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Speech therapy

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy (also known as speech-language therapy or speech-language pathology), is a type of rehabilitation that helps people who have difficulty with cognition, communication, voice disorders and/or swallowing. Services are performed by licensed professionals called speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists.

Speech therapists are trained to treat people with a broad range of disorders, including:

  • Speech disorders occur when people have trouble producing normal speech sounds, including stuttering and lisping.
  • Voice disorders occur when people have trouble with their vocal cords, voice box (larynx), or absence of a voice box (laryngectomy).
  • Language disorders refer to problems interpreting and understanding speech, or trouble expressing thoughts and ideas.
  • Social communication disorders refer to trouble understanding the “appropriate” use of verbal and nonverbal communication in a social setting (for example, knowing when to ask questions or how to engage in two-way conversation).
  • Cognitive communication disorders occur when people have a hard time organizing thoughts, planning, making judgments, problem solving or remembering.
  • Swallowing disorders refer to any difficulties with feeding and swallowing.

Adults who need speech or swallowing therapy often have experienced a brain injury or a neurological condition such as stroke. Children may need speech or swallowing therapy if they were born with, or develop, a hearing impairment or a physical, mental or developmental disorder.

Speech therapists perform a variety of services designed to help patients overcome cognition, communication or swallowing challenges. Some of the ways they can help you include:

  • Performing a variety of diagnostic procedures including videofluoroscopic swallowing studies, which evaluates swallowing function via X-ray technology
  • Performing a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing, which evaluates swallowing using a videoscope in the outpatient setting
  • Performing infant feeding evaluations to identify and treat problems including latching difficulties during breastfeeding, cleft lip, cleft palate, or ankyloglossia (a condition known as “tongue-tie”)
  • Prescribing exercises that strengthen the muscles used in speaking and swallowing
  • Prescribing exercises that strengthen the vocal cords and improve voice quality, including Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT Loud)
  • Caring for patients with laryngectomees and/or tracheoesophageal prothesis
  • Performing neuromuscular electrical  stimulation (also known as NMES), including VitalStim Therapy, to help retrain and strengthen the muscles responsible for swallowing
  • Performing exercises and activities to improve cognitive difficulties
  • Recommending tools known as augmentive or alternative communication devices (AACs), including picture communication boards and electronic speech generating devices
  • Recommending hearing aids or cochlear implants for people with partial or full hearing loss

Who can benefit from speech therapy?

Speech therapists treat people of all ages whose ability to communicate, think, or swallow has been impacted by a medical condition or injury, including:

  • Stroke or other neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Traumatic brain injuries or concussions
  • Developmental disorders including autism spectrum and Asperger syndrome
  • Problems with the vocal cords, including paralysis and a condition called phonotrauma (when nodules, polyps or cysts form on the vocal cords)
  • Hearing loss
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Motor speech disorders such as apraxia and dysarthria

Services

If you or a loved one has trouble speaking or understanding speech, noted changes in cognition, or can no longer swallow properly, you’ll find the care you need at Beacon Health System. We offer inpatient and outpatient speech and language therapy services, including swallowing therapy, to children and adults at several locations in Elkhart, greater South Bend and Bremen. Referral from primary care provider is required.

Beacon Health System offers the full spectrum of speech, cognition, and swallowing therapy services described above, in hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation, and outpatient clinics. We also offer several specialty programs led by speech therapists with advanced education or training, including:

Cognitive retraining

This therapy helps people who have trouble with a variety of critical cognitive skills, including paying attention, organizing, remembering, reasoning, understanding, problem solving and decision making. Our goal is to help patients overcome their cognitive challenges so they can function more safely and independently.

LSVT LOUD (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment)

The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (also known as LSVT LOUD) is designed to improve loudness, articulation, tone and voice quality for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.

This treatment focuses on high effort and intensity during a variety of speaking exercises over one month of sessions. It can also be used in conjunction with our LSVT BIG program with physical therapy to improve walking and stability.

Our speech therapists are also integral to the following Beacon rehabilitation programs, designed for patients who require multiple kinds of therapy at one time:

Acute inpatient rehabilitation units

Inpatient therapy is located inside Memorial Hospital of South Bend. Patients who are admitted to this elite unit, receive around-the-clock rehabilitation care until they’ve regained enough skills and abilities to transition from the hospital to their homes.

Brain Injury-Intensive outpatient program

Day treatment serves patients who are recovering from traumatic brain injury, stroke or other neurological disorders. The program is designed to treat patients who still need intensive rehabilitation following their discharge from the hospital, but are able to return to their homes each night.

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