What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

What do speech-language pathologists do?

Speech-language pathologists are specialists trained at the graduate level to provide assessment and intervention services to people of all ages who present with communication and/or swallowing disorders. In addition to the title “Speech-Language Pathologist,” “Speech and Language Therapist,” “Speech Therapist” or “Orthophoniste” (French) may be used.


Speech-language pathologists work to maximize the communication or feeding/swallowing potential of the people under their care and may refer them to other professionals or agencies as needed. Their work typically involves families and significant others such as teachers, as well as direct contact with clients who present with communication or feeding/swallowing difficulties.


In addition to providing clinical services, a speech-language pathologist’s work could include: teaching speech-language pathology trainees, collaborating with other professionals and agencies, conducting research, building awareness in the community of the impact of communication disorders and feeding/swallowing disorders, and advocating for expanded services and programs.


Where do speech-language pathologists work?

Speech-language pathologists in Nova Scotia work in a wide variety of settings and with people of all ages. Services are offered in both public and private settings.


With respect to public services, there are two settings primarily.  The Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres provide assessment and treatment to children from birth to school age and to adults with communication, voice and swallowing deficits.  These services are offered in clinics and hospitals throughout the province. School-aged children and teen-agers receive services at their school through the Department of Education. In Nova Scotia, speech-language pathologists usually work in a circuit or family of schools. 


With respect to services in the private domain, speech-language pathologists offer treatment in clinics, daycares, long term care facilities and in some cases provide services to clients in their homes. Speech-language pathologists also work in community settings such as Community Services centres, day cares and community colleges.


With whom do Speech-language pathologists work?

Babies – who have:

  • feeding and swallowing difficulties
  • cleft lip and palate
  • neuro-muscular difficulties such as Cerebral Palsy
  • genetic syndromes such as Down Syndrome
  • congenital hearing loss


Children – who have:

  • physical disabilities
  • delayed onset or development of language / communication
  • specific language impairment
  • difficulties in producing sounds
  • motor speech disorders
  • hearing impairment / cochlear implant
  • cleft palate
  • stuttering / dysfluency
  • autism spectrum disorders /social interaction difficulties
  • dyslexia / mild, moderate or severe learning difficulties
  • voice problems


Adults – who have:

  • neurological impairments and degenerative conditions including: head injury, Parkinson’s, MS, motor neuron disease, dementia
  • cancer of the head, neck and throat including laryngectomy
  • post stroke, swallowing and communication difficulties
  • voice problems
  • learning difficulties
  • physical disability
  • stuttering
  • hearing impairment