Speech therapy is a form of therapy which is designed to address language and speech disorders. It is typically provided by a speech therapist, who may work with a psychologist, physiotherapist, or psychiatrist, depending on the patient's condition. Speech therapists can address speech and language issues as they occur, and they may also provide preventative care which is designed to stop such disorders before they start.
Language disorders involve an inability to utilize language. People with language disorders may have psychological issues like stuttering, or they may have cognitive impairments which make it difficult for them to connect critical features of spoken language. Speech therapy for language disorders starts with determining the extent of the disorder, exploring the underlying cause, and then addressing the cause with the patient, using a variety of exercises to help the patient overcome the disorder.
People recovering from strokes and brain injuries may also experience language disorders as a result of cognitive impairments. For these patients, speech therapy can help the patient recover his or her former language faculties, or develop a new method of communication if it is impossible for the patient to fully recover. Speech therapists can also address emotional discomfort caused by slurred speech or difficulty speaking after a stroke, helping patients feel more confident.
Speech disorders involve physical obstacles to speech which create speech impediments or difficulty speaking, such as disorders of the vocal cords. Speech therapy for these types of conditions involves an assessment of the patient, which may be assisted by a doctor who can help the speech therapist determine what is causing the problem, followed by the development of a treatment plan to help the patient learn to speak. Speech therapists can also help patients learn to use various tools which can assist with communication.
Speech therapy can also be used to help people overcome thick accents, or in the treatment of transgendered individuals who want to retrain their voices as part of their transition process. Being able to suppress accents can be important for people who are interested in advancing professionally.
Children can sometimes develop speech impediments which will grow worse over time. Early speech therapy can address such impediments before they become severe, preventing the development of problems in the future. Because speech issues can also be the sign of an underlying medical problem, it is important for parents to take their children to a speech therapist if they develop issues with speech or language.