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Did you know that nearly 2.4 billion people worldwide have a condition that would benefit from rehabilitative care?

These healthcare services help individuals who have an impairment, whether due to an accident, injury, or illness. No matter the cause, rehabilitation aims to enhance their skills and help patients function on their own. As a result, they can lead better quality lives.

Although all branches of rehabilitative care have the same goals, there are some crucial differences in their roles. This post will look at occupational therapy and speech pathology, allowing you to understand how they aid patients.

So whether you are considering your career path or need to find the best therapy for a loved one, this post can help!

What Does a Speech Pathologist Do?

Speech and language pathologists work at schools, hospitals, and other healthcare centers. They focus on diagnosing and treating problems relating to communication and swallowing.

A speech and language pathologist must first check their patient’s ability to communicate or swallow. Then, they diagnose the condition and develop an individualized plan of treatment.

Next, the speech therapist schedules sessions with the patient. During each one, they track their progress as their abilities improve.

During sessions, language pathologists have patients do speech therapy exercises. Sometimes, patients have severe speech issues. In these cases, they help them develop an alternative method of communication.

Another important role of speech therapists is educating their patients’ caregivers or parents.

In the case of pediatric speech therapy, parents usually continue to work with their children at home. This is possible only after receiving instructions from their speech therapist.

Even when administering speech therapy for adults, teaching the patient’s loved ones how to assist can go a long way.

Who Does a Speech Pathologist Treat?

Speech therapists see patients with various disorders. They include speech, language, hearing, eating, or swallowing problems. Let’s look at some of the most common disorders speech and language pathologists treat.

Language Disorders

Language disorders make it difficult for individuals to understand language or express themselves. One such condition is aphasia, which results from brain damage.

Auditory processing disorder is similar. It prevents a person’s brain from understanding the meaning of words even though they can hear them. It often presents itself in childhood due to illness, premature birth, genes, or a head injury.

Speech Disorders

These disorders make it challenging for patients to produce sounds.

One of the most common conditions is stuttering. It prevents individuals from speaking without pauses and repetition.

Speech therapists help patients who stutter slow down their speech to speak more clearly. Over time, they can gradually speed up the pace while remaining clear.

Apraxia is another speech disorder. It prevents the brain from directing the speaking muscles adequately. Some of the exercises that speech pathologists to help apraxia patients include:

  • Practicing sounds and words
  • Putting different sounds together
  • Using rhythm and melodies to aid sound development
  • Forming words while looking in the mirror or touching the face

Speech therapists use similar exercises with children who have articulation disorders. These prevent them from forming specific sounds. For example, they may not be able to pronounce the “s” or interchange it with the “th-” sound.

Cognitive Disorders

Sometimes, communication issues stem from cognitive disorders. Some things that can cause these disorders are:

  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Brain injury

Speech pathologists can help patients recover their communication capacity through therapeutic techniques. They also use compensatory methods that teach them to rely on their strengths to make up for their lost skills.

Social Disorders

Speech therapists also assist those who struggle to socialize. For example, those on the autism spectrum understand speech. Yet, they find it challenging to greet others and take part in conversations.

Others may not talk at all. They need help communicating their needs with parents and caregivers.

Speech therapists work to improve social disorders in various ways that cater to their patient’s needs. They may help them comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication, such as body language. They may also teach them how to initiate conversations.

Swallowing Disorders

Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing, which can stem from different causes. Speech and language pathologists are responsible for getting to the root of the problem.

Sometimes, the culprit is damage to the brain or nerves. However, it may also be something as simple as ill-fitting dentures.

Speech and language pathologists can help people learn to use their muscles to swallow safely and with increased ease.

What Qualifications Does a Speech Pathologist Possess?

Speech pathologists usually have a Master’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. It includes clinical experience.

Speech pathologists also need to complete a clinical fellowship. After, they must pass an exam to earn their certification.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Sometimes, pain or reduced mobility prevents a person from doing their everyday activities. When this occurs, an occupational therapist can help.

They observe the way patients do tasks. Then, they teach them how to adapt to their changing circumstances. This helps them maintain as much freedom as possible while reducing discomfort.

Examples of the activities they may focus on include:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Bathing
  • Getting dressed
  • Doing household chores, such as laundry or preparing meals
  • Participating in hobbies

At the first appointment, the occupational therapist evaluates the patient’s needs. Sometimes they come to their home or workplace so they can see how daily life is for the patient.

If the patient is a child, they may go to their school. Doing so helps them see what the patient does and what changes they should put in place.

For example, they may see the need to rearrange the patient’s home to make it more accessible. Or they might recommend getting a cane, a walker, or a grabber to help them do their chores with ease.

Then, the therapist will help the patient develop a plan for improving their mobility. They’ll also help them set realistic goals, such as:

  • Buttoning a shirt
  • Tying shoelaces
  • Working on the computer
  • Getting in and out of the shower
  • Grasping a pencil

Depending on the patient’s needs, achieving these goals may involve improving physical skills. So the therapist will help them do muscle-strengthening exercises. If this isn’t possible, they may teach them new ways to do things.

Therapists will also help family members learn to help their loved ones complete daily tasks.

As their condition improves, they may need to let caregivers know which tasks they can do on their own. They should also alert them of the ones they still need help performing.

Therapists may also teach caregivers to help patients do their exercises. They might also show them methods to build coordination and balance. While it requires good communication, it helps the patient have better long-term outcomes.

Who Benefits from Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy can help anyone who struggles to do tasks, including individuals who live with the side effects of:

  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Poor vision
  • Stroke
  • Brain or spinal cord injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Birth defects

These are just some of the patients who commonly require the assistance of an occupational therapist. Anyone with reduced mobility or a health condition may benefit from their support.

Even aging people without significant health problems find their services useful. For this reason, many nursing homes have occupational therapists on staff.

What Training Does an Occupational Therapist Need?

Occupational therapists need to have a Master’s degree from an accredited program and get a license to practice. This involves passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam.

After certification, some occupational therapists attend more training. It enables them to work with specific groups of people, such as children or the elderly.

Speech Pathology Vs. Occupational Therapy

After learning about both of these healthcare professionals, you understand their role in the medical field. But how do they compare? Let’s look at a few key similarities and differences!

Similarities Between Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy

Working with patients overcoming challenges relating to speech or mobility requires similar qualities. These include empathy, compassion, and patience.

It’s true that speech pathologists and occupational therapists treat different issues. Yet, their approach to treatment is quite similar.

For example, they both begin with an evaluation that helps them understand each patient’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, using the information they learned during their observation, they create a viable treatment plan.

Both of these rehabilitative careers require professionals who are observant, critical thinkers, and effective problem-solvers. These skills don’t only help them diagnose the issue. They also help throughout the treatment since they need to oversee the patient’s progress and determine whether they should modify their therapy.

Another similarity between occupational therapy and speech pathology is the need to educate families and caregivers. This helps patients benefit from their therapy as much as possible. To do so effectively, both types of professionals need stellar communication skills.

Occupational therapists and speech pathologists also attend similar educational programs, including a Master’s degree and an internship of some kind. Both are highly skilled once they get into the field and begin working with patients.

Moreover, both careers lead to high-paying jobs that make about $80,000 on average.

Differences Between Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy

Of course, there are many differences between the roles and responsibilities of speech therapists and occupational therapists.

While speech pathologists only focus on speech and swallowing, occupational therapists assist with many daily tasks. Their work is more physically demanding since it may require helping people get out of bed, move from room to room, or bathe.

Further, occupational therapists may travel to homes, schools, and offices or work out of a healthcare center or nursing home. Speech pathologists usually work at one location, such as a school or rehabilitation facility.

And although the level of education is similar, occupational therapists need a license. Meanwhile, speech pathologists do not always need a certification to practice.

Another significant difference is the job outlook for these fields. Speech and language pathologists have a higher growth projection, which is about 29 percent over the next ten years. In comparison, occupational therapy positions will rise by 17 percent.

Speech Therapist or Occupational Therapist: Which Should You Choose?

Occupational therapists are best for those who want to improve their overall ability to live and work independently. Speech and language pathologists are most suitable for communication, eating, or swallowing issues.

Some patients can benefit from the help of both a speech and language pathologist and an occupational therapist.

For example, those who have suffered a stroke or an injury may need speech therapy to help them regain their ability to communicate. Meanwhile, an occupational therapist helps them get back to doing the tasks they used to.

Ask your doctor if you aren’t sure which therapist best suits you or your loved one’s needs. They will let you know what kind of therapy is best and direct you to trusted professionals in your area. Sometimes, hospitals and medical centers have therapists on staff, so ask if you aren’t sure.

Now You Know How Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy Benefits Patients!

Speech pathology and occupational therapy play essential roles in the healthcare field.

After reading this post, you have a better idea of what professionals in these careers do and the types of patients they treat. As a result, you can choose the proper rehabilitative assistance for yourself or a loved one!

And if you are choosing a new career, you likely have a better idea of which therapy job suits your interests more!

Would you like to learn more information related to medical jobs? If so, take a look at more of our health and wellness content!

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