This page discusses the services offered by a speech therapist and the different communications disorders and disabilities that they treat.
A speech therapist, also referred to as a speech language pathologist or ďSLPĒ, is a medical doctor licensed to treat patients with problems in communicating verbally and swallowing. Their work essentially consists of examining, diagnosing and guiding the patient toward gradual improvement, using educational information and a corrective treatment plan specifically geared to the individual. Many supplemental health insurance companies include speech therapy coverage in their policy plans.
Some speech therapists work alone while others function as a team to assist the patient in improving their verbal skills or consuming their food safely. Referrals to speech therapists can be made by family physicians, nurses, child development specialists, family members, teachers, or other person involved in the patientís care. Self-made visits are acceptable as well.
What Causes Issues in Communication
Communication disorders can involve expression, articulation, language perception, or voice issues. There are several health afflictions and illnesses responsible for creating communication problems in people, including:
- hearing disabilities
- learning disabilities
- developmental disabilities
- neurological disorders
- a cleft palate
- cerebral palsy
- cancer of the neck and head
- head trauma or brain damage
- problems in swallowing food
Opening up the Lines of Communication
Speech therapy is suitable for clients young or old, and can be administered in various medical, educational and private environments. Below is a basic outline of the wide-ranging services offered by speech therapists:
- The evaluation and treatment of language disabilities so as to help the patient to better comprehend the language both orally and written, express their thoughts and ideas using both mediums, and communicate effectively in social environments.
- The evaluation and treatment of communication problems related to perception (e.g. logic, memory retention, problem-solving, basic coping and management abilities).
- The evaluation and treatment of speech disabilities in order to help the patient to pronounce words and/or better articulate. Patients who stutter can improve word fluency.
- The evaluation and treatment of voice problems associated with timbre will help improve pitch, volume and overall tone quality. A client whose voice is thin and nasal, high and reedy, or deep and booming may particularly benefit from this form of treatment.
- The evaluation and treatment of problems in swallowing, including the introduction of a safe dietary regimen that will lower the risk for choking or building up food matter and liquid within the patientís lungs.
- Client and caregiver counseling. The speech therapistís line of discussion involves an education on the disability itself, the physical and emotional obstacles faced by patient and caregiver, plus a strategic game plan for< maximizing day-to-day function while compensating the deficiencies.
- Meeting with other medical specialists and professionals (e.g. psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists, audiologists) to create an all-encompassing care and treatment program tailored specifically to the patientís needs.
Giving Voice to a Higher Quality of Life
The ability to express thoughts into words through speech is not to be taken for granted. Talking is an all-important tool for maintaining a productive and positive way of life. Impaired speech can have a number of negative effects on the sufferer, including a decrease in academic performance as well as difficulty in entering the workforce and interacting with others socially.
Those dealing with an undiagnosed swallowing disorder often find themselves compromising their health altogether, as mineral and vitamin deficiency, dehydration, and lung complications are potential (and dangerous) side-effects.
The highly-trained speech therapist can establish function, confidence and a sense of independence in suffering individuals, eventually leading them to a higher quality of life.