Speech therapists or speech-language pathologists (SLP) are specialists who help you assess, diagnose and treat communication errors and speech disorders. Speech therapy is for all age groups ranging from children to adults. Speech therapy techniques include language intervention therapy, articulation therapy, oral motor therapy, social skills training, fluency therapy and several others.
Indications of speech therapy
Speech therapy can be required in several conditions–
– Difficulty in pronouncing the sounds called articulation disorders.
– Stuttering is repeating or getting stuck at syllables and words and cluttering is rapid, unclear or disorganised speech.
– Receptive language disorders are where the person has difficulty understanding and processing what is being said to them that can occur due to autism, hearing defects, aphasia or head injury.
– Dysarthria, difficulty in speaking can be due to neurological disorders and conditions that can cause paralysis or weakness of muscles of the face, throat or tongue.
– Developmental delay occurs when a child fails to attain the milestones for the age group as compared to their peers, with timely intervention children with speech delay catch up.
– In autism, the child has difficulty in communication and social interaction, speech therapy aims at reducing behavioural problems and improving communication skills in autistic children.
– Hearing impairment can often be a cause of speech delay, the child can learn sign language and gestures to aid in communication before they get hearing aids.
– ADHD can lead to inattention or hyperactivity due to which the child may speak very fast and their speech might sound unedited.
– Feeding or swallowing disorder.
A speech therapist first assesses the condition in order to reach a diagnosis and formulates a program as per the requirements of the child.
Speech therapy in children-
In the case of children, speech therapy can be performed in various settings like in the classroom, around other children, at home, in clinics or online depending on the underlying disorder. The therapist may-
– engage the child by playing with toys, reading books, or singing rhymes with them.
– if the child is nonverbal, then we help them learn pointing, gestures and sign language.
– Help them learn how to use their muscles and breath in coordination pattern to speak clearly by doing various breathing exercises.
– they can formulate programs for the child in coordination with their parents and teachers and incorporate various activities as per their strengths and interests that can help in faster recovery of the child and easier communication with them.
Speech therapy in adults-
Speech therapy can be quite helpful in adults in conditions like –
– In voice disorders like raspiness, hoarseness, vocal fatigue, inappropriately high or low pitch speech language therapists help you regulate your breath in a more coordinated manner and help you speak more clearly. It can also help you heal vocal cord swelling post surgery.
– Misarticulation- speech language pathologists help identify incorrect sounds, correct incorrect sounds, re-learn ways to control and strengthen muscles of speech, and practice sound.
– Stuttering can be a major cause of low confidence and frustration in adults. A speech language pathologist will help you focus on your breathing, practice conversations where you might stutter, take a pause, and help you implement the techniques in the real world.
– Aphasia post stroke affects the communication skills of the person, as the person might have difficulty in understanding conversations, naming objects, putting words together, and difficulty in expressing themselves. Speech therapy can help you strengthen your language skills, practice conversation skills, and focus on improving cognitive, social, psychological skills in coordination with the family members.
– In autistic adults speech therapy can help them achieve their goals and have successful education, careers, and personal lives. Speech therapy can help you develop social skills, and facilitate interaction in social settings.
– Traumatic brain injury can lead to various speech and language problems. A speech language pathologist helps you improve speech, express thoughts, improve memory, work on social skills, and improve attention during daily activities.
– Memory loss in case of Alzheimer’s is a major cause of dependance in elderly, and speech therapy can help stimulate the cognitive ability by problem solving activities, and compensate for their deficits thereby maintaining a level of independence for longer duration.
– Breathing exercises to improve resonance.
Online speech therapy-
During the pandemic online speech therapy has been proven to be very successful, as it comprises tailor-made sessions based on individuals needs and interests. It is very effective as the sessions are fun, engaging, reliable and can be attended from the comfort of your home. The speech language pathologists also provide you with various materials, resources and exercises available online.
Several researches and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have concluded that online speech therapy is equally as effective in-person speech therapy. Online therapy also provides you a benefit of increased parental involvement, which can be quite helpful in facilitating the progress towards communication goals.
For children, the speech therapist will select interactive activities that can involve games or hands-on activities. The therapist often uses toys that your child already owns and they also use various tools that can be made available to you at your home. And they will show you how to use these for hastening the recovery of your child and easier communication at home. A speech therapist also helps parents learn ways of encouraging and enhancing a child’s communicative skills.
For adults, it is not that complex. The therapist helps you perform tasks that facilitate communication, public speaking, and conversation skills and they also help them perform various exercises that can help you with speech. In this way, online speech therapy is quite similar to in-person speech therapy.