Last updated Oct. 13, 2017
For most of us, speech is not a problem. We speak freely and easily and take the ability to do so for granted.
However, the nuances of language are complex and do not come easily for everyone. Whether a person is born with a physical or mental limitation and finds speaking difficult, or their ability to speak has become impaired by an accident or illness, the gift of speech is precious and may need to be helped along its path by a speech therapist.
Speech therapists work with newborns, children and adults with communication problems which can span from a physical or mental disability. There are many causes to speech difficulty; from loss of hearing, limitations in rhythm and fluency, to the inability to understand language or other speech disorders such as inappropriate pitch or volume such as a harsh voice.
Speech therapy is necessary to diagnose and treat as communication is a key to the outside world.
This field is very diverse and proper care must be used to establish a treatment plan that is geared just for the patient in question. Their treatment must be for both speech and audiology. Speech therapists are also called Speech Pathologists and the work they do is truly appreciated and innovative in their approach.
Speech Pathologists Work Hard to:
- Identify speech and communication disorders and difficulties.
- Find the nature of the problem and its physical cause, such as a cleft palate, injury or stroke.
- Develop and initiate a reasonable treatment program.
- Work with the patient on a one-on-one basis or in a group situation to decrease the patient’s limitation.
- Revise the program if appropriate and make regular reviews for success. Monitor improvements.
- Inform family or caregivers about treatment and exercises that can be done at home for more improvement.
- Keep confidential reports and case notes.
- Manage a working caseload.
- Work a team of medical personnel for client success.
Speech Pathologists work and specialize with different areas of need. Some help newborns and children. Others specifically help adults and war veterans.
Here are a few things speech therapists do:
Make an Evaluation:
The first step that a speech pathologist takes to help a person improve their speech is to evaluate the condition and see what can be done.
They do this by issuing a variety of tests that will help determine the limitations of language. This can be done by simply asking questions that will allow the therapist to analyze the speech demonstrated when answering.
Other tests may include a swallow evaluation to gauge the effectiveness of the throat muscles while eating and drinking liquids. These tests evaluate the throat’s reflexes that are related to producing speech and vocalization.
The abilities to articulate, to produce fluent speech and receptive and expressive language skills, are also evaluated through testing.
Other tests will show the patient’s ability to process auditory stimulation, as well as cognitive memory and basic writing and reading skills. These tests are specifically designed and will accurately pinpoint the problem in each patient.
Set a Diagnosis:
After the evaluation, the test results will help to determine a diagnosis. The therapist will then work with the patient’s physicians to develop a treatment plan.
All test results will be used to develop a plan to either correct the problem or help the patient to communicate better on another level.
The treatment will be personalized to the patient and his/her needs. Appointments will be made to begin sessions.
These can take place in clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, private practices, rehabilitation centers, or even in the comfort of a person’s home.
The number of treatment sessions will depend highly on the severity of the problem.
In the beginning, services may be scheduled several times a week then reduce as speech progressions are made.
Some therapy exercises may target the specific muscles in the throat if they need to be strengthened.
Treatments are meant to improve the quality of the voice and improve vocabulary. For children, play therapy may be assigned to help the child articulate better and to build a better vocabulary and improve word usage.
Such therapy treatments will also help to improve reading and writing skills. They use simple speech exercises and games that will encourage the child to verbally communicate and feel comfortable with the therapist.
There are also treatment exercises that will help to improve memory and retrieval skills for work usage.
In cases of hearing loss or the result of illness, or injury, a permanent loss of speech may be the diagnosis. If so, the therapist will then help the patient to learn sign language and help those close to the patient to learn it as well.
Speech therapists need a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Hearing Therapy. This degree allows the therapist to work in a professional capacity as a speech and hearing therapist (or Speech Pathologist).
It also allows the trained therapist to assess and treat children and adults with swallowing, communication and hearing disorders.
In this degree program, therapists must take courses in audiology, language and speech pathology, psychology, sign language, linguistics, anatomy, and neurology.
Students learn how to make assessments, diagnose and develop treatments plans in the University’s Speech and Hearing Clinic and work at various speech and hearing clinics that are attached to the university or hospitals.
After completing their degree or diploma, speech and language therapists must register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Your speech therapist must be qualified in the field. It is not rude nor is it considered too pushy to ask to see the therapist’s certification before accepting treatment.
Speech therapy is a worthwhile field of study and helps so many people to improve their quality of life and how to live the rest of their lives in communication with loved ones and with the world.
The work is long and hard, yet is extremely fulfilling. Speech therapists bring a ray of elemental hope to all those they treat and to their distressed family. It is terrifying not to be able to communicate and speech therapists know just what to do to help each patient on their way to a better way of life.