Speech Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy, also known as speech-language pathology, is the diagnosis and treatment of communication issues and speech disorders. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), or speech therapists, assess, diagnose, and treat oral-motor, swallowing, cognitive-linguistic, speech, fluency/stuttering, voice, and language disorders. They work with both adults and children in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and schools.
The goal of speech therapy is to restore vocal function and quality by implementing exercises to improve vocal cord strength, endurance, and flexibility, and the balance of breathing, phonation (producing sounds), and resonance.
Some of the specific conditions requiring treatment by an SLP include:
- Articulation disorders – The inability to form certain word sounds, including substituting an incorrect sound or leaving out parts of words entirely.
- Cognitive-communication disorders – Communication issues that stem from an injury to the brain. Cognitive-communication disorders can result in issues with memory, problem solving, and normal conversation.
- Resonance disorders – Often associated with cleft palate or neurological disorders, resonance disorders occur when an obstruction of normal air flow alters voice quality.
- Fluency disorders – Trouble with the rhythm or flow of speech, like stuttering and cluttering.
- Receptive disorders – Problems understanding what others say, causing the sufferer to seem uninterested by others.
Who Needs Speech Therapy?
A patient is said to have a speech disorder when they are unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently or has difficulty with their voice or resonance.
Speech disorders can be caused by conditions like:
- Vocal cord damage
- Oral cancer
- Muscle weakness
- Polyps or nodules on the vocal cords
How to Prepare for Your Speech Therapy?
Preparing ahead of time will help you or your family member make the most of your speech therapy appointment, especially when it’s the first one.
It’s a good idea to consider:
- Health history – You should be able to share your medical history and plan for a thorough evaluation. Understand that other health issues may affect your communication problems, even if they don’t seem related.
- Medical records – It’s also important to get your medical records transferred to your SLP, so that they can learn about your clinical treatment history.
- Insurance coverage – Speech therapy coverage can vary from plan to plan, so call your insurance provider to find out what your policy covers.
- Questions or concerns – Write down a list of questions or topics you’d like to cover with your SLP in advance. This can include questions about measuring the success of treatment, information about the diagnosis, and exercises to do at home.
What to Expect During Your Speech Therapy?
Your treatment will depend on multiple factors, including the severity of your diagnosis and your underlying medical condition.
Speech-language pathologists have a variety of treatment methods to address speech conditions, including:
- Mouth exercises – Used to strengthen oral muscles and increase the endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw.
- Social communication activities – SLPs may use exercises like memory activities, problem solving, and conversation examples to help patients improve communication.
- Swallowing exercises – Conditions like oral cancer, a stroke, or Parkinson’s disease can cause complications with swallowing.
- Breathing exercises – Useful for those who have resonance issues or trouble sequencing their breathing, voicing, and articulation.
Your appointment is only the beginning of your treatment process. For best results, it’s important to follow the exercise recommendations provided by your therapist at home.
If you’re experiencing difficulty with swallowing, a modified barium swallow study may be done in conjunction with the radiology department to further evaluate function.
Speech Therapy Services Near Me
Lifespan’s highly-trained speech therapists are ready to provide you with expert treatment and education. We work closely with the otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) and plastic surgery departments to provide comprehensive patient care.