A speech pathologist or a speech-language pathologist or a speech therapist is a person who has a degree or diploma in speech therapy and works with individuals (adults and children) to assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency and other related disorders.

These professionals find positions in paediatric departments in private and government hospitals, health centres and in speciality clinics. The children will be directly referred to them by the child’s paediatrician for assessment and therapy.

Also, these professionals are employed in rehabilitation centres located throughout the country. They also find careers in special education schools where they work as therapists. They can also find jobs in universities and government agencies as teachers, or as administrators for speech and hearing programmes. Some of them take up private practice which is becoming more common nowadays and also work part-time in any of the hospitals or schools along with this. They can also contract to provide services in schools, physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals or work as consultants.

Mr. Manoj Kumar Nirala is Sr. Speech Therapist and Audiologist at Duru Teg Bahadur Hospital and University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi. He completed his Bachelor of Hearing and Language and Speech from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Mr. Manoj spoke to The Hindu Opportunities about career as a Speech Therapist.

Excerpts:

What is the nature of work of a speech therapist?

Speech-language pathologists are professionals concerned with evaluation, treatment, and research in human communication and its disorders. We diagnose and evaluate speech problems, such as fluency (stuttering), articulation, voice disorders as well as language problems, such as aphasia and delayed language and related disorders, such as dysphasia (swallowing difficulties). We design and carry out comprehensive treatment plans to achieve the following:

Help individuals learn correct production and use of speech sounds

Assist with developing proper control of the vocal and respiratory systems for correct voice production

Assist individuals who stutter to increase the amount of fluent speech and to cope with their disorder

Assist children and adolescents with language problems, such as understanding and giving directions, answering and asking questions, understanding and using English grammar, using appropriate social language, and conveying ideas to others

Assist individuals who have had strokes or suffered other brain trauma relearn language and speech skills

Help individuals to use augmentative and assistive systems of communications

Counsel individuals with speech and language disorders and their families or caregivers to understand their disorders and to communicate more effectively in educational, social, and vocational settings

What educational qualifications and medical specialisations are needed for a career in speech therapy?

To become a qualified speech therapist, minimum qualification required is four year bachelor degree in pathology or audiology. All professionals should register with Rehabilitation Council of India.

Suggest a few ideal places that an aspiring therapist could kick-start his career – private institutions, government hospitals or starting a private practice.

Since government hospitals provide more exposure, I would recommend a fresher to start his career in such hospitals. However, it comes down to the personal preference of the therapist.

In addition to education and training, what are the personal traits that an individual must possess to be a successful speech pathologist or therapist?

To become a successful speech pathologist or therapist, one must possess a lot of patience since the person with a speech disorder cannot be treated by medicines. It requires repetitive sessions to cure it.

What is the role of technology in diagnosing and treating individuals with speech disorders?

Technology plays a vital role in diagnosing and treating speech disorder. Dr. Speech software is an example of speech and voice related assessment software. There are exercises and voice therapy along with instruments which help in the treatment.

What are the potential career path and growth opportunities that a fresher in this field can look for?

A speech therapist has a good career growth as it is a road less travelled. There are private and government hospitals which have a demand for qualified speech therapists. There is a bright future for students aspiring to be a speech therapist.

What are the monetary rewards and benefits that a speech therapist can expect at the entry level?

The rewards and benefits vary based on the therapist’s experience and qualifications. In government and private hospitals and institutions the salary varies based on the therapist’s experience.

Jai Kumar

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