Speech Pathology Courses and Classes Overview
A speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist, is someone who works with patients to diagnose, assess or treat problems related to speech, voice, language or swallowing. Speech pathology courses are taken as part of undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
Although bachelor's programs in speech-language pathology exist at some schools, a master's degree is the minimum education requirement, in addition to certification or licensure, for most speech pathology careers. The accreditation agency for such programs is the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA). Students pursuing a master's degree in speech-language pathology normally have to complete some prerequisite coursework, though possessing a bachelor's degree in the field isn't necessary for admission.
Students in a speech-language pathology program at the bachelor's level usually complete science classes in biology and human anatomy and physiology. Both undergraduate and graduate programs include courses that cover language disorders that affect different age groups, voice disorders, swallowing disorders and hearing science. Students learn to assess patients and treat their disorders using various tools, techniques and technologies. Additional courses that might be taken in a speech-language pathology program include those in maxillofacial disorders, counseling, fluency disorders, motor speech disorders and alternative communication.
Several clinical practica are completed during the course of a speech-language pathology program, usually starting as early as the first semester in a master's program. Some practica may focus on hearing, while others focus on speech and language. Such supervised clinical experience is usually required for licensure.
Overview of Speech Pathology Courses
Sample courses in a speech pathology degree program are explained below.
Anatomy and Physiology Course
An anatomy and physiology course is one of the first in a series of speech pathology courses. This course focuses on the anatomy and physiology of humans as it relates to speech and language. Students learn about speech functions and structure as well as auditory and vestibular (equilibrium) systems. This course covers the nervous system and how it affects communication physically and chemically. In some cases, this course may include dissecting human cadavers.
Child Language Disorders Course
A child language disorders course may cover all areas of pediatric speech, or may be broken down into specific age groups, such as preschool, school-age and adolescent. No matter the specific population, this course covers language disorder assessment tools and principles. Students learn about language intervention, phonology, pediatric speech disorders and normal speech development in children.
Dysphagia is a condition where it is painful or difficult to swallow. In a dysphagia course, students learn about the signs and symptoms of the condition and how to evaluate patients. Dysphagia can affect children and adults, so students learn treatments for patients of all ages. Specific topics in this course may include assistive tools, diet modification, treatments techniques and modified swallowing procedures.
Voice Disorders Course
There are a variety of voice disorders that may warrant treatment by a speech pathologist. This course gives an overview of voice disorders and voice production problems. Topics covered may include psychogenic disturbance, dysphonia (hoarse or weak voice), or resonance imbalance. Students also learn how to use certain tools and technologies to treat voice disorders. These tools may include videostroboscopy, manomentries, videoflouroscopies or Visi-pitch instruments.
Speech Pathology Clinical Course
In a speech pathology clinical or practicum course, students learn through hands-on, practical training. Students work under the supervision of a teacher or other licensed speech pathologist to prescribe patient treatment plans, file reports and counsel patients. This is a course that allows students to practice speech therapy and develop their own strategies for patient interaction and diagnosis. Techniques are developed in order to manage speech problems and change patients' behaviors.
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