Speech therapy is a type of treatment that uses different exercises and methods to improve the speech and communication skills of someone who has difficulty speaking. For people with speech impairments, this therapy can help them regain or develop new communication techniques to help them communicate with others.
There are several different speech disorders that can be addressed by speech therapy, including stuttering, articulation disorders, cognitive-communication disorders, dysarthria and apraxia. Speech therapists will design a plan for each individual patient to address their particular issues.
For instance, if a person has apraxia of speech, which is the inability to move their mouth muscles correctly to make sounds, their therapist will work with them on strengthening those muscles and helping them use their tongue in a more effective way. If a child who was born without hearing is trying to learn language as his or her first language, the therapist may work with the child on sign language.
Some of the ways that speech therapists treat patients include working on articulation of words and sounds, practicing reading out loud or talking with family members and friends, using gestures or facial expressions to complement spoken language and teaching alternative ways of communicating when other methods do not work.
Speech therapy is an essential part of early childhood development—it’s how children learn to speak, and how they learn to communicate needs and wants. Unfortunately, speech therapy is often hard to find and expensive.
Speech therapists can work with children and adults with speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing and fluency disorders. They assist patients in regaining their communication skills so they can function as independently as possible.
Each patient is different, so a speech therapist will create an individualized plan for each patient. The plan will address the specific issues that the patient has identified as problems. The specifics of the plan will depend on what needs to be improved.
If you have difficulty speaking clearly, a speech therapist can help you learn strategies to overcome your problems. It is not necessary to be diagnosed with a specific problem before beginning therapy.
Stuttering is a condition that is characterized by repetition of words, broken words or pauses in speech. Some people who stutter may also use several words to get across one idea or avoid certain words when speaking.
Articulation disorders are characterized by trouble making certain sounds. This can be caused by an inability to form certain sounds with the mouth and tongue, or incorrect placement of the jaw and mouth when forming sounds.
Cognitive-communication disorders include any problems that affect communication skills which include language, problem solving, memory, attention and organization. Communication issues may result from brain injury, dementia or other psychological conditions.
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by damage to the nerves that control movement of the muscles used for speech production. Dysarthria causes slurred speech.
Apraxia is a neurological disorder causing difficulty coordinating muscle movements necessary for speech production. Apraxia may cause slurred speech or difficulty forming complete sentences.
Speech therapy helps patients recover from or improve conditions that affect their ability to speak, hear and swallow. These may be caused by developmental and other disorders, such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss, and mental health conditions such as depression.