When asked what I do for a living my quick response is an obvious one.
“I am a Speech Pathologist.”
It is amazing how many times I am then asked the following question:
What is the difference between a Speech Therapist and a Speech Pathologist?
The short answer “There is no difference.”
Speech Therapist and Speech Pathologist are terms that have been used interchangeably for a health professional who works with people who have communication and/or swallowing impairments.
The term ‘speech therapist’ was, in the past, used to describe speech professionals however nowadays the term most commonly used across the world is ‘speech-language pathologist’ or ‘SLP’ which we tend to abbreviate to Speech Pathologist.
For me personally I have no problem being referred to as “the speechie”.
‘Speech-language pathologist’ is the preferred term professionally as it captures the essence of our work and also signifies that we are qualified to identify, assess, diagnose and provide intervention for conditions of communication and swallowing across the lifespan.
“Speech” is used to denote the components of vocal activity such as:
- phonation (the production of a vocal tone via the larynx or “voice box”)
- articulation (the movement of the structures in the mouth to create speech sounds to produce words)
- resonance (the overall quality of the voice)
- fluency (the timing and synchronization of these components of the complex speech act).
“Language” refers to the comprehension and production of language, including the mode in which it is comprehended or produced (oral, gesturing, writing, or reading).
The term “speech-language pathologist” does not quite capture the totality of our scope of practice. We speechies also address the needs of individuals who exhibit difficulties with cognitive functions (attention, memory, problem-solving), literacy, social interaction, and swallowing. Other roles fulfilled by speech pathologists include advocacy, research, program coordination and administration, university teaching, supervision and the like.
Essentially, there is no difference between a Speech Therapist and Speech Pathologist, it is ‘same old same old’ and I like to think we, as speech-language pathologists, do our best to provide the best possible care for our clients, regardless of how we are defined.