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The role of a Speech Pathologist in supporting behaviour

Many people are aware of the role of psychologists in working with individuals and their support systems to manage behaviours of concern. However, not many people understand the role of a speech pathologist when it comes to behaviour.

Behaviour refers to the way that someone conducts themselves including interactions with others and their environment. Behaviour can include avoidance of a situation or seeking out particular experiences. It can include showing affection or showing aggression. It is complex, varied and unique to every individual.

Behaviour is a normal and integral part of being human. Sometimes individuals can have difficulty regulating their behaviours or understanding social and cultural expectations in relation to appropriate behaviour. We all have our own unique behaviours, but sometimes when behaviours cause risk or harm to oneself or others, support from a healthcare team can become important.

Speech pathologists are one part of the team that can work with individuals who have behaviours of concern. Speech pathologists are specialists in cognition and communication and view behaviour through this lens. Speech pathologists are qualified to explore the purpose and meaning behind someone’s behaviour to investigate what the individual might be communicating, and to provide support to develop communication skills accordingly.

For example, for someone who has difficulty thinking of the words they want to say, it may be easier and more effective for them to cry or scream. Someone who uses physical aggression may be communicating that they are feeling scared or threatened in a particular environment. Perhaps someone breaks objects when they are frustrated because their supports don’t understand their unclear speech. All of these behaviours are allowing an individual to communicate when they have difficulty communicating through speech and language.

So given that behaviour at its very core is a form of communication, speech pathologists are well placed to provide support. Speech pathologists can work within a team to not only explore what a behaviour is communicating, but can work with an individual and their supports to develop communication skills and strategies to maximise alternative, more constructive ways of getting messages across.

Ask us about how we can work with you to support you and your loved one today.


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