What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is the process of assessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of communication problems, from lisps and stutters to executive function and language disorders, to name a few. This process is designed and led by a speech-language pathologist, often referred to as a speech therapist.
The goal of speech therapy is to improve and strengthen communication skills. This can include language intervention activities, articulation and pronunciation therapy, accent modification therapy, and more. Speech therapy is often needed to correct speech disorders or impairments in children or to provide support to adults who have suffered an injury or illness such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
While speech therapy is mostly known as a way to help those with speech impediments or impairments, speech therapy is also much more than that. A registered speech therapist can help with the ability to express thoughts and ideas, improve conversation skills, as well as help with correct swallowing patterns and tongue placement within the mouth. Often speech therapy is used to prevent the onset of a speech impairment or language disorder, by identifying those who may be at risk and practicing early intervention.
What Qualifications are Required for Speech Therapists?
The process of becoming a speech therapist is extensive, requiring two degrees, appropriate certification, and a state-issued license. The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree from a well-established and reputable educational institution. While speech-language pathologists can come from a wide array of backgrounds, a Bachelor’s degree in a major such as Communication Sciences, Education, Language Development, or Linguistics is a good starting place.
The next step on the road to becoming a speech-language pathologist is completing a graduate program in Speech-Language pathology that is accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA.)
Finally, to begin practicing, a credential such as the ASHA Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology credential, which has several requirements including 400 hours of clinical experience and the passing of an extensive examination, must be awarded. A license must also be obtained from the state.
What kind of things does Speech Therapy help with?
Speech therapists are trained to provide support and guidance to people affected by all kinds of communication issues. Some of the most common of these are:
While speech disorders refer to the inability to produce sounds correctly, language disorders refer to difficulty communicating using speech, writing, or gestures. Difficulty expressing oneself to others is referred to as an expressive language disorder while difficulty understanding others is called a receptive language disorder.
Articulation & Phonology Disorders
Articulation refers to the process of speaking, which is a complicated process requiring the precise coordination of many body parts. An articulation disorder is an inability or difficulty pronouncing or producing certain sounds. The most notable of these is a lisp, which affects specifically the ability to pronounce an s or z sound. A phonology disorder is classified as difficulty with rule-based sound production, such as mispronouncing longer words or omitting entire syllable or consonant sounds.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD refers to a wide range of developmental disorders that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact. ASD affects the nervous system and the range and severity of symptoms and impairments can vary greatly. Some of the most common symptoms are a lack of eye contact and facial expression, a resistance to physical touch or affection, obsessive interests, repetitive movements known as ‘stimming’, and the loss of pre-existing or previously mastered skills.
Aphasia and Stroke Rehabilitation
A stroke is a sudden interruption of oxygen to the brain which can lead to impairments including but not limited to paralysis, lack of movement in the body, and the overall ability to communicate.
Aphasia is a language disorder that affects our ability to communicate. It is most often caused by a stroke that occurs in the part of the brain that controls speech and language.
Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects speech fluency. The signs and symptoms of stuttering often include repetitions of words or parts of words and prolongations of words as well as the overuse of the words “um” or “uh,” which can make holding a conversation difficult.
What happens during a speech therapy appointment?
Speech therapy appointments can look very different depending on the communication challenges or disorder(s) that are being treated, and whether it is an adult or a child being treated. In every case, the speech therapist will always begin with an assessment and will then come up with a customized treatment plan.
Speech therapy for children is based around concepts of play and conversation and will include the use of toys, books, and other games and activities that will promote the growth and development of speech and language skills. The speech therapist will also model correct tongue placement and pronunciation of sounds that present the most challenge to them. They will then provide a routine of exercises and activities to be practiced at home to help solidify and strengthen communication skills.
Speech therapy for adults will also include appropriate techniques and exercises to aid in the development of speech, language, and cognitive skills. Speech therapists are trained to help overcome speech and language obstacles and increase confidence, especially in social, educational, and professional settings.
How Much Can Speech Therapy Help?
Speech therapy can be an incredibly useful and valuable resource for anyone who wants to improve their speech and communication skills. Speech-language pathologists specialize in remediating speech disorders through fun and interactive therapeutic activities, which can go a long way towards correcting or improving speech impairments or impediments. If you or a loved one is struggling with their communication skills, there is hope and help available. Connecting with an experienced and specialized speech-language pathologist is a great first step on the journey towards improved skills and increased self-confidence.
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