. This is central to creating a social environment where one person’s voice is equally as important as anyone else’s, regardless of gender, age, culture, race, sexuality, or disability. For young patients, learning how to use their voice can help them mature. Speech therapy teaches them to develop their opinions and share them with less fear and anxiety of how they will be received. This can foster a culture where difficult and opinionated conversations are not so uneasily had and are welcomed as a source of positive change and growth. For the elderly, it can mean making their experienced voices as sharp and resonant in the cultural climate as any young person’s. Instead of being overlooked for suffering a traumatic injury or invasive surgery, one can recover to communicate the way they once could, and perhaps even better than before. In these ways, it is possible for speech-language pathology to change the world, one voice at a time. The world could use prospective SLPs, who are interested in putting a life of service and speaking before anything else.