Speech therapy: mechanisms and treatments of language disorders

What is speech therapy?

Speech-language pathology is a therapeutic discipline that aims to treat written and oral language disorders. In this sheet, you will discover this discipline in more detail, what is a speech therapy assessment, what are disorders speech therapy can treat, how a session takes place, how to become a speech-language pathologist, and finally, what are the contraindications.

Coming from the words “ortho” which means “right” and “phonie” which means “voice”, speech therapy is a paramedical discipline sometimes called speech therapy that allows the management of written and oral language disorders and more broadly communication disorders. The speech-language pathologist also deals with hearing, voice, and swallowing problems. It detects, evaluates, and proposes the management of these disorders.

The overall goal of speech therapy is for the person in care to communicate better, either in writing or orally. This can in some cases not involve rehabilitation but palliative strategies such as the use of computers in case of paralysis for example.

Speech therapy

The purpose of the speech therapy assessment is to highlight the nature of the patient’s disorders in order to determine how to manage them. It can only be done on medical prescription, and by a speech therapist.

First, the speech-language pathologist will first talk to his patient (and his family, if it is a child). This interview will consist in carrying out the anamnesis of the individual, with the help of different questions about his life, development, and complaint.

Based on these initial results, the practitioner will then select the most appropriate tests and protocols to determine the disorders present.

These tests will aim to explore the patient’s language skills, whether oral or written language. They will also be used to measure cognitive skills, through memory, attention, or time-tracking exercises. Once the assessment is complete, the speech-language pathologist will make a diagnosis in which he can propose a series of additional tests.

The benefits of speech-language pathology

Written language disorders

Speech therapy can help treat dyslexia and dysorthographia, which are the two main written language disorders. The objectives may be to help the individual acquire the alphabetical principle, morphology, and segmentation and to make the link between oral and written.

Oral language disorders

Speech therapists take care of stuttering, zozotement, and other pronunciation defects but also, more broadly, speech and language disorders. They also take care of people suffering from language loss after an accident or because of illness. Thus, in Parkinson’s disease, speech therapy sessions can manage language disorders due to a joint made difficult by the disease.

Learning disabilities

Speech therapy plays a key role in the management of reading learning disabilities such as dyslexia. It can also help children who do not acquire logical reasoning, who have a language delay, or who have difficulty learning to read and speak.

Hearing problems

Auditory processing disorder can be improved with speech therapy through exercises to re-educate oral language in ways that improve the individual’s communication with others. This can be achieved by working on the patient’s attention and comprehension abilities.

Swallowing disorders

Following certain neurological diseases, swallowing disorders may appear because certain muscles are affected. Speech therapy can help find compensatory strategies to improve swallowing.

Speech-language pathology in practice

The specialist

The speech therapist, who mainly follows children, practices in private practice, in private practice, or within a hospital structure, a rehabilitation center, or a specialized institution. He can also evolve in a school.

Proceedings of a session

Speech-language pathologists are involved in many areas, at all ages of life. Before the start of care, they carry out an assessment based on clinical observation, followed by a diagnosis. At the end of this diagnosis, rehabilitation sessions are proposed. Their number, duration, and nature vary greatly depending on the disorder.

Thus, a session can last 30 minutes if it is a joint disorder, to 1 hour if it is a disabling disorder such as deafness. For a minor disorder, a few sessions may be enough. On the other hand, for a more pronounced disorder, the sessions can be spread over several years, depending on the progress and evolution of the person followed.

As for the exercises, they are all adapted to the disorder, and also depend on the age of the patient. For example, in the case of reading disabilities, speech therapy sessions are based on fun exercises, to be repeated many times.

Become a speech-language pathologist

Like medical studies, speech-language pathology studies are subject to a numerus clausus. This means that the number of students accepted in the first year is limited each year. In France, there are 19 schools that issue the certification of speech-language pathology after five years of study.

Selection by competition is difficult since only 5% to 10% of candidates are accepted. The training includes general courses (anatomy, physiology, neurology, etc.) and specific courses (phonetics, linguistics, etc.) as well as practical internships at the end of each year.

In Canada, you have to get a master’s degree. That is two years after a 1st cycle diploma.

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