When you think about a speech therapist, you might associate them with working with children. However, did you know that speech therapy can also help adults? In this article, I will explain common disorders in adults that are associated with speech therapy. I will also explain the evaluation process.
Common Speech Therapy Disorders in Adults
There are a variety of disorders in adults that a speech therapist can help with. Often, we are quick to associate speech therapy with disorders of speech, language, and communication. However, there are a variety of other related disorders:
Speech Disorders in Adults
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. It occurs when muscles used for speech (e.g., facial, lip, and tongue muscles, or the vocal cords) become weak. This weakness can result in slowed, slurred, and/or quiet speech that is difficult for others to understand. Dysarthria affects a variety of speech subsystems including: respiration, phonation, resonance, articulation, and prosody. It can occur as a result of damage to the part of the brain that controls speech sound production. Damage can result from injury including: a stroke, head injury, or muscular disease (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).
Apraxia of Speech
Apraxia of speech is a motor disorder. It occurs when the brain experiences difficulty relaying information essential for performing speech tasks. An individual with apraxia might find it impossible to control the speech muscles used to form words and sentences. While the individual may desire to speak, they are physically unable to. In adults, apraxia can result from injury including: a stroke, head injury, or dementia. In these instances, it is considered acquired versus developmental.
Articulation disorders often begin in adults during their formative, childhood years. Without early intervention, the individual’s “speech impediment” (articulation disorder) may persist into adulthood.
Fluency/stuttering is a speech disorder that impacts the flow of speech. It affects individuals across all ages and approximately 3 million Americans. Stuttering is involuntary and can include the following: repetition of syllables, sounds, words, or phrases; prolongation, silent pauses, or blocks. It is common for a person who stutters to know what they want to say but experience difficulty expressing it. Stuttering can impact a person’s social, educational, vocational, and emotional lives.
Voice disorders occur when vocal cord movement is impacted. This can impact the pitch, volume, tone, and function of an individual’s voice. Voice disorders can originate from stress, injury, or disease. Common voice disorders include, but are not limited to: laryngitis, polyps, vocal cord paralysis, or spasmodic dysphonia.
Language Disorders in Adults
Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs when an individual experiences brain damage, often secondary to a stroke. Damage generally occurs on the left side of the brain which functions as the center for language. It can impact receptive and expressive modalities including: auditory comprehension, verbal expression, reading comprehension, and written expression.
Cognitive communication disorder impacts one or more of the major cognitive processes. This includes attention, memory, language, executive function, and visuospatial perception. Difficulties can arise from frontal lobe or right hemisphere brain damage. Deficits are often characterized as cognitive communication, or cognitive-linguistic disorders.
Swallowing Disorders in Adults
Dysphagia, or swallowing disorders, can impact an individual at one or more of the different swallowing stages. This includes: oral, oropharyngeal, pharyngeal, and esophageal phases. Generally, a swallowing disorder impacts an individual’s safety and comfort for all swallow functions (e.g., eating, drinking, taking pills). The cause of swallowing disorders can be a result of injury, neurological disease, stroke, medications, or other medical conditions.
Diagnosing a Disorder
Diagnosing a disorder always begins with an evaluation. Evaluation includes formal, standardized measures and informal measures. Not only is the speech therapist looking for a diagnosis but also the severity of that diagnosis. Evaluation almost always includes an interview with the person and/or their family members. The interview process helps individualize the evaluation to the individual. Evaluation also involves some form of standardized testing. Testing helps determine where the individual is compared to average or “normal” and helps to justify services for insurance purposes. Once the evaluation is complete, the therapist will complete a report containing pertinent information from the interview, testing, and evaluation. Thereafter, a treatment plan will be created with other related recommendations.
Once it has been established that the person can benefit from speech therapy, appointments are made to meet the established plan of care. Treatment generally ranges from daily to one or two times a week. At times, treatment appointments are every other week. Or, on a monthly basis. The therapist will provide a home program to assist progress. The more severe a condition, the more intense the treatment schedule may be. Click here to learn about the programs MOSAIC offers to address adult speech disorders.
- Sherred, L. Speech therapy for adults: A helpful and definitive guide. Expressible, LLC.
- Hearing Sol. com. 2017.