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What is a Speech Language Pathologist Assistant?

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  • Written By: Rachel Burkot
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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A speech language pathologist assistant (SLPA) is an individual who helps patients improve communication skills. These assistants work closely with speech language pathologists, who are certified and licensed to provide help with speech and language. Speech language pathologist assistants work with both children and adults to improve speech disorders.

To become a speech language pathologist assistant, an individual must complete an undergraduate program that specializes in speech and language pathology or audiology. The program must give the student at least 24 credit hours in speech and language pathology and audiology. Of these hours, 18 must be in the specific area that the speech language pathologist assistant is applying for. Coursework involves studying language disorders, the origins of speech impediments, and treatment options for those afflicted with communication problems.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree, the aspiring SLPA must complete 25 hours of clinical observation and 25 hours as a clinical assistant. The fieldwork experience provides the speech language pathologist assistant with a more focused understanding and practical application of the classroom knowledge. After completing both the classroom training and practical experience portions of the program, an individual can become a licensed SLPA. Different forms must be completed, which vary by state, along with a fee of around $25 US Dollars (USD).

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Since speech language pathologists and their assistants work with those who have trouble communicating, the SLPA must be sensitive and able to relate well to all kinds of people. The speech language pathologist assistant should be sympathetic and caring. Patients will have a variety of speech disorders, including stuttering, stammering, articulation and pronunciation problems, and complete loss of speech due to stroke or head injury. Patients range from small children to senior citizens, so the SLPA must be comfortable dealing with people from different backgrounds.

Typical duties of a speech language pathologist assistant include conducting screening tests, administering treatment plans and providing support to the speech language pathologist. Speech therapy varies based on the nature of the communication impairment, and the SLPA must pay close attention, together with the speech language pathologist, so the proper treatment is enacted. Speech language pathologist assistants work in health care careers in a variety of settings, such as medical, educational and clinical. SLPAs are employed by preschools, daycare centers, schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.

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