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Speech Therapy 101

by on 27/09/2021 2587

Ever notice when someone is stammering or stuttering his or her words? Has it been something that has been apparent since childhood or arising from a recent injury or medical condition? Do you find that same individual having difficulties swallowing or coughing more frequently during meals? Speech therapy could just be what they need and more.

1. What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy helps individuals with speech, swallowing, language, and cognitive function across the age spectrum, from children to seniors. Speech therapy is also known as speech and language pathology.

Speech therapy is not as widely known in Malaysia compared to countries like Singapore, Australia, or the UK where there are widespread research and technological advancements such as the use of computerized treatments and robots to help enrich therapy sessions.

The Malaysian Association of Speech-Language and Hearing was first established in 1995 and almost 20 years later, there were approximately 300 speech-language therapists or pathologists reported to be working in Malaysia in 2016. Speech therapists typically work in government and/or public hospitals, specialised centers, non-government organizations, private agencies, or independently.

2. What are the telltale signs to get speech therapy?

i. Speech

  • Problems with pronunciation
  • Lack of resonance
  • Voice problems
  • Stuttering

ii. Language

  • Delays in speech
  • Difficulties in sentence structuring
  • Struggling with conversational speech
  • Trouble following instructions

iii. Swallowing

  • Struggling to swallow food or drink
  • Coughing up food or drink during meals
  • Spending more time during meals
  • Lodged food pieces in the throat

3. Does my loved one need speech therapy?

Speech therapy can be beneficial for individuals, whether young or old. Problems that arise due to speech, language, swallowing and communication can happen at any stage of life. Children with Down Syndrome, cleft lip, Cerebral Palsy, or Autism Spectrum Disorder would require therapy. For some others, individuals may find themselves needing therapy after recovering from medical conditions such as stroke or brain injury.

Here are some insights into individuals with disorders or medical conditions who need or may benefit from speech therapy.

Speech disorders

  • Apraxia – this happens when a message does not go through properly due to brain damage. This can be caused by dementia, stroke, brain tumours, and traumatic brain injury. A person with apraxia may not have the ability to move their lips or tongue the right way to make sounds.
  • Dysarthria – a motor speech disorder resulting in a slow rate of speech or muffled/slurred sounds. This is when muscles in the mouth are weak due to brain damage caused by a variety of conditions that can happen at birth or old age such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy.
  • Stuttering
  • Voice

Language disorder

  • Aphasia – Difficulty in understanding what others are saying or finding it hard to tell others what they would like to convey. Can be caused by conditions such as stroke or brain tumours, injury, or disorder.

Medical conditions

  • Dementia – A degenerative disorder that causes memory loss and thinking problems.
  • Laryngeal Cancer – Cancer affecting the voice box, treatment for laryngeal cancer can cause changes to the sound of a person’s voice.
  • Oral Cancer – May occur on the lips, jaw, tongue, gums, cheek, or throat which can cause speech problems in the moving parts of the mouth. Chewing and swallowing may also be affected.
  • Right Hemisphere Brain Injury – Damage on the right side of the brain can cause problems with memory, attention, problem-solving, and more.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury – Brain damage can result in problems with speech, language, thinking, and swallowing.

4. What are some commonly used terms in speech therapy?

You may have just started out taking speech therapy for your loved one and the jargon and words may be hard to understand at times. Here are some commonly used A-Z words your therapist could be using.

5. What does a speech therapist do during therapy?

Speech therapists will first assess the condition of the individual before implementing strategies for therapy sessions. Strategies might include exercises to strengthen mouth muscles, demonstrating alternatives to move the tongue for articulation, and visual speech perception with repetitive language drills for memory strengthening, especially for persons with dementia or for individuals recovering from a stroke.

Some other methods are melodic intonation therapy where individuals can opt to sing instead of speaking the words.

Image credit: Autism Behavioral Center

6. What are the benefits of speech therapy?

The goal of speech therapy is to increase functional communication, cognitive skills and teach safe swallowing by introducing modifications in diet and alternative feeding techniques.

7. Action speaks louder than words

A speech therapist’s role is only the first facet of the journey to an individual’s progress. The role families play is the other facet that plays importance in enriching an individual’s therapy experience by displaying empathy, building trust, and extending understanding for more holistic rehabilitation.

Need speech therapy care for your loved one today? Chat with a Homage Care Advisor at 016-2992188.

For more information and resources about speech therapy, click here.

Attributed to the Homage team. Homage is an award-winning personal care solution that combines curated and trained care professionals with smart technology to manage and provide on-demand holistic home and community-based caregiving to individuals, allowing them to recover with grace, control and dignity. This article was medically reviewed by Stephanie Teh, a certified Speech Therapist and member of the Malaysian Association of Speech-Language & Hearing.