A speech therapist, also known as a language pathologist, examines, diagnoses and treats patients with speech disorders. Speech therapists may work with the deaf, stroke patients, laryngectomized patients, children with delayed language learning or non-native English speakers who wish to improve their accents.
To become a speech therapist, a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology is needed, though most employers require a Master of Science in Speech Pathology. Coursework in such programs will provide students with an understanding of language acquisition, the anatomy and physiology of speech, voice and language disorders and language delay. Students will be exposed to case studies and some classes also require field work.
Some common concepts encountered in speech therapy classes may include:
- Research methods
- Language models
- Neural bases
- Applied speech science
List of Courses in Speech Therapy
Speech and Language Acquisition Course
One of the first speech therapy courses that students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology take is a speech and language acquisition class. This introductory level class provides an overview of the normal progression of language acquisition from infancy to adolescence, theories concerning language acquisition, social factors in speech acquisition, the development of dialects and potential problems in speech development.
Speech Anatomy and Physiology Course
In addition to understanding the processes of language acquisition, future speech therapists require an in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the auditory and speech systems. Most speech pathology majors will take a specialized anatomy and physiology class, where they learn about the mechanisms behind breathing, articulating sounds and receiving sounds. In some programs, students examine cadavers in order to observe the larynx, pharynx, esophageal and auditory systems through the sinuses and into the ear, as well as their neurological connections. Coursework may also introduce common anatomical abnormalities that can result in speech problems.
Speech Therapy and Phonetics Course
Undergraduate speech therapy majors are often required to take a course in phonetics. This class provides an overview of speech sounds from a physiological, descriptive and acoustic perspective. Students learn to identify, describe, classify and transcribe different types of speech sounds with the international phonetic alphabet. Emphasis is typically placed on American English phonetics.
Voice and Language Disorders Course
Classes in voice and language disorders are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Topics may include physiological speech problems related to paralysis, ulcers, cleft palette or damaged vocal nodules, as well as motor speech disorders and neurological speech problems, such as dysarthria and apraxia. Students learn about the causes of these disorders and the most common treatment techniques.
Speech Problems in Children Course
Both bachelor's and master degree programs in speech therapy offer classes devoted to speech pathologies in children. Students are introduced to common problems related to speech acquisition and development in infancy, early childhood and adolescence, including stuttering, lisps and developmental delays. Students also learn about the potential physiological, psychological and social causes of these problems. In these speech therapy courses, students learn how to assess speech disorders in children and how to treat them.
Speech Problems in the Elderly Course
Speech therapy degree programs also offer courses devoted to speech problems and communication disorders in the elderly, particularly dysphagia. Speech therapy majors learn about the causes of these problems and various techniques for treatment.