In the month of May, we celebrate Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) to raise awareness about communication disorders. Speech- language pathologists work with people every day in settings that include schools, private practices, health care facilities, and even in homes to improve speech, language, and cognitive skills. A person’s communication skills are critical at each stage of life- for young children, as a strong foundation for language and literacy; for school-aged children, as a requirement for academic and social success; and for adults, as a key part of their career and personal relationships. Speech-language pathologists also play a critical role in helping people to swallow and eat safely.
Communication and swallowing disorders may occur for a variety of reasons. In children, this may be due to congenital syndromes, developmental disorders, injuries, or illnesses. In adults, they are common in those who have had a stroke, brain injury, head and neck cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Although the specific challenges that people experience can vary significantly, one commonality is that most people can improve with the help of a speech-language pathologist.
Here are some specific areas where speech-language pathologists work with students, patients, and clients:
Speech- People with speech problems may not say sounds clearly or smoothly. This may make it difficult for others to understand them.
Language– A person with a language disorder may have problems with expressing themselves, understanding others, and reading and/or writing.
Cognition– This can involve difficulties with attention, memory, problem-solving abilities, organizational skills, and judgement.
Voice– Hoarseness, breathiness, pain, frequent coughing, and other problems with a person’s voice may result from medical problems or from overuse or misuse.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication– People may need or choose to use other ways to communicate. These include no- or low-tech and high-tech options such as pointing, gesturing, using picture boards, or using a speech-generating device.
Feeding and Swallowing- Difficulties may include coughing or chocking during meals, food or liquid leaking from the mouth, or food getting stuck in the mouth or throat. These difficulties may occur due to preterm birth, developmental disabilities, medical conditions, and illness and injury.
Gender-Affirming Voice and Communication- This area may focus on pitch, tone, vocal health, non-verbal communication, and more.
Communication Coaching- SLP’s may also help professionals with public speaking and communication style.
Accent Modification- Training individuals with an accent which includes pronunciation and intonation.
Let's do our part as therapists and get out there and promote healthy hearing and speech practices!