The Biggest Advancements in Speech Language Pathology

Speech Language Pathology is the study, diagnosis, and treatment of human communication disorders and swallowing dysfunctions. Speech pathologists, or speech therapists, assist patients who are unable to speak clearly or properly, have communication impairments such as attention, memory, and problem-solving disorders, have such speech conditions as stuttering, an inappropriate accent, or an unsuitable pitch; have problems understanding language; and they work with those who have trouble swallowing.

Speech and language conditions are normally the result of an injury, head trauma, developmental delays, injury, emotional issues, and brain conditions.  Speech therapists work to prevent, diagnose, and rehabilitate a patient’s speech and language difficulties. Over the years, there have been a number of big advancements in speech language pathology. These advancements now enhance and improve a patient’s rehabilitation progression.

Technology and Communication Aids: There have been a number of technological advancements in the area of communication aids. This includes: communication software, voice amplifiers, switches, and mounting/holding devices that are used to enhance and provide an alternative method of communication. Electronic communication aids help augment or substitute verbal speech. This includes such services that synthesized or digitized speech. There are devices that help those with ALS, Autism, Stroke, Aphasia, or any other condition affecting one’s speech.

Computer Technology and Speech Pathology: Computer technology has become a regular part of recent speech and language therapy techniques. There are software programs that provide audiovisual exercises to help patients in their speech therapy sessions both in the clinic and at home. There are voice, video, sound, and text software programs. Spoken language technologies include Speech Recognition (patients communicating to computers) Speech Synthesis (computers communicating to people,) and Dialogue (computers and people communicating to each other to perform a specific task.) As well, there are speech therapy CDs designed for cognitive training for such problems as attention and memory.

Advancements in Home Speech Therapy: Technology now allows patients to practice their therapy techniques at home. There are videos and television programs that promote verbal and language interaction which helps speed up the therapy progress. As well, children now have the ability to use sing along devices which makes speech and language therapy fun.

Speech Language Pathology Research Advancements: There has been much research in the area of speech and language disorders. There are brain imaging studies that are taking place to assess brain development and how it relates to speech and language problems. There are Genetic studies that are looking into the relationship between heredity and speech problems. There are also studies on the effect of recurrent ear infections on the development of speech and language.

Advancements in speech therapy have allowed for enhanced and improved therapy for people with speech, language, learning, and cognitive impairments. Modern and cutting edge medical procedures and devices have resulted in an increase in the number of lives being saved after traumatic accidents and health conditions such as strokes. This has led to a greater demand for speech language pathologists. Speech-language pathologists can be found working in child development centers, preschools, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, government agencies, research centers, and anywhere one needs communication therapy. They are part of medical community and are highly valued for the treatment techniques they provide. With new advancements emerging everyday, the future looks bright for the field of speech language pathology.

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Articulation Errors – Devising a Therapy Plan

A child with an articulation disorder may have six or eight or even more different sound errors. When a speech pathologist is making a treatment plan, where does he or she begin?

First, an articulation test is given to the child. This test will assess every sound in every word position. Then the speech pathologist will determine whether the sound is stimulable–whether the child can imitate the sound. Then the sound errors will be compared to normative data to determine whether each sound should even be mastered by the child’s age. For example, if a 3 year old cannot pronounce /r/, that is not a concern, because 3 year olds are not expected to produce this difficult sound.

Traditionally, treatment begins with 1-4 sounds that are stimulable and early developing. When the initial sounds are mastered, treatment moves on to sounds that are later developing and/or not stimulable. There are many variables, however. For example, if a child produced a sound correctly 50% of the time, I would assume that it might be mastered eventually without assistance, so I would choose a sound with which the child had more difficulty. I might choose a sound that was in the child’s name or another sound important in the child’s life, even though it might not fit the usual criteria.

Current research in speech pathology is leading in another direction. Some speech pathologist are advocating teaching sounds that are the most difficult, that are not stimulable, and that are not similar to each other. Although this can be more frustrating for the child and initial progress may seem slow, evidence is showing that this method results in learning transfer to sounds that are never worked with in therapy, shortening the overall time needed in therapy.

Overall, I really think that the most important point is for a child who needs speech therapy to get it. Any child who is learning and practicing new sounds will make progress, while a child whose speech disorder is neglected may not improve on his own.

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