Speech Language Pathology
What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy encompasses treatment for a range of difficulties in communication, as well as movement of the mouth and throat needed for speaking, eating, and swallowing. Therapy is provided by a Speech-Language Pathologist, often called a Speech Therapist or SLP.
While most of us give little thought to speaking out loud, it’s actually a rather complex process. Sounds are created when the vocal cords are engaged while air is passing through. If you’ve ever tried to speak while inhaling, you’ll understand how breathing problems interfere with making sounds.
Sounds can be grumbly or squeaking, referred to as pitch. Controlling high and low sounds is called modulation. Then you need to articulate a word that you’ve chosen in your mind, and clearly speak a full sentence of words that make sense. To have a conversation, you also need to understand what the other person is saying to you.
All of that means that speaking challenges can occur on many levels.
Difficulties eating, such as closing the mouth, chewing, and swallowing, can be present at birth, or result from illness or injury.
A speech language pathologist treats all of these types of issues.
Conditions Treated by Our Speech Therapists
Our speech therapists treat children and adults with communication and eating difficulties that have a neurological basis. Disorders may stem from developmental delays or disabilities, brain injuries like concussion, medical events like stroke, or progressive conditions, such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
Every person is unique and may have one or more of the following challenges:
Aphasia: There are six different types of aphasia, but all are the result of damage to the brain. With aphasia, a person may lose their ability to speak, understand others, read or write.
- Global Aphasia results from injury to several parts of the brain and is the most severe. A person with global aphasia may only be able to speak a few understandable words, and may not understand what other people are saying at all.
- Broca’s Aphasia limits the number of words a person can speak in succession and they may have difficulty writing. While they usually understand what others are saying and written words, they are only able to express a few words at a time.
- Mixed Non-Fluent Aphasia is similar to Broca’s aphasia, but people with this condition have greater difficulty understanding others.
- Wernicke’s Aphasia affects comprehension of spoken or written words. Those with this form of aphasia can speak fluently but some words and sentences are nonsensical, which they may not realise.
- Anomic Aphasia affects the ability to find the right words to express a thought. Speaking is fluent and true words are spoken, but what is said is vague and imprecise.
- Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) results from neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Difficulties vary and progress over time as different areas of the brain are affected.
Apraxia (or apraxia of speech (AOS)): The brain pathways are unable to produce the proper sounds in the proper sequence to form words.
Dysarthria: The muscles needed for speech are weak or hard to control, causing slurred or slow speech that is hard for others to understand.
Receptive Disorders: The brain has difficulty understanding and processing what others are saying. People with receptive disorders may only comprehend a few words and may not be able to follow instructions.
Speech Delays: Children with speech delays may not form words or form them correctly, may have difficulty making their feelings known, and may be hard to understand.
Speech-Sound and Articulation Disorders: Most common in children, with this disorder they are unable to produce certain sounds necessary to speak clearly.
Many of these speech disorders result from stroke or traumatic brain injury that may also benefit from physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Our team will work together and with you to devise an overall rehabilitation plan and schedule.
Our therapists can also help with social communication skills, reasoning, problem solving and executive functioning skills, as well as alternative communication methods such as sign language or symbols.
Treatment options include intensive therapy and neurodiversity affirming therapy.
Training for Speech Therapists
Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) in Canada are regulated by national and provincial/territorial governing bodies. Speech therapists must have a university degree from an accredited program; must pass a national competency exam; and must be a member in good standing of their provincial or territorial college.
University training includes anatomy, physiology, neuroanatomy, genetics, human and language development, linguistics, psychology, and acoustics, among other studies. Students must also have clinical experience in order to graduate.
The national and provincial/territorial regulating bodies assess the applicant’s knowledge and skills before allowing them to practice as a speech therapist.
Methods and Techniques Used in Speech Therapy
There are numerous methods and techniques used in speech therapy. Your therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific challenges and goals. Some examples are:
Breathing exercises to improve sound production, fluency, and pitch.
Mouth exercises to strengthen weak muscles needed for speech.
Swallowing exercises to improve control of this movement.
Articulation therapy to learn the movements of the tongue and lips to produce the proper sounds.
Our therapists practice a neurodiversity affirming approach, and can also help with social communication skills, reasoning, problem solving and executive functioning skills, as well as alternative communication methods such as sign language or symbols. Intensive therapy is available when appropriate.