Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy: What's the Difference?

Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy: What's the Difference?

Navigating the Allied Health field as a parent can be daunting – so many acronyms, so many specialists, so many opportunities for confusion!  

 

I’m here to unpack the difference between two Allied Health fields in particular: Speech Pathology, and Occupational Therapy. These two fields often collaborate with each other to coordinate services to support children with Speech, Language, and Learning difficulties.

 

Speech Pathology

AKA: Speech Therapist, Speech-Language Pathology, Speechie

 

Speech Pathologists, like those here at Speech Therapy Services, are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat communication difficulties, including:

 

  • Articulation (pronunciation of sounds)
  • Language (understanding and using words, forming sentences, telling stories, expressing wants and needs)
  • Literacy (reading, writing, and spelling)
  • (vocal quality, volume)
  • Social Skills (following instructions, understanding expected behaviours, consequences of unexpected behaviours)
  • Fluency (stuttering/stammering)
  • Swallowing and Feeding (infant feeding problems, fussy eaters, difficulty managing food and swallowing safely)

 

Speech Pathologists can help people with diagnoses including:

 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Developmental/Global delay
  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing loss/deafness
  • Auditory processing
  • Dyslexia
  • Developmental Language Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cleft palate
  • Tongue/lip tie
  • Head/Neck/Throat Cancer
  • Stroke/Transient Ischemic Attack/cardiovascular attack
  • Traumatic/Acquired Brain Injury
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Speech Pathologists can also prescribe equipment to augment or assist communication, for example:

  • A communication book for a nonverbal teenager with ASD to chat with his friends at school
  • A speech output device to allow a person with Parkinson’s Disease to preserve their voice and communicate needs and wants
  • Key Word Sign to help a preverbal toddler understand the world around them
  • A text to speech device to assist a school age child who has difficulties using their voice talk to their teacher

 

Occupational Therapy

AKA: OT

 

Although “Occupational Therapy” may sound like what you need when looking for a job, the role of OTs in practice is very different!

 

An ‘occupation’ is any meaningful way that you spend time during your day. Occupational Therapy Australia, the governing body for OTs in this country, refers to occupation as:

  • the things we do in our life roles
  • the things we do to be who we are
  • the things we do to create meaning (https://www.otaus.com.au/)

OTs help people to develop, or recover, their abilities to engage in these meaningful activities, and to lead fulfilling lives. These occupations can include:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs)

-Self-care activities such as showering, dressing, grooming and eating

 

  • Household and community functioning

-Home maintenance, driving, budgeting, shopping and community mobility

 

  • Education

-Activities which allow a person to participate effectively in a learning environment

 

  • Leisure and play
  • Social participation

-Interacting positively with others in the community

  • Work (paid and unpaid)

-Participating in employment and volunteer activities

Occupational Therapists can help people with diagnoses including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Developmental/Global delay
  • Intellectual disability
  • Congenital conditions e.e.: Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome
  • Chronic illnesses e.g.: Cancer, arthritis, diabetes
  • Stroke/Transient Ischemic Attack/cardiovascular attack
  • Traumatic/Acquired Brain Injury
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Acute conditions e.g.: burns, HIV, falls
  • Mental health issues
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Workplace injuries

 

Occupational Therapists can also prescribe equipment to help people participate in life, including:

  • Mobility equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, modified driving controls in cars)
  • Grab rails to minimise risk of falls
  • Modified telecommunications equipment
  • Toileting aids
  • Home modifications (ramps, lowered countertops, counter-weighted utensils)

 

Although these two Allied Health professions are very different, you can see there is a lot of overlap between the types of people that Speechies and OTs can help. Often times, input from both disciplines is needed to fully support an individual – in this case, a team is put together and team members collaborate on goals and treatment.

Do you have questions about this article, or about the Allied Health field?

Want to know if a Speech Pathologist could help your child?

You can send us an email, give us a call (94553927) or find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/speechtherapyperth/