Living Well: When is it time to see a speech-language therapist?
Speech conditions occur for a variety of reasons and they can affect people of any age or background.
Childhood speech concerns tend to be genetic, appearing during various developmental stages, but some can occur from birth trauma, premature birth or physical trauma, said Jennifer Thompson, a speech pathologist at Memorial Regional Health who works with both children and adults.
Most adult speech issues are the result of trauma, such as a head injury, stroke or changes in brain functioning, such as dementia.
“Early intervention for behavioral, language and speech intelligibility concerns should be a priority because the longer one waits (to initiate therapy), the harder it becomes to teach new skills and develop appropriate behaviors.”
In Craig, children often need speech therapy for autism spectrum disorders, pragmatic language delays or disorders, swallowing, cognitive difficulties, behavioral difficulties and phonological/articulation, or speech sound disorders, Thompson said.
For adults, the more common needs for speech therapy in Craig include aphasia (a common condition after a stroke that impairs the ability to process language), traumatic brain injury (TBI), swallowing and dementia.
“We treat fluency, dysarthria (slurred or slow speech) and voice disorders as well,” Thompson said.
Speech therapists work with patients on all kinds of skills, typically in a one-on-one therapy session that lasts 30 to 60 minutes depending on the level of cognition, behavioral difficulties, attention, endurance and other factors.
“We work on swallowing, cognition, language understanding, language use, speech intelligibility, pragmatic skills, literacy skills, pre-linguistic skills, voice, fluency, dysarthria and behavior management,” Thompson said. “Sometimes we have group therapy sessions for aphasia and pragmatic difficulties so patients can learn from peers. We can provide therapy in the home (home health), in schools, private physician practices and hospitals.”
When is it time to see a speech therapist?
Speech conditions are relatively common — about 25 percent of school-aged children have a speech delay or sound disorder, while 6 to 8 million people in the U.S. have a language impairment. About 1 million people have aphasia, and about 5.7 million people have a form of dementia, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Recognizing the need for speech therapy is different for adults and children.
In children, it’s important to know the various developmental stages so parents can identify delays. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a list of various milestones to follow at bit.ly/2Myb88e.
Memorial Regional Health offers speech-language therapy services for both adults and children. Specialized therapists help individuals with both the physical act of speaking and the cognitive act of forming words and creating language.
MRH speech therapists create a treatment plan that’s unique to each individual’s needs. They employ a variety of techniques to improve speech and language skills and create home exercises to strengthen skills outside of therapy.
In order to see a speech-language therapist, you must first receive a referral from your physician. Call 970-824-5992 for an appointment, or visit memorialregionalhealth.com/healthcare-services/speech-language-therapy/ for more information.
Recognizing speech disorders
Children and adults can have speech and language disorders.
Speech is how we say sounds and words. People with speech problems may:
- Not say sounds clearly.
- Have a hoarse or raspy voice.
- Repeat sounds or pause when speaking, called stuttering.
Language is the words we use to share ideas and get what we want. A person with a language disorder may have problems:
In adults, speech and language challenges are common after a stroke, traumatic brain injury or with dementia.
For parents, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a list of various speech and language developmental milestones to follow at bit.ly/2Myb88e. If you suspect these milestones aren’t being met, talk to your child’s pediatrician about a referral to a speech-language pathologist.
“With children, usually the pediatricians are the first referral source for us, as they perform well-child screenings at different age intervals,” Thompson said. “Usually a child is not meeting their expected milestones with language development, use or understanding; not speaking clearly by the time they should be; or they are engaging in behavioral difficulties (e.g. hitting, kicking, screaming) as they often lack the skills to express themselves otherwise.”
For adults, following a stroke, brain injury or decrease in cognition would result in difficulties using or understanding language, swallowing, remembering, difficulty with executive functioning skills and other signs, Thompson said.
MRH Rehabilitation employs three speech-language pathologists.
“Every type of intervention I mentioned above is available through MRH Rehabilitation’s speech-language provider team, including myself,” Thompson said.