A while ago, I received an email from a friend of a friend in America asking me about the profession of speech pathology. Would I recommend it? What was the salary like? Did I enjoy it? I thought his questions were good (quite insightful really) and hopefully I was able to answer his questions appropriately. If you are reading this and have other suggestions, please feel free to contribute. Here is my friend’s first question.
I was wondering if it takes a certain skill set to be a speech therapist?
Speech Pathology is sort of what I thought it would be when I started – but also quite a bit different. For one thing, I thought it was predominantly paediatrics, but there is a lot of adult study and work too. Personal experience has taught me that enjoying the job will depend on the amount of internal motivation you have. Depending on where you are working – you really have to want to help that child with autism to understand that he has to say a word to get a response, or really want that man who cannot follow directions after a stroke to be able to “put the pen on the book”. With young children, you have to be willing to get on the floor, blow bubbles and be as clinical, creative and imaginative as possible. With adults, you have to have the skills to be clinical, empower the patient, be consistent and be persistent.
(Honest moment) It can be exhausting, frustrating and at times, laborious (reports!) but every profession has elements of that. There is no magic pill for speech, language, voice or swallowing concerns, so things can take time. In the end though (and frequently along the way), the frustrations are outweighed by the moments when your client achieves their therapy goals. This is a pretty good feeling.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA – America’s governing Speech Pathology body) summed it up pretty nicely with the following:
SLPs must have:
- a sincere interest in helping people
- above‑average intellectual aptitude
- the sensitivity, personal warmth, and perspective to interact with a person who has a communication problem
- scientific aptitude, patience, emotional stability, tolerance and persistence
- resourcefulness and imagination
- a commitment to work cooperatively with others
- the ability to communicate both orally and in writing
I am sure we are not all of these things all the time, but it gives you an idea of the sort of qualities that would stand you in good stead as a speech therapist. As with most professions in health and education, it is important to find a good work/life balance. You spend a lot of your day supporting and, in a way counselling or uplifting children, parents and adult patients who are experiencing a range of difficulties that affect their day-to-day living. You do need to be in a frame of mind that allows you to help others.
Next time, Part 2: If I were to study and become skilled as a speech pathologist, would I be able to comfortably support a family?
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about speech pathology or need to arrange speech therapy, make an appointment with one of our speech pathologists. Contact us today!