Speech And Language Therapy: Enhancing Quality Of Life For All

325

Communication is crucial to how we interact with others and express ourselves. If someone has trouble communicating, it can greatly impact their independence, quality of life, self-confidence, and productivity. An important service that helps children and adults overcome these difficulties is speech and language therapy.

When it comes to communication, it’s not just about the words we say but how we say them. That’s why speech and language therapy are important for those struggling to express themselves. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of therapy that can help with communication difficulties.

Differences Between Speech And Language Therapy

It’s important to note that there is a distinction between speech and language therapy. ‘Speech’ refers to the physical act of producing sounds, whereas ‘language’ encompasses the entire system we use to communicate, including words, gestures, and writing: everything that affects a person’s ability to understand or use words effectively. 

A speech disorder affects how sounds are made, while a language disorder affects a person’s ability to understand or use words effectively. By clarifying these differences, we can better understand the depth of this therapeutic approach and its impact on people’s lives. To complicate things further, some conditions like autism stem from childhood, but manifest later.  

Speech And Language Difficulties In Adults

Adults with communication difficulties may experience a range of negative impacts on their daily lives. For example, they may struggle to communicate effectively with coworkers or supervisors, leading to misunderstandings, reduced productivity, and even job loss. They may also have difficulty participating in social activities or forming meaningful relationships, which can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. 

Communication difficulties can also make it challenging to access healthcare services or advocate for oneself in medical settings, potentially leading to inadequate care or misdiagnosis.

Some of the common communication disorders that adult speech and language therapy services can be helpful for the following:

  • Apraxia 

Apraxia, a motor speech disorder that impacts a person’s ability to articulate words correctly, causes problems with sequencing words and syllables. The severity of apraxia can vary, meaning that speech may be slightly or more severely impacted. Despite knowing what they want to say, people with apraxia find it challenging to move their lips, tongue, and jaw in a way that produces clear speech.

For instance, a person suffering from apraxia may say: “Put dish… in over… No, oven.”

In this case, the person with apraxia struggles to organize and sequence the correct words to convey their intended message. Apraxia can cause difficulties with word selection and placement, often leading to pauses and the use of incorrect or nonsensical words. 

  • Dysarthria 

A motor speech disorder like dysarthria can make it difficult to produce clear speech. It causes weak, imprecise, slow, or uncoordinated movements of the speech muscles, resulting in slurred or slow speech that can be challenging to understand.

People with dysarthria may speak slowly, with slurred or soft speech, or in a hoarse or breathy voice. The severity of dysarthria can vary from mild, where speech is somewhat understandable, to severe, where speech might be unintelligible. Dysarthria can affect the person’s ability to articulate words and control their speech’s pitch, loudness, rhythm, and voice qualities.

  • Stuttering 

Stuttering is a fluency disorder that interrupts the flow of speech. People who stutter might repeat words, prolong sounds, or experience involuntary silent pauses, making communicating difficult.

Stuttering varies in severity from person to person and even from situation to situation for the same person. It’s also important to note that stuttering may not be due to physical findings alone. People who stutter may also experience anxiety, fear, or shame about their speech, which can exacerbate the condition and create a cycle that can be difficult to break without professional help.

  • Frequent Hoarseness

Voice disorders, like frequent hoarseness, can affect the voice’s pitch, volume, tone, and other qualities. They are often a result of vocal cord damage or misuse.

  • Accent Reduction

For individuals who wish to modify or reduce their accent, accent modification is a specialized service that can help. Non-native English speakers or those with regional accents often seek this service.

  • Aphasia

Aphasia, unlike purely speech disorders, is a language disorder that results from brain damage, often due to stroke. It affects a person’s ability to speak, write, and understand verbal and written language. This disorder can be particularly challenging, as it impacts multiple aspects of communication.

Stroke, brain surgery, and trauma patients may suffer long-term sequelae and require holistic rehabilitation, which includes various therapists in clinical or outpatient settings. By seeking adult speech and language therapy services, individuals can receive the support they need to overcome these communication disorders and improve their quality of life.

Speech And Language Difficulties In Children

Children may also suffer apraxia, dysarthria, stuttering, and voice disorders. Some of these difficulties are associated with Down’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Deafness, and other developmental disorders. These can also stem from infectious or iatrogenic (medically induced) origin.

Communication difficulties can have a significant impact on a child’s daily life, particularly in academic and social settings. For example, children who struggle with speech or language may have difficulty expressing themselves effectively in the classroom, leading to frustration and poor academic performance. 

They may also struggle to understand instructions or follow directions, which can impact their ability to participate in group activities or complete assignments. Even play and leisure activities are affected with these children having trouble making friends or engaging in social interactions. Eventually, this leads to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. 

Some of the conditions that affect children are: 

  • Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust is a pediatric concern, where the tongue moves forward exaggeratedly during speech and swallowing. This condition can impact the child’s ability to articulate certain sounds and may influence their dental health.

  • Speech Sound Disorders

Speech Sound Disorders include articulation and phonological disorders. These conditions involve difficulty learning and making sounds, impacting a child’s speech clarity.

  • Language Disorders

Language disorders can affect how children express themselves or comprehend others’ speech. These disorders can be receptive (difficulty understanding language) or expressive (difficulty using language).

  • Language-based Learning Disabilities

Language-based learning disabilities include problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and writing. Dyslexia is an example of a disability where a child struggles with reading and understanding written words.

  • Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is a perplexing anxiety disorder where a child who can speak chooses not to speak in specific situations or settings, often at school or community events.

What Speech And Language Therapy Can Do

A personalized approach, such as speech and language therapy, can play a pivotal role in helping individuals overcome their speech and communication difficulties. Speech and language therapists (SLTs) typically have a master’s degree in speech-language pathology or a related field, as well as supervised clinical experience and a state license or certification. They must also complete continuing education courses to maintain their licensure or certification.

Here’s a closer look at how speech and language therapy can help:

1. Improved Communication: The primary goal of speech and language therapy is to improve overall communication. It’s done by enhancing speaking, understanding, reading, and writing skills. With improved communication, individuals can express their thoughts, feelings, and needs more effectively.

2. Swallowing Difficulties: Speech therapists also help individuals with dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, often associated with conditions like stroke, brain injury, or certain neurological disorders. Through targeted exercises and strategies, they assist individuals in swallowing safely and efficiently.

3. Voice Disorders: Therapists work on voice disorders such as hoarseness, breathiness, or abrupt changes in voice. They guide individuals to control their pitch, volume, and quality of voice through specific vocal exercises.

4. Fluency Disorders: For people struggling with fluency disorders, like stuttering or cluttering, therapy aims to improve the flow of speech. Techniques could include controlled fluency, slowed rate of speech, or rhythmic speech.

5. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): For those who cannot speak at all or have severe speech difficulties, speech therapists can provide AAC methods. These might include sign language, writing, or the use of technology like speech-generating devices.

6. Social Communication Skills: This is particularly useful for individuals with autism or similar conditions. Therapists aid in understanding and using verbal and non-verbal communication, conversation skills, and eye-contact.

7. Cognitive-Communication Disorders: Therapy can also help individuals with cognitive-communication disorders resulting from stroke, brain injury, or dementia. It helps improve attention, memory, problem-solving, and executive functioning skills, which can impact communication.

Conclusion

Being understood, the crux of effective communication, improves quality of life and productivity. Adults and children alike may suffer from conditions that make communication difficult. Speech and language therapy can vastly impact the quality of life for those with communication difficulties, enabling them to lead more fulfilling and connected lives.