Do you know someone who struggles with speaking? No need to worry; speech therapy is a beautiful tool for improving communication and overcoming the challenges that come with speech impediments.
Table of Contents
What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy aims to enhance pronunciation, strengthen the muscles used in speaking, and learn proper speaking techniques. It can be utilized to address a wide variety of speech issues, from something as minor as a hoarse voice to more severe speech loss due to brain damage. Other medical or psychological treatments may also be utilized depending on the specific disorder.
What kinds of disorders can speech therapy treat?
Speech therapy can be used to treat a wide range of speech and language disorders. Here are some examples:
Language disorders can impact both children and adults, but the causes and manifestations differ between the two.
In children, language disorders can lead to difficulty learning to speak, naming objects, and constructing complete sentences. While the precise causes of these disorders are often unclear, some known risk factors include hearing difficulties, developmental issues, and brain disorders.
In contrast, language disorders in adults are typically caused by brain injury or disease. For example, individuals who have experienced a stroke may struggle to form sentences or recall words, resulting in a condition known as aphasia.
Speech therapy can help children with language disorders learn how to speak, name objects, and construct sentences. Therapy may involve exercises to improve vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. Therapy may improve language processing, word recall, and communication skills in adults with language disorders.
Speech disorders can also affect children and adults and manifest in various ways. They are usually associated with Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Cleft Lip and Palate.
In children, speech disorders may involve difficulty with pronunciation, such as a lisp or swapping certain sounds for others. While developmental disorders are a common cause of speech disorders, psychological factors may also play a role. In adults, speech disorders are often a result of neurological diseases, which can make it challenging for others to understand them.
Fluency disorders, another category of speech disorders, involve disruptions to the flow or evenness of speech. People with fluency disorders may stutter or “clutter,” which refers to abnormally fast speech that may be imprecise or leave out sounds or parts of words. Stuttering can involve silent pauses, repetition of sounds or syllables, or lengthening certain sounds.
Therapy for children with speech disorders may involve exercises to improve pronunciation and speech clarity. In contrast, therapy for adults may focus on regaining lost speech abilities due to neurological disorders. Therapy for fluency disorders may involve techniques to help reduce stuttering or “cluttering” and reduce secondary behaviors.
Voice disorders, also known as dysphonia, refer to persistent changes in an individual’s voice. These changes can include sounding hoarse, strained, raspy, or nearly silent. Additionally, the voice may sound weak, cracking easily, or unable to speak loudly.
There are several causes of voice disorders, including speaking too much or too loudly, using improper breathing techniques, or issues with the voice box (larynx), such as vocal nodules. Psychological factors such as depression or reactions to distressing events can also lead to changes in a person’s voice.
Speech therapy for voice disorders may involve techniques to improve vocal quality and projection, such as proper breathing techniques or exercises to strengthen vocal muscles. Therapy may also include identifying and addressing underlying causes of the voice disorder, such as acid reflux or overuse of the voice.
Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, occurs when the muscles involved in swallowing are affected, leading to problems transporting food through the mouth and throat.
Dysphagia can have several underlying causes, including nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or dementia, infections such as Lyme disease or tetanus, or head injuries. If left untreated, dysphagia can result in food entering the lungs, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.
Speech therapy for dysphagia may involve exercises to improve the muscles’ strength and coordination and strategies to modify food consistency or positioning to make swallowing easier and safer.
Articulation and phonology refer to the way sound is produced. Children with an articulation disorder have problems forming speech sounds correctly. In contrast, those with a phonological disorder can produce sounds correctly but may use them in the wrong place. It is usual for young children to make speech errors, but children with these disorders may be challenging to understand.
Signs of articulation disorders include problems making sounds and forming particular speech sounds. In contrast, symptoms of phonological disorders include using sounds in the wrong position in a word or making mistakes with specific sounds in words. Phonological disorders have been linked to ongoing problems with language and literacy.
Speech therapy for articulation and phonological disorders may involve exercises to improve the ability to form sounds and use them correctly in a speech. Therapy may also include strategies to strengthen phonemic awareness and literacy skills.
Cognitive communication disorders are communication problems that arise from an underlying cognitive deficit rather than a primary language or speech deficit. They occur due to impairments in cognitive processes such as attention, memory, perception, problem-solving, and more.
If someone has a cognitive communication disorder, they may have trouble concentrating during a conversation, staying on topic, remembering information, or understanding jokes or metaphors. It can be frustrating and challenging to communicate effectively, which can impact your daily life and activities.
The severity of cognitive-communication disorders can vary from mild to severe. Some people with mild deficits may struggle to concentrate in loud environments. In contrast, others with severe impairments may have difficulty communicating at all.
Speech therapy for cognitive-communication disorders may involve strategies to improve attention, memory, problem-solving, and other cognitive processes involved in communication. Therapy may also include using compensatory strategies, such as visual aids or written communication, to improve communication abilities.
Other Uses of Speech Therapy
Speech therapy can also be helpful for people with accent modification needs, transgender voice therapy, or those who have difficulty with social communication or pragmatic language skills.
Speech therapy is a valuable tool for improving communication and overcoming the challenges that come with speech impediments. Speech therapy aims to enhance pronunciation, strengthen the muscles used in speaking, and learn proper speaking techniques. Speech therapists use therapeutic techniques to treat wide range of speech and language disorders, including language disorders, speech disorders, fluency disorders, voice disorders, difficulty swallowing, articulation disorders, and cognitive-communication disorders.
Other medical or psychological treatments may also be utilized depending on the specific disorder. Therapy may involve exercises to improve vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure, techniques to reduce stuttering or “cluttering,” and enhance voice quality and projection. Additionally, it may involve identifying and addressing underlying causes of the disorder, such as acid reflux or overuse of the voice. Speech therapy for cognitive-communication disorders may include strategies to improve attention, memory, problem-solving and other cognitive processes.
Written by: Sittie Ashia Said
Edited and Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Juhairah Magarang-Said