Speech therapy may sound straight forward: your speech therapist, speech pathologist or SLP will work with you if you experience a change in speech, such as slurring of sounds or difficulty getting your words out. But, that is just one way speech therapists can help patients. SLPs also treat voice, language impairments, cognitive-communication problems, and can even help with swallowing difficulties.
Voice impairments can occur for many reasons. Speech therapists can help patients by teaching good vocal hygiene strategies, how to improve quality of voice, and how to improve volume of voice to alleviate symptoms like hoarseness, harshness, and weakness of voice.
Speech therapists can also treat patients who have expressive or receptive language impairments. People with expressive language trouble may have difficulty finding their words or putting sentences together. People with receptive language impairments may experience difficulty understanding spoken or written words. They may have trouble answering questions or following directions. The SLP will work with the patient to learn how they communicate best and will build upon those strengths. The SLP will teach communication strategies to help improve ability to effectively express thoughts, wants and needs. Therapy will include exercises targeting areas that are difficult or challenging.
Cognitive-communication problems also can be improved through speech therapy. A speech therapist can teach strategies and provide thinking exercises that target attention, memory, planning, problem solving, organizing thoughts, and making safe decisions.
People who have difficulty chewing or safely swallowing food or liquids can benefit from swallowing therapy, as well. This therapy can include diet recommendations, teaching swallow strategies, and swallow rehab exercises to improve swallow function. Improved swallowing can have a cascading effect by improving nutrition, hydration and safety, which can vastly improve quality of life.
Speech therapy can be a very rewarding experience, especially for patients who may have thought there was nothing that could be done to help them. If you or someone you know is experiencing new changes in speech, voice, language, cognition or swallowing due to stroke, injury, surgery, or any disease or condition, talk to your doctor about whether speech therapy could be beneficial.