Speech therapists, or Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs), are highly trained professionals with Masters or Doctorate Degrees. They specialize in helping both children and adults with communication disorders. Many people are familiar with speech therapy for children. Some children may go to an SLP because they have difficulty producing some sounds correctly (for example, saying “wabbit” for “rabbit”, “appo” for “apple”, or “jips” for “chips”), or if they stutter. But did you know that SLPs also work with adults? So, how exactly can a speech therapist help adults?
Often when adults suffer a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, they need help reorganizing their thoughts, orientation, and memory. Sometimes they need help retraining their swallowing function, in order to keep them safe and prevent food and liquid from going down into their lungs. Perhaps someone’s Grandma has dementia, with difficulty remembering people, events, and things most dear to them. These are some examples of when a speech therapist, or SLP, can help an adult.
SLPs evaluate and provide therapy for communication disorders for adults, including speech, language, swallowing, cognitive communication, social communication, pragmatics, auditory processing, fluency (stuttering), voice disorders, and training for use of alternative/augmentative communication (AAC) devices.
Let’s talk about each of these areas more.
- Speech is the way we produce our sounds, or clarity.
- Language includes expressive language (how we express our ideas and thoughts) and receptive language (understanding others).
- Cognitive communication includes memory, orientation, problem solving, organization, attention.
- Social communication involves conversational dynamics, such as taking turns in conversation or altering our language to suit different situations.
- Dysphagia (swallowing) includes determining risk for aspiration, swallow integrity, recommendations for safest and least restrictive food/liquid consistencies, safe swallowing techniques, compensatory strategies, exercises to strengthen oral pharyngeal musculature.
- Fluency includes stuttering, and how it affects a person’s social communication.
- Voice involves pitch, volume, quality, modifying accent, breathing exercises, resonance, excessive throat clearing.
- AAC devices are alternative methods for communication when a person is nonverbal (such as using an iPad to communicate).
So, what are some things we should watch out for? When should an adult go to see an SLP? Watch your loved ones for difficulty swallowing, coughing, choking, clearing throat while eating or drinking, drooling, or having a “gurgly” voice after eating. Also watch for difficulties with memory, attention, organization, problem-solving, or finding the right word to say. An SLP could help your loved one with these difficulties.