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Occupational Therapy vs Speech Therapy: Which is Right for You


For those interested in hands-on care, getting your degree and certifications in either occupational therapy or speech therapy can greatly improve your enjoyment in your job and your earning potential. While both speech therapy and occupational therapy can do a lot for those challenges in speaking and swallowing, the full scope of the work can be quite different.

Similar Aspects Between the Two Fields

Both OT (occupational therapist) and SLT (speech language therapist) work to improve the client’s life experience. Both professions can be involved in learning or relearning the ability to

  • express themselves effectively
  • swallow foods safely to avoid choking
  • swallow liquids efficiently to avoid aspiration

Both of these professionals can work with clients of all ages, including children with speech impediments or structural challenges, adults who have suffered accidents or injuries to the jaw and face, or senior citizens who have suffered a stroke or are dealing with a degenerative condition.


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Differences to Consider

While an occupational therapist can turn any daily activity into an exercise to allow for the improvement of muscular activity and coordination, graduates of speech language pathology graduate programs focus on

  • mechanisms of the mouth and throat
  • communication and expression

The mechanism improvement process is critical in several ways. For a senior citizen who has suffered a stroke, the swallowing process may have become inefficient or ineffective. 

Throat muscles may have become paralyzed by the injury and the patient will need to relearn to work the throat and tongue in combination to successfully send food down the esophagus while protecting the trachea. In addition to rebuilding this muscular coordination, the speech therapist may also work with a patient to improve chewing efficiency.

Another symptom of a client overcoming stroke injury is the loss of tongue control. The tongue is critical to moving food effectively so the chewing process is most efficient. Of course, a mobile tongue is also critical to speech. You can also check out is occupational therapy doctorate Worth It?

Speech therapists also work to build communication capacity. Aphasia is quite common after an accident or severe blow to the head. Aphasia takes many forms, often either as an inability to remember the name of something or someone or in remembering what something is for. 

Stroke victims can often struggle with left-right aphasia after an incident. In this case, the client can hold something in their right hand and understand what it is, but not what it is for, but when they switch hands they know what something is for but not what it is called.

An OT professional will also work with the client on regaining or building strength and dexterity in the rest of the body. This can include relearning to use a knife and fork, how to hold a cup or a glass, and how to manage a toothbrush. You might also be interested in what is (Thought Field Therapy) TFT tapping?

Both OT and PT professionals do a great deal to help people better improve their daily lives. If you are trying to determine your best training option, consider how much physical activity you enjoy on a daily basis. While speech therapists work more closely on one section of the body, occupational therapists have more movement built into their day. For more information, you can always check out Speech Pathology Graduate Programs.


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