Speech therapy is often seen as an intervention service, which aims at improving speech disabilities, language development, communication, and pragmatic language skills. However, contrary to popular beliefs, speech and language therapy UK can also benefit adults who are struggling with similar issues. The goal of improving speech and language is achieved by implementing various tools of speech therapy by professionals who are called speech and language pathologists (SLPs) or speech therapists informally. SLPs are formally educated and trained in the study of human communication, its development, and its disorders.
The Course of Action followed in speech and language therapy UK
The procedure of speech and language therapy starts with the determination of the exact problem that is making the patient face the complications. Various tests are conducted and evaluated to assess speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills by experienced SLPs to identify the underlying issues.
Speech disorder: Speech refers to the process of emitting specific sounds that convey meaning to the listener. A speech disorder would mean a condition that affects a person’s ability to produce sounds that create words. They include –
- Articulation disorders: It involves a difficulty in producing a certain sound of the syllable, which often makes the victim substitute one sound for another, slur excessively or speech that cannot be comprehended by the listeners.
- Fluency disorders: It is stuttering or frequent interruption in the flow of speech marked by repetitions (sounds, syllables, words, and phrases), sound prolongations, blocks, interjections, and revisions, which often affect the rate and rhythm of speech.
- Resonance or voice disorders: Problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what’s being said. This problem usually arises when the vocal cords do not vibrate the way they ideally should. Conditions like laryngitis where the vocal cords swell, vocal cord paresis where the vocal cord is partially or completely paralyzed, and spasmodic dysphonia, which is a nerve problem making the vocal cord spasm.
Language Disorder: Language disorder is a communication disorder in which a person has persistent difficulties in learning and using various forms of language. Some of its types are –
- Receptive disorders: difficulty in understanding or processing language.
- Expressive disorders: difficulty putting words together, limited vocabulary, or inability to use language in a socially appropriate way making simple conversation or school life extremely challenging.
- Cognitive-communication disorders: difficulty with communication skills that involve memory, attention, perception, organization, regulation, and problem solving rather than a primary language or speech deficit.
Dysphagia/oral feeding disorders: Dysphagia is a symptom, not a disease that is characterized by difficulty in feeding or swallowing food or liquids pertaining to problems with using and controlling the mouth, lips, and tongue.
Treatment with Speech and Language Therapy
Once the underlying cause of the issue is identified, the therapists work with the patients either singularly in a one-on-one setting or in small groups. They remedy speech and language problems usually by introducing the following three strategies –
Language intervention activities: The therapist interacts with the patient, especially children, through fun games and conversations, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to encourage language development.
Articulation therapy: Articulation is the process of physically producing a sound, syllable, or word. This is accomplished by using the lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, and palate to control the flow of air. Articulation errors come in four varieties – substitution, omission, distortion, and addition. Therapy includes showing how to make sounds correctly, slowing the rate of speech, improving breath support, strengthening muscles, improving the planning, order, and coordination of muscle movements for speech.
Oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy: The SLP may use a combination of oral exercises, which include facial massage and various tongue, lip, and jaw exercises to strengthen the muscles of the mouth for eating, drinking, and swallowing. The SLP may also introduce different food textures and temperatures to increase a child’s oral awareness during eating and swallowing.
Signs that one Needs Speech and Language Therapy
- Hearing impairments
- Cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or other developmental delays
- Weak oral muscles
- Chronic hoarseness
- Birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate
- Motor planning problems
- Articulation problems
- Fluency disorders
- Respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
- Feeding and swallowing disorders
- Traumatic brain injury