What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of communication problems and speech disorders. It includes a variety of strategies like articulation therapy, language intervention activities, and, swallowing therapy. Speech and language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, give the therapy.
Who needs speech therapy?
There is a variety of speech and language disorders that can be treated with speech therapy. The important ones are as follows.
Articulation Disorders – These refer to conditions where kids do not form proper sounds. In other words, the children drop, distort, or add word sounds.
Fluency Disorders – Stuttering and cluttering comprise fluency disorders. They affect the flow, rhythm and speed of speech. A person with stuttering has difficulty bringing out a sound whereas, the one with cluttering speaks too fast. The latter merges words.
Resonance Disorders – Such a disorder occurs when the passage of air through the nose or mouth is blocked and affects voice quality. Swollen tonsils, cleft palate and some neurological disorders can cause resonance disorders.
Receptive Disorders – A person suffering from this has difficulty understanding and processing what others say. Disorders like autism and hearing loss can also cause it too.
Expressive Disorders – A person with an expressive language disorder has trouble forming correct sentences. It’s associated with head trauma, Down’s syndrome and hearing loss.
Cognitive-communication disorders – There is a difficulty in communicating due to injury to that part of the brain which controls thinking. It leads to memory loss and difficulty in speaking.
Aphasia – Stroke is the main cause for aphasia where the person is unable to speak and understand others. The ability to read and write is also impaired.
Dysarthria – Slow or slurred speech due to weakness of muscles is called dysarthria. Multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and stroke can cause dysarthria.
Speech Therapy for Children
The techniques used in children vary depending on the child’s disorder, age, and needs. Above all, the therapist stimulates the child’s language development. As a part of that, the SLP may use books, pictures and other objects. The SLP teaches the child how to make certain sounds. Additionally, the SLP teaches the parents also on how to give speech therapy at home.
Auditory Verbal Therapy
First, it teaches the child to use the hearing provided by a cochlear implant for understanding speech and learning to talk. Next, it aims at helping deaf and hard of hearing children grow in a regular environment and be independent. Finally, it helps them become contributing citizens in the mainstream society. SLP with special training perform AVT. We shall be discussing AVT and cochlear implants in a separate post.
Speech Therapy for Adults
Adults with voice disorders like polyps and nodules, and those with vocal abuse need speech therapy. We recommend speech therapy for patients after their voice surgery. Additionally, it is helpful in retraining swallowing function in patients with swallowing difficulties. Such difficulties may arise after cancer surgeries, Parkinson’s disease and other nervous disorders.
The strategies to improve swallowing include compensatory and rehabilitative measures. Strengthening of oral muscles, increasing the awareness of food in the mouth, performing manoeuvres to aid in swallowing, and the use of prosthetics, are the main ones.
Length of the Speech Therapy
The therapy may have to be continued for as long as the goals are not achieved. In the case of the auditory-verbal therapy, the duration can be for 5 to 10 years. Whereas, the therapy for voice disorders in adults may last for a few months only. In some cases, the therapy may be continued by self or the caregiver at home without the need of a therapist. Language disorders in kids need a longer time for producing results.
Success and Benefits of Speech Therapy
Speech therapy helps kids speak clearly and feel confident. They benefit socially, emotionally and academically. Dyslexic kids on therapy improve reading and comprehension skills. They hear and distinguish specific sounds better. The therapy is more beneficial when started early.
In adults with voice disorders, the therapy helps improve the quality of voice. It acts in conjunction with surgery in the case of nodules and polyps to regain the old voice. Because it teaches you how to use your voice hygienically, it is of special importance in singers, teachers and musicians.
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Role of Parents and Caregivers
The success of therapy hugely depends on the support given by parents and care-givers. Speech therapy in children is parent centred with activities to practice at home. Consistent parental support reinforces the skills learnt during therapy. In a kid fitted with a cochlear implant, the success of surgery depends on the resolve of parents to bring the kid for regular therapy.
Similarly, elderly with swallowing difficulties need the services of a caregiver. The caregiver helps them take feeds, encourage swallowing, help perform manoeuvres and exercises, and prevent aspiration. Their role is even more protracted in the tracheostomised patients.
- What is AVT? Auditory Verbal Centre – UK
- Auditory-Verbal Therapy: Supporting Listening and Spoken Language in Young Children with Hearing Loss & Their Families
- How to make your swallow stronger
- Help your baby learn to talk – NHS, UK
In our subsequent posts, we shall discuss the various techniques used in speech therapy and how the therapy is beneficial for specific conditions. We hope you found our article useful. Please send in your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.