What is a speech pathologist and what do they do?

Speech pathologists diagnose and treat children and adults with communication and swallowing disorders.  This includes difficulties with swallowing/feeding, speech/articulation, language, stuttering, voice and pragmatics (social aspects of communication).   Watch the clip below if you would like to know more about the role of a speech pathologist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpy3F9PltAg

Is there a governing body for speech pathologists?

Yes.  The governing body for speech pathologists is Speech Pathology Australia (SPA).   SPA provides professional development and guidelines for speech pathologists in Australia as well as binding members through a code of ethics.  Speech pathologists are required to participate in a self-regulation professional development program in order to maintain status as a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist. You can visit SPA at www.speechpathologyaustralia.com.au for more information about speech pathologists.

Do I need a referral?

You do not usually need a referral to see a speech pathologist.

Can I get a Medicare or health fund rebate?

Medicare may provide a rebate for speech pathology services when a Chronic Disease Management Plan has been issued.  This plan is usually issued by your GP at their discretion.

Most health funds offer rebates for speech pathology services.  However this depends on your level of cover.  You should check with your health fund to see if you are entitled to claim your visits.

For more information about possible rebates and funded programs see….https://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/spaweb/Document_Management/Public/What_is_a_Speech_Pathologist_.aspx

What is the difference between speech and language?

‘Speech’ refers to the way we make sounds with our mouth (i.e. lips and tongue) and ‘language’ includes vocabulary, grammar and the way we structure our sentences to communicate. A child/adult can have speech and language disorders separately or at the same time.

Does my child need speech or language therapy?

You should see a Speech Pathologist if you have any concerns about your child’s communication or learning. It is also good to visit your GP or paediatrician to ensure your child is developing appropriately. However you do not need a referral to see a Speech Pathologist.

There are a number of indicators or “red flags” that may highlight whether investigation is required. Please note that this list is indicative only and is not diagnostic or complete. That is, the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily suggest your child does or does not have a disorder.


  • Does not produce sounds or respond to people e.g. babbling or making eye contact.
  • Is not using language like other children their age. As a guide, children should have approximately 50-200 words by the age of 2 and are beginning to join words together e.g. “mummy bag”.
  • Speech is unclear or replaces sounds in words. You should be able to understand children 3-4 years approximately 75% of the time and by 5 years almost 100% of the time.
  • Repeats words or sounds (e.g. "the the the car"; "ddddog") and this has been happening for more the 6 months.
  • Doesn’t interact like other children e.g. asking questions or commenting.
  • Prefers to play on their own or shows unusual play habits e.g. frequently grouping objects in lines/rows, repetitive actions.
  • Is behind others at school, they don’t enjoy reading and/or find it very difficult.
  • Does not write as well as they talk e.g. they can tell you in detail about an event however they do not do the same when writing stories or recounts of events.