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Speech therapy or Speech-language therapy is the study of disorders that affect a person's speech, language, cognition, voice, swallowing (dysphagia) and the rehabilitative or corrective treatment of physical and/or cognitive deficits/disorders resulting in difficulty with communication and/or swallowing. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) address people's speech production, vocal production, swallowing difficulties and language needs through speech therapy in a variety of different contexts including schools, hospitals, and through private practice.
Communication includes speech (articulation, intonation, rate, intensity), language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics), both receptive and expressive language (including reading and writing), and non-verbal communication such as facial expression and gesture. Swallowing problems managed under speech therapy are problems in the oral, laryngeal, and/or pharyngeal stages of swallowing (not oesophageal).
Depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, common treatments may range from physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice and drilling, to the use of audio-visual aids and introduction of strategies to facilitate functional communication. Speech therapy may also include sign language and the use of picture symbols (Diehl 2003).
The practice is called:
- Speech-language pathology (SLP) in the United States and Canada
- Speech and language therapy (SLT) in the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa
- Speech pathology in Australia
- Speech-language therapy in New Zealand
Speech therapists or Speech and language therapists (SLTs), or Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are allied health professionals. They work with children and adults who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing. (However, difficulties with eating and drinking may also fall under the scope of the occupational therapists profession.)
Speech and language therapists work with:
- Babies with feeding and swallowing difficulties
- Children with mild, moderate or severe:
- Adults with eating and swallowing and/or communication problems following stroke, neurological impairments and degenerative conditions including: head injury, Parkinson's disease, motor -neuron disease and dementia, cancer of the head, neck and throat (including laryngectomy), voice problems, mental health issues, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, stammering (dysfluency), hearing impairment
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Communication disorders
- Oral myology
- Speech delay
- Speech impediment
- Speech pathology
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