ATX Learning - Difference

What is the Difference Between a Speech Therapist and a Speech Pathologist?

Donald Fuller Speech-Language Pathologist

April 17, 2006



What is the difference between a speech therapist and a speech pathologist?


In a word: none. The terms "speech therapist" and "speech pathologist" have been used for years as titles for persons who work with persons having communication impairments. In the past, the term "speech pathologist" was used by professionals to describe themselves, but the term most commonly used today is "speech-language pathologist" or "SLP." Lay people have more often referred to us as "speech therapists," "speech correctionists," or even "speech teachers."

These are all terms that describe the same profession, but "speech-language pathologist" is the preferred term because it captures the essence of our work (speech and language) and also signifies that we are qualified by our training and clinical experience to identify, assess, and provide remediation for pathological conditions of communication. The term "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 as well as the process that transforms the vocal tone into what we recognize as a person's "voice") and 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).

Even the term "speech-language pathologist" doesn't quite capture the totality of our scope of practice. For example, speech-language pathologists also address the needs of persons who exhibit difficulties with cognitive functions (attention, memory, problem-solving), literacy, social interaction, and swallowing. Considering such a wide scope of practice, perhaps in the future a new term will be coined to describe who we are and what we do.

Dr. Donald R. Fuller has been a speech-language pathologist for 16 years. He is Chair of the Department of Communication Disorders at Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA. His doctorate degree was earned from Purdue University in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

Related Courses

Birth to Three - Special Considerations for Speech Sound Disorders in Children with Cleft Palate &/or Velopharyngeal Dysfunction
Presented by Anne Bedwinek, PhD, CCC-SLP


Anne Bedwinek, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #6718 1 Hour
  'excellent, relevant information'   Read Reviews
This is the 2nd course in a 4-part series, SSD in Children with Cleft Palate and/or VPD. This course will focus on special considerations needed during the first three years of life for the child born with cleft lip-palate and/or velopharyngeal dysfunction. Emphasis will be placed on referral to and collaboration with a child’s cleft palate-craniofacial team. Principles and techniques will be illustrated for use during the first three years of life. (Part 1: Course 6723, Part 3: Course 6734, Part 4: Course 6733)

Naturalistic Developmental Interventions in Autism
Presented by G. Robert Buckendorf, PhD, CCC-SLP


G. Robert Buckendorf, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #7131 1 Hour
  'Interesting topic presented with a number of more areas to complete more research into for more functional treatment'   Read Reviews
Naturalistic interventions, which combine behavioral and developmental interventions, are being implemented in a number of educational and clinical settings. As part of the practice in our pediatric clinic, we are treating younger and younger children, targeting early prelinguistic and engagement skills, and focusing on natural, playful exchanges between children and others. This course will describe several empirically validated naturalistic interventions, describe some of their features, and discuss how they are currently being used in our clinical setting.

Vanderbilt SLP Journal Club: What Does It Mean When a Child Talks Late?
Presented by Stephen Camarata, PhD, CCC-SLP


Stephen Camarata, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #7330 1 Hour
  'The data supporting the efficacy of early intervention and the explanations of why certain diagnoses in certain studies are not considered valid'   Read Reviews
When a child talks late, it could be a passing developmental phase, or a symptom of speech and/or language disorders or a more serious disability such as autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability. The purpose of this course is to provide a framework for differential diagnosis of these conditions in late talking toddlers and preschooler children.

Understanding Hearing Loss for Speech Language Pathologists: Part 2, Reviewing Audiograms
Presented by Jane Madell, PhD, CCC-A/SLP, LSLS Cert AVT


Jane Madell, PhD, CCC-A/SLP, LSLS Cert AVT
Course: #7420 1 Hour
  'good charts'   Read Reviews
This course will review audiograms and assist speech-language pathologists in understanding hearing loss and how to use audiologic test results to plan management. (This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 is course 7248.)

DIRFloortime®: It's Not Just for Treating Autism - Part 1
Presented by Joleen R. Fernald, PhD/ABD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL


Joleen R. Fernald, PhD/ABD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL
Course: #7460 1 Hour
  'The discussion of the videos and questions from the audience were very helpful'   Read Reviews
This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. DIRFloortime® is most widely known for its benefit in supporting children with an Autism diagnosis. However, it is a framework that can be used with children and adults with a wide array of various diagnoses such as articulation and phonological disorders, selective mutism, language disorders, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, traumatic brain injury and feeding disorders. Part 1 will focus on evidence-based literature, the first two Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities, and individual differences. (Part 2 - Course #7523)