It is appropriate to request a speech referral from your physician when you experience difficulty in communicating with others, making yourself understood or understanding when others are communicating with you, or when you have find yourself coughing during or right after eating or drinking. You can also contact one of our clinics to speak with a speech therapist to see if your symptoms can be treated by the therapist.
Benefits of speech therapy include improved communication, ability to live independently and interact in a meaningful way with others, enjoyment of food and drink which decreases the risk of pneumonia and increased socialization.
Speech therapists are licensed by the state of Colorado and typically have completed a Master’s degree prior to being able to practice as a speech therapist. Conditions they treat include:
- Voice disorders – vocal quality, pitch loudness, resonance or duration which is inappropriate for an individual’s age, gender or both
- Fluency disorders – interruption in the flow of speech such as an unusual rate or rhythm of speech, hesitations, or repetition of sounds or words
- Articulation disorders – difficulties with the way sounds are formed; such as omitting, adding, substituting or distorting sounds
- Language disorders – impaired understanding and/or use of spoken or written word
- Swallowing disorders – also known as dysphagia.
Cognitive therapy focuses on problems, such as:
- Orientation among others by teaching the person strategies
- Using exercises to retrain the brain
- Teaching strategies to compensate for the deficits
- Educating family/friends in how to assist the person in overcoming the deficits
The speech therapist will evaluate the strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing, observe feeding, and possibly perform a special test to evaluate swallowing – such as a modified barium swallow test: the individual eats or drinks food or liquid with barium in it, and then the swallowing process is viewed on an X-ray. Treatment includes:
- Exercises to improve muscle strength and movement
- Use of specific textures to make swallowing easier
The speech therapist will address language and articulation issues by assessing the cause of the deficit – such as strength and function of the mouth, lips, tongue and the persons breathing. Based on what the therapist observes, specific strategies will be used to facilitate normal function by improving strength, and coordination of the muscles used to produce sound and specific speech.
Vital Stim is the use of electrical stimulation to help treat severe swallowing problem. The electrical stimulation is used to augment muscle strengthening while the person is performing normal swallowing therapy exercises.