Sometimes, people can develop – or are born with – problems with communication. Phonation, resonance, pitch, and intonation can all be affected, causing problems for people who wish to be able to convey their thoughts and feelings to family, friends, and co-workers.
Speech-language pathology professionals, also known informally as speech therapists, can help with communication and swallowing disorders, allowing patients to communicate as intended and have a normal life among family and peers.
In order for a speech pathologist to recommend a proper course of action, they must assess the patient to find out what is causing their disorder, and make the best decision regarding treatment options for the patient.
Testing can consist of:
- Informal testing procedures, such as criterion based assessments
- Standardized tests
- Measures and analyses
- Oral motor mechanism examinations
Informal testing is based on the experience and knowledge of the pathologist, who can use their skill and experience to evaluate the patient’s abilities and deficiencies across differing areas. Pathologists using this method base their decisions on experiences they have had when treating other individuals with similar problems, and prescribe treatment according to perceived problem areas.
Pathologists who use standardized testing use tests to measure a patient’s individual abilities as compared to their peers. In this way, they can have a comparative base to use when determining the types of disorders involved and the proper way to treat them in order to give the patient the best in individualized care and treatment.
Pathologists who use measures will utilize instruments like the nasometer to measure and assess physical and anatomical problems and impairments. By using tools and devices in testing, pathologists can make sure any speech or swallowing disorder is not being caused by an underlying physical problem that can make communicating and eating difficult.
Oral motor examinations test the strength, range-of-motion, coordination, and speed of cranial nerves in order to discover if a problem with motor skills or nerve problems are the cause of a patient’s problems with swallowing and communication. However, it should be noted that the presence or absence of a gag reflex is not considered sufficient evidence to determine if a patient has a swallowing disorder, according to the Australian National Guidelines for Stroke Management.
Who Needs the Services of a Speech Pathologist?
There are many people who may benefit from utilizing a speech pathologist to improve or correct problems with communication or swallowing. Children, for example, can benefit by having problems addressed and corrected early in life, alleviating problems and preventing a lifetime of speech and communication disorders or eating disorders.
Some disorders that can adversely affect speech or cognitive development are genetic disorders, such as Down’s syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome, and cleft palate. These cases usually have unique problems when it comes to speech therapy, but through proper treatments and services, gain some of the skills needed to live a satisfying life.
Some children can also receive speech therapy treatments in school, receiving lessons and treatments that can help them in life at no cost to the parents. For those who don’t have this option, private therapy is available widely, and personal lessons and therapy from a qualified private pathologist is a growing field of practice for many speech pathology professionals.
Even adults can take advantage of the services offered by speech pathologists. Patients recovering from surgery or those with nerve and cranial damage can regain lost motor skills and redevelop lost communication skills to be able to get back to their normal way of living.
Speech pathology is a fast growing field, full of professionals who want nothing more than to help people to live their lives comfortably and happily, without speech and eating disorders.
Dr. Michael Barakate is a pediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia offering health and wellness information at ENTWellbeing.com.au.