Speech therapy is a medical field concerned with assessing and treating communication challenges and speech disorders. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), also referred to as speech therapists, are trained to help individuals improve their communication skills. Techniques used in speech therapy include articulation therapy, language intervention activities, and others, depending on the type of speech or language disorder.
Who Needs Speech Therapy?
Children born with a speech impairment or adults who sustain an injury or illness that impairs their ability to speak, such as a stroke or brain injury, may need speech therapy.
Conditions Treated With Speech Therapy
The following speech and language disorders may be treated with speech therapy.
- Articulation Disorders: Patients diagnosed with an articulation disorder are unable to properly form certain word sounds. A child with this speech disorder may drop, distort, swap, or add sounds. For example, they might say “thith” instead of “this.”
- Fluency Disorders: A fluency disorder affects the speed, flow, and rhythm of speech, potentially causing stuttering and cluttering. A person with stuttering struggles to produce sound and may have speech that is blocked or interrupted, or they may repeat part or all of a word. A person with cluttering may speak very fast and merge words together.
- Resonance Disorders: Individuals diagnosed with a resonance disorder have a blockage or obstruction of regular airflow in the nasal or oral cavities that alters the vibrations shaping voice quality. This speech impediment can also occur if the velopharyngeal valve isn’t closing properly. Resonance disorders are often associated with neurological disorders, a cleft palate, and swollen tonsils.
- Receptive Disorders: An individual with receptive language disorder has difficulty understanding and processing verbal speech. This can cause the individual to seem uninterested when someone is speaking to them, have difficulty following directions, or limit their vocabulary. A receptive disorder can also be caused by autism, hearing loss, other language disorders, and a head injury.
- Expressive Disorders: Expressive language disorder is characterized by difficulty conveying or expressing information. Individuals with an expressive disorder may have difficulty forming accurate sentences, such as using incorrect verb tenses. Developmental impairments associated with expressive disorders include Down syndrome and hearing loss. Head trauma or a medical condition can also cause this type of speech disorder.
- Cognitive-Communication Disorders: Patients experiencing difficulty communicating because of an injury to the part of the brain that controls their ability to think may have a cognitive-communication disorder. This condition can lead to memory issues and difficulty with problem solving, speaking, or listening. Biological problems, such abnormal brain development, certain neurological conditions, a brain injury, or stroke may also cause cognitive-communication disorders.
- Aphasia: Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak, understand others, read, and write. Stroke and other brain disorders may cause aphasia.
- Dysarthria: Patients diagnosed with dysarthria have slow or slurred speech that may be caused by a weakness or inability to control the muscles used for speech. Nervous system disorders and conditions that cause facial paralysis or throat and tongue weakness, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and stroke may lead to dysarthria.