According to a survey by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 7.7% of American children were diagnosed with a speech or swallowing disorder in 2016. A speech disorder is when a person has problems communicating with others. It is usually a result of abnormal growth and development of the tongue, cheeks, jaws, or lips.
Parents or guardians play an important role when it comes to shaping children’s speech because they learn it through listening and repeating. If a child gets diagnosed with a speech disorder, or some injury or stroke has resulted in aphasia or dysarthria in adults, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help.
For adults, the problem might be a result of trauma, and rectification might require a professional’s touch. That’s where speech therapists come in.
SLPs handle a wide range of issues for patients of all ages. Before hiring one, be sure to conduct research to find the right one for you! Here, we will discuss which therapy is best for certain condition.
1. Speech Therapy Helps with Swallowing Problems
Swallowing disorders can develop, both in adults and in children. The general signs of a swallowing disorder are:
- Coughs during eating or drinking
- Gurgly voice after eating or drinking
- Food leaking from the mouth
- Food stuck in the mouth
- Pain when swallowing
- Unable to get food down the throat
- Trouble breathing after meals
This might result in dehydration or malnutrition if left untreated. Patients might also be prone to aspiration or pneumonia.
SLPs train patients how to chew better before swallowing. They also offer patients different ways to sit and position their head when eating, and may recommend softer foods to ease the swallowing process further. SLPs may further recommend exercises that can strengthen your throat muscles.
A very effective way of assessing swallowing problems is the videofluoroscopic swallow evaluation, or the video swallow study, a process for which extensive training is required.
2. Speech Therapy for Stuttering
Stuttering happens when someone gets stuck on certain words or sounds, mid-speech or otherwise. Speech isn’t as fluent because of blocks, where they might have a hard time getting a word out. They might also prolong a certain sound more than usual, repeat parts of words, or repeat one-syllable words mid-speech.
SLPs offer a wide range of exercises to help people with a stutter. They might use direct or indirect strategies to make it easier for the person to talk. Also, a speech therapist can teach parents how to respond when the child stutters and how to improve fluency.
3. Hearing Impairments
Hearing loss also impacts one’s speech and language skills, as they are going to speak the way they hear. SLPs can determine the extent of the impairment and thus, create exercises focusing specifically on certain sounds and areas. SLPs may notice that someone who can’t hear well in low frequencies demonstrates a weak or breathy voice. They are also unable to distinguish between voiced and voiceless consonants. An exercise with a focus on consonants can help reduce the resultant speech disorder.
4. Dysarthria & Aphasia
Dysarthria is the impairment of speech skills due to brain or nerve damage that results in a slow, inaccurate, and uncoordinated movement of speech muscles. Dysarthria is a result of muscles weakening due to an injury, while aphasia is a result of a severed connection.
To treat aphasia, speech therapists capitalize on and strengthen weaknesses in the patient’s communicative patterns and take either restorative (restoring impaired functions) or compensatory (compensating for deficiencies) actions. The most common way of treating Aphasia patients is in the form of community Aphasia groups, offering patients a chance to socialize and converse.
SLPs often suggest Dysarthria patients to slow down their speech, and make them speak louder. They give them exercises to give more motion to their lips and tongue to make their speech muscles stronger; in addition to using gestures or other ways to communicate.
5. Phonological Disorder
The term “phonological disorder” is an umbrella under which a range of speech impairments lie. The cause for these disorders includes motor-based, structural disorders, or sensory conditions.
Treatment for such phonological disorders includes the SLP first studying the patient and finding out more about what sounds they aren’t able to produce. Then, the therapist can use target selection for initial therapy.
Based on goals set by the SLP, there are three types of strategies that can be used: vertical (intense), horizontal (less intense with few targets), and cyclical (with elements of both horizontal and vertical treatment).
Speech therapy can help children and adults with a wide range of conditions other than the ones mentioned above, such as fluency, language, cognition, and voice.
So, if you or a loved one faces any speech-related problem, don’t hesitate to ask for help! At PT Solutions, we help patients of all ages gain confidence with their speech. Click here or visit a clinic near you to schedule an appointment.