What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy is the study and treatment of disorders that affect a person's speech, language, perception, communication skills, and the conditions of voice and swallowing disorders. These disorders mostly originate in the brain, the ear, or along the vocal tract and can cause the disability to speak and communicate with clarity.
How does speech therapy work?
Speech therapy begins with a diagnosis of physical or mental dysfunction in regards to speech and communication which, following this assessment, the patient undergoes training in breathing, speech diction, and general speaking habits. The range of speech therapy incorporates people of all ages and includes treatment for people with difficulties in reading and writing, and also disorders of eating and swallowing.
While stuttering and mental retardation are the main forms of speech impediment, there are some abnormalities, such as a cleft palate or stroke, that can be corrected to various degrees before a speech therapist's work begins. Other forms of initial disability can include attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism, cerebral palsy, tourettes syndrome, hearing impairment, learning disability, schizophrenia, and vocal cord injury.
Benefits of speech therapy
The main aim of speech therapy is to be beneficial for the patient with the outcomes of normal vocal quality, pitch, and volume of the sound. The technique is a tool that can be helpful in the treatment of many language impediments, from hoarseness and stuttering to respiratory dysfunction and autism. Examples of patients treated by speech therapists include children with speech disorders, adults after laryngectomy operations, patients with swallowing disorders, and performers with throat problems.
Speech therapy is an integral part of helping people with voice problems of all ages and can be beneficial with:
- Repetition of sounds or words
- Frustration with attempts to communicate
- Head jerking while talking
- Eye blinking while talking
- Embarrassment with speech
- Distorted sounds
- Pitch changes
What to expect at a consultation
Speech therapists address vocal production, swallowing difficulties and language needs through therapy in a variety of different establishments including schools, hospitals, and through private practice. Depending on the state of the disorder, common treatments can range from physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice, and the use of audio-visual aids to the introduction of strategies to bring forth the best level of communication for the patient.
Depending on the condition and severity, patients can be treated by speech therapists in a group, or on an individual basis. The exercises undertaken in these meetings involve having a speech therapist interact with a patient to stimulate language development and to make an initial assessment. The therapist may also model correct pronunciation and use repetition exercises to build speech and language skills.
Sound production exercises involve having the therapist model correct sounds and syllables for the patient. Sound production therapy involves physically showing a patient how to make certain sounds and then teach the patient to mimic those sounds.