Speech and language disorders affect a person’s ability to communicate. When someone has difficulty making sounds, communicating ideas or swallowing, speech therapy could help resolve the problem. During speech therapy, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose and provide a treatment plan for a variety of speech and language disorders, as well as swallowing disorders, in children and adults.
Why Do You Need Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy can help with several types of impaired speech and language skills, including the following:
- Speech disorders cause a person to have difficulty forming words and sounds. Some common speech disorders include apraxia, dysarthria and stuttering.
- Speech and language delays occur when a child’s speaking abilities develop slower than average. This is a common developmental issue that affects up to 10% of preschool children.
- Language disorders affect a person’s ability to form words or understand and process language. Some examples of language disorders are aphasia and auditory processing disorder.
- Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, are characterized by problems eating or drinking. These issues may be caused by muscle weakness, issues within the brain or nervous system, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or head and neck cancer.
For a child, speech therapy should begin as early as possible to remedy the issue. Children who receive speech therapy before age 5 typically show better results at the end of treatment than children who start therapy at older ages.
Adults who have a speech impediment from childhood, or a condition resulting from illness or injury, should also seek professional help from an SLP. Treatment can still be effective at a later age, as adults also can see improvement after visiting a specialist.
Getting Ready for Speech Therapy
Before beginning speech therapy, you’ll need to speak with your primary care physician about a referral to a speech-language pathologist. He or she will direct you to a trusted, licensed SLP in your area.
Be prepared to answer questions from the SLP. SLPs ask for specifics so they can understand the complete picture of a problem. You can bring along a detailed document for your appointment that lists any concerns with speech or language and offers a timeline of speech development and information about other medical conditions that may affect speech. This will help the SLP assess the condition and come up with a personalized treatment plan.
What to Expect During Speech Therapy
Every speech-language therapy session will vary based on your own circumstances. After a treatment plan is created, you SLP will help you decide the frequency, timing and setting to complete therapy. Some SLPs will provide group treatment, while others can work on an individual level.
A speech therapy session could include activities that help practice language skills, articulation therapy or swallowing therapy. A SLP will guide you or your child through the entire process.