Speech Therapy in Tuscaloosa

Speech-Language Pathology generally diagnoses and treats speech or language delays or disorders, and treats the speech difficulties caused by various conditions. In the Ear, Nose and Throat Office setting the Speech Pathologists’ services are concentrated in specific ‘treatment specialty areas’ that address the needs of the patients that are typically seen by the ENT physicians.  Speech disorders can affect anyone, but are most common in individuals with impaired hearing, cleft lip or palate, swallowing or breathing disorders or adults that use their voice frequently.

Conditions We Treat:

Voice Disorders

A person would benefit from a voice evaluation if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic hoarseness or breathiness
  • Frequent breaks in pitch
  • Chronic, excessive soft vocal quality or loud vocal quality
  • Pitch that is too low or too high for age and/or gender
  • Hyponasality or hypernasality
  • Frequent throat clearing/coughing excessively

A person’s voice is a reflection of who he/she is and therapy should be positive and enjoyable.  Some voice disorders, like nodules or muscle tension dysphonia may be treated with voice therapy by a speech-language pathologist. Other disorders, like reflux laryngitis, may be treated with a combination of voice therapy and medication.

The Speech-Language Pathologists at TENT provide evaluation services for children, teenagers, and adults who have been diagnosed with a voice disorder. By obtaining an in-depth case history and performing a clinical assessment, the speech pathologist will gain further information to assess if the client is misusing, overusing, or “abusing” the voice.  One of the ways to assess a person’s voice is by passing a small camera and light through the nose or mouth in order to see the vocal cords. This will provide valuable information related to any medical reason for the voice disorder (vocal cord nodules, vocal cord polyps, paralyzed vocal cord, etc.) Many different approaches to voice therapy can be recommended and should be tailored to the individual client.

 

Resonance Disorders

A Resonance disorder can be classified into two main categories: hypernasality and hyponasality. Hyponasality typically occurs when there is a blockage of the nasal passageway which does not allow nasal sounds to be produced (m, n).  Hypernasality may occur due to velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI), which happens when the valve that closes off the nasal passageway does not function. Children with cleft palate have a higher probability of exhibiting hypernasality due to anatomical differences in the soft palate caused by the cleft. Children with VPI may be seen with a speech pathologist and a pediatric otolaryngologist concurrently to assess what types of treatment options are appropriate for the child.

Feeding/Swallowing Disorders

Swallowing difficulty, also known as dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur due to a variety of neurological or anatomical diseases or conditions, including brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, head and neck cancers etc. Speech-language pathologists (S-LPs) are trained in the identification, management and treatment of swallowing problems. A speech-language pathologist can determine what foods are safe, easy and enjoyable to eat, and what exercises and techniques can improve the swallow function. Speech-language pathologists will work with the client and their families to provide education on the swallowing and how to reduce the risks.

Swallowing difficulty may involve the following:

  • Problems moving food in the mouth
  • Trouble starting a swallow
  • Difficulty getting food down
  • Throat clearing after eating or drinking
  • Coughing after eating or drinking
  • Wet voice after eating or drinking
  • Choking

Problems with swallowing can lead to:

  • Poor nutrition and hydration
  • Decreased energy
  • Pneumonia
  • Reduce social interactions in activities that involve food

Accent Modification

Good communication has many benefits in the workplace, social and community settings. Speech-language pathologists have the unique skills to teach accent modification. It is through this program that our clients can learn to communicate more effectively and easily at home, the workplace and in the community as a whole.

Benefits from the Accent Modification Program include the following:

  • Increased ability to be understood by others
  • Increased confidence when speaking in English in a variety of settings e.g. workplace, with friends
  • Increased ability to understand English
  • Increased ability to be understood on the phone
  • Ability to enjoy communication in a variety of settings

There is a common belief that it is difficult to change an accent when the second (or subsequent) language was learned after early childhood. However, working with a speech-language pathologist can help improve pronunciation and can cause overall speech to be better understood. The aim of accent reduction is not to erase the accent but rather to make sure it doesn’t prevent a person from clearly communicating thoughts and ideas with confidence.

Speaking clearly involves pronouncing the individual sounds according to Standard English as well as using the correct rhythm, stress and intonation. A large part of the meaning of speech is conveyed by rhythm and tone of voice – in other words the “music” of communication. S-LP’s have training in the sound patterns of English and how sounds are physically made. Learning the individual sounds of English is only part of the accent modification program. Some other components include working on English vocabulary, specialized workplace vocabulary, presentation and phone skills.

Stuttering

Stuttering (sometimes referred to as disfluency) is a communication difficulty that affects one’s fluency and flow of speech.

Stuttering may include repetitions of words, parts of words, initial letters of words as well as prolongations (stretching out of sounds). Sometimes speech may become entirely blocked. The causes of stuttering are complex and varied.

In adults who stutter, there is likely some childhood stuttering that has continued into adulthood or has worsened with time. Most adults seek help from a speech-language pathologist (S-LP) when they notice their stutter has started to affect their personal and/or work-related activities.

In most cases, stuttering affects at least some daily activities. For some people, stuttering only happens during specific activities, for example, talking on the phone or speaking before large groups. For many others, however, communication difficulties occur more frequently at home, school, or work. Some people do not participate in certain activities because of their stuttering. Others may avoid certain words and in extreme circumstances avoid participating in conversations altogether.

Speech-language pathologists (S-LPs) are the professionals who have the training to help adults reduce their stutter and feel more confident when communicating with others. For adults concerned about stuttering, an assessment is recommended. The assessment will determine the severity of the stuttering as well as the effect on that person’s quality of life. The S-LP will likely include an assessment of “difficult communication situations”.

The overall goal of therapy may not be to eliminate the stuttering completely but to help the person communicate more effectively and confidently, enjoy communicating with friends, partners and in the workplace. The S-LP may work on those specific activities that the person finds more difficult e.g. speaking on the phone, going on a first date, expressing an opinion and talking to a boss etc. Real life practice using a variety of strategies will be encouraged.

 

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