Speech Therapist: What Do They Do and When Should One be Used?
The ability to speak fluently and without difficulty is taken for granted by many individuals. However, some are not so lucky and do suffer from a variety of speech difficulties–stuttering, articulation disorders, and tone and resonance disorders. The speech difficulties can be seen in both adults and children-with stuttering being the most common of all speech disorders. Speech disorders are also referred to as speech impairments. Speech Therapists are available in most developed nations globally and are specially trained.
Several factors cause disorders of speech. Physical impairments are one where the mouth is malformed in a small way but causes deficiencies in fluency and articulation. Tone disorders can usually be hereditary–and examples are a male’s voice that is too high pitched and a female voice that is too low pitched. No matter what the cause, speech therapists can generally assist in alleviating speech problems. The least common problem in speech is a volume problem – this is shown in individuals who speak too loudly or too softly and is the easiest to overcome with speech therapy. Speech therapy is simply the use of techniques by a qualified professional to remove unnatural speech patterns.
No matter what the speech disorder it can have consequences that impact children and adults socially. While not dangerous physically it does have an impact on social interactions and can cause sufferers to avoid social contacts. Even speaking on a mobile or landline might be avoided. While no one has the perfect voice or modulation of voice, any time an individual’s unusual patterns of speech are very noticeable it is time to seek treatment with a speech therapist.
When is a speech therapist necessary?
Also known as speech-language pathologists a speech therapist is imperative when someone who has a speech disorder becomes isolated and afraid to engage in speech or is misunderstood continually by others. Speaking is a communication key factor in every aspect of the life of a human being. Having any significant speech disorder can wreak havoc from childhood to adulthood.
In children, it is necessary when it impairs to seek a speech therapist when their ability to learn and communicate well is affected. In childhood being able to ask questions and interact with other children fluently does require a modicum of fluency. No child speaks perfectly especially when very young. Not being able to ask questions coherently however, in school or participate in activities because of speech problems hinders children throughout the educational and social processes that lead to success as an adult.
In adults, social isolation can occur if a speech impairment is obvious. There can also be consequences in the workplace such as lack of promotional opportunities and the inability to express thoughts to coworkers and managers in a coherent manner. The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders in the USA does advise that children start speech therapy when signs of struggling with a speech disorder first become apparent—this can be as young as three years of age. Also, according to the NIH (National Institute of Health), more boys than girls have speech disorders.
How does a speech therapist apply techniques?
A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) will evaluate the problem first to identify what is causing the speech disorder. It can be a behavioural, physical, or even emotional problem due to shyness. A plan for improving speech is then put into place with goals that need to be achieved. Practice sessions for at-home use will be provided, and the individual who is experiencing the speech problem will be advised to use the techniques taught constantly.
A series of appointments is also set up on a routine to determine the amount of success of each patient who is enrolled in a speech therapy program. A history of each patient is taken as some speech problems are developmental delays, especially in children, and might be caused by some type of hearing problem. Children or adults with speech disorders many times do not hear well and addressing the hearing loss must be tackled for speech therapy to succeed.
According to Medical News Today, once a hearing problem is ruled out, both children and adults will be taught facial, mouth, and breathing exercises by a speech therapist. Awareness is also a focal point as some individuals that speak too loudly or too softly who are not aware of this problem in themselves and have trouble fathoming why others do not seem to understand them. Some of the exercises given by an SLP will include looking into a mirror while practicing the techniques or speaking out loud so that the patient can hear how they sound to others. Speech therapists oftentimes place their hands on the area surrounding the mouth to show patients the adverse movements they are unwittingly using when speaking.
Overcoming a speech disorder leads to a happier more productive life
Although many children and adults find it embarrassing to seek assistance for a speech disorder, once the disorder is cleared up, their lives improve educationally, emotionally, professionally, and sometimes even physically as some speech disorders are caused by mouth deformities which will be diagnosed by a good speech therapist. Like with any problem or disorder the sooner speech therapy is sought the greater the chance of long-term success. Adults do benefit from speech therapy also but ingrained habits that have gone on for years without intervention can take longer to overcome.
It is recommended that all patients in need of a speech therapist start a program as soon as possible. It also is recommended that parents keep an eye on their children to identify communication problems of any type quickly before true development obstacles occur. With the advances in speech therapy now that are multitudinous, there is no reason to delay treatment of speech problems. A lifetime of misery and being misunderstood by others is preventable by seeking treatment early with a speech therapist. In many countries, insurance does cover the costs of this necessary service as it is considered a malady of great importance especially when due to a biological cause.