As a parent, navigating the Allied Health field can be overwhelming given the number of acronyms, therapists, specialists and opportunities for confusion!

Today’s blog will help to unpack the difference between the two Allied Health professions of Speech Pathology, and Occupational Therapy. While these two fields often collaborate with each other to co-ordinate services to support children, we know that their focus and skill sets are very different.

So let’s examine their roles individually and then consider how they might work together to support children and adolescents.

“What’s the difference between Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy?”

Speech Pathologist

AKA: Speech Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist, Speechie

The team at Active Speech Pathology are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat communication difficulties, including:

  • Speech (production of sounds we use when we talk)
  • Language (understanding and using words, forming sentences, telling stories, expressing wants and needs)
  • Literacy (reading, writing, and spelling)
  • Social Skills (How Speech Pathologists Help With Social Skills)

Occupational Therapist


Although “Occupational Therapy” may sound like what you need when looking for a job, the role of OTs in paediatric practice is very different!  In this context, an ‘occupation’ is any meaningful way that a child spends time during their 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

OTs help children to develop, or recover, their abilities to engage in these meaningful activities, and to lead fulfilling lives. An OT will support:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs): Self-care activities such as showering, dressing, grooming and eating
  • 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

Occupational Therapists can also prescribe equipment to help a child participate in life, including (but not limited to) sensory, feeding and toileting tools.

Who do Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists work with?

It is often the case that Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists work in tandem to support children and young people with the following diagnoses:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Developmental/Global delay
  • Intellectual disability
  • Hearing loss
  • Auditory processing
  • Dyslexia
  • Developmental Language Disorder
  • and more

Although these two Allied Health professions are very different, you can see there is overlap between the populations that Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists can help. Often, input from both disciplines is needed to fully support an individual – in this case, team members collaborate on goals and treatment.

How might Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists work together?

There are many ways! Here is one example: Children with Autism often need support from Speech Pathologists to improve their speech sound production, as well as target syntax and morphology in their language. To better serve these children, a Speech Pathologist may work with an Occupational Therapist to align skill development in a number of ways, such as integrating handwriting to supplement their verbal communication. A Speech Pathologist may also work with an Occupational Therapist to set up an optimal classroom (and therapy) environment for the child’s physical and hearing needs, and improve social or behavioral issues that may accompany speech and language disorders.

Want to know if a Speech Pathologist at Active Speech Pathology could help your child? Give us a call (3103 0776).