During Better Hearing and Speech Month, we have recognized the incredible work that our nation’s hearing and speech professionals do for the patients they serve. To say Speech- Language Pathologists provide therapies for hearing and speech disorders is a very broad characterization. Initially, people know that SLP’s can help treat stuttering and other forms of sound articulation issues, but in reality, there are many disorders most people have never heard of that can be treated by an SLP. Let’s introduce five lesser known conditions that benefit from treatment by an SLP.
Angelman Syndrome – First described as a syndrome in 1965 by British pediatrician, Dr. Harry Angelman, this rare genetic disorder is widely misdiagnosed and misunderstood while affecting almost 1 in 15,000 births. “Angels” experience global developmental delays and are absent of the capability to speak. However, they typically have better receptive language abilities. SLP’s work with Angels by teaching them to use various forms of augmentative communication devices to help them express their wants and needs.
Vocal Cord Paralysis – Vocal Cord Paralysis occurs when one or both vocal cords are unable to move or are stuck halfway between open and closed. In some instances, surgery is required, but patients work with an SLP on improving breathing support, vocal pitch alteration, and finding the proper positioning to maximize vocal output. This may include turning the head to one side or the other during speaking to improve cartilage placements.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders – Also known as OMD, this conditions affects speech due to exaggerated movements of the tongue during speech or swallowing. For treatment, the SLP will develop a plan to help the child change their posture and articulation by increasing awareness of their mouth and facial muscles. They will help improve facial muscle control and strength to improve speech and swallowing patterns.
Selective Mutism – This condition will generally present before a child is five years old and consists of the inability to speak in certain environments. Children with selective mutism have the ability to speak but cannot in specific circumstances. An SLP will work with a pediatrician, teachers, family members and a psychologist to determine the catalyst for the condition. Once a comprehensive history and background information are collected, an SLP will prepare a behavioral treatment plan including self-modeling, relaxation stimuli, and other structured approaches to communication.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) – CAS is a motor speech disorder causing children to have problems with sounds, syllables, and words. This disorder is difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms may not be present in each child. Once a firm diagnosis is received, and other disorders are ruled out, a child with CAS will generally respond best to intensive therapy, three to five times per week. Since CAS is not associated with muscle weakness, rather muscle coordination, therapy, and extensive practicing bring about improved speech.
The above are just a small sample of the rare and less-publicized conditions that can be treated by a hearing and speech professional. If you are looking for a certified Audiologist or Speech-Language Pathologist in your area, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association can help you find one here.