Speech therapy is treatment for problems with speaking, language, and swallowing. It is given by a speech therapist, also called a speech-language pathologist. Speech therapy helps with using the voice properly and using the muscles to make the right sounds. It helps people understand language and express themselves. Speech therapy can also help a person learn to swallow again after a stroke or brain injury.
Speech therapy, or speech and language therapy, is treatment for problems with speaking, language, and swallowing. A person who gives this treatment is called a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist.
Speech therapy helps with the following problems:
- Speech problems. These are problems with making the right sound, using the voice fully, and not straining.
- Language and communication problems. These are problems with understanding language, expressing thoughts, or responding in a social situation.
- Swallowing and feeding problems. These are problems with using the muscles in the mouth and throat to swallow.
There are some things to consider before you choose to do speech therapy.
Speech therapy can take a lot of time. It works best when the person goes to therapy appointments and practices every day. For children who need speech therapy, parents or guardians must make sure the children can practice at home and school.
Costs for speech therapy can be a concern. Speech therapy may not be covered by health insurance, depending on your insurance plan and the problem being treated. Find out about insurance coverage before you start speech therapy.
Communication allows people to express their needs, connect with others, and succeed in work or school. Speech therapy makes this possible for people with communication problems. Below are some benefits of speech therapy:
- Helps people do activities of daily life
- Gives people more confidence and success at school and work
- Gives people who cannot speak the ability to communicate in other ways
- Prevents injury or overuse of the vocal cords, or heals an injury
- Helps people who have had a brain injury or stroke learn to swallow
To prepare for your first speech therapy appointment:
- Send or bring a copy of your medical records about the speech problem to the speech therapist
- Write down your notes and questions about the problem
- If you are a parent or guardian, write down the speech or language problems you have seen in your child
- Come ready to learn and do the daily work of speech therapy
- Check your insurance benefit for speech therapy
A speech therapist usually meets one-on-one with a patient about once a week. The speech therapist may do any of these treatments:
- Teach new ways of breathing and speaking to use the voice better
- Teach exercises for using the lips, tongue, and other muscles in the mouth and throat
- Help with learning new words, especially for children or those who have lost language because of a stroke or brain injury
- Help with organizing thoughts or improving memory
- Teach how to use augmentative and alternative communication. These are ways to communicate besides speaking. Some examples are finger spelling, picture communication, or speech devices.
The time it takes for speech therapy to work varies widely and depends on a few factors:
- How severe the problem is
- How committed you are to practicing daily, or being involved in your child’s therapy
- Whether you (or your child) are dealing with other problems, such as stroke recovery or developmental disabilities
Depending on the problem, the speech therapist may recommend that you follow up with another specialist. In some cases, more speech therapy may be needed after the first treatment.