What is speech therapy?
Speech therapy is treatment that can help you if you are having problems with speaking, thinking, or other language skills. Speech therapists also help with swallowing problems. Speech therapy can help you learn new ways to:
- Concentrate, remember, and process new information
- Breathe or swallow
When is it used?
Speech therapy may help with conditions such as:
- A stroke or brain injury
- Cancer or other growths on the vocal cords
- Chronic laryngitis (a hoarse voice, loss of voice, or sore throat that keeps coming back)
- Diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Trouble swallowing
- Speech disorders, such as stuttering or not being able to say words clearly
- Vocal cords that are paralyzed or severely weakened after a viral infection of the throat, an injury, or surgery in the neck
How does it work?
Speech therapy can be done in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, in a clinic, or at home. A speech therapist will test you and find out the speech and language skills that you need to work on. Depending on what the problem is and how bad it is, treatments may include:
- Physical exercises–for example, of your mouth, tongue, or the muscles you use to swallow
- Practicing speaking
- Learning to use devices such as voice-synthesizing computers and language boards that can help you communicate
The therapist may work with you one-on-one or in a small group. Speech therapists may also work closely with family members who are helping to care for you.
Types of exercises that may be used are:
- Language exercises: During these exercises the therapist may model the correct way to say words and have you repeat words and sentences.
- Articulation exercises: Articulation means the making of sounds. The therapist will show you how to make certain sounds with your mouth and tongue. You may use a mirror to watch how your mouth and tongue are moving.
- Relaxation and breathing exercises: Breathing techniques and relaxation exercises can help you relax the muscles you use to speak and breathe.
Speech therapy often is used along with physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Where can I get speech therapy?
Talk to your provider if you are having problems communicating. Your provider or local hospital will be able to help you find a speech therapist. Then check with your insurance company to see what kinds of services are covered, and if you need a referral.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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