Speech-language pathologists – also called speech therapists – are educated, skilled and licensed healthcare professionals. They’re also sometimes overlooked by people unaware of the important role of these professionals in health and healing.
“Our profession focuses on helping people of all ages – newborn to senior – address health issues from the neck up,” said Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) Speech-Language Pathologist Lorrie Nebrig, MA, CCC-LP. “Our work is both diagnostic – in that we help physicians pinpoint the patient’s health problem – and therapeutic because we also recommend and undertake treatments for the condition.”
How can a speech-language pathologist help you or someone you care about? The answer to that question falls into these four categories:
Communication – In adults, finding words during conversations and formulating their thoughts are communication issues that can improve with the help of a speech-language pathologist.
“Delayed speech is also a common communication issue for children,” said YRMC Speech-Language Pathologist Kelly Smith, MA, CCC-LP. “We have play-based therapy sessions to help these children. We also work with the child’s parents so they can build their child’s language skills at home.”
Cognition – People with cognitive disorders caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury or dementia may have difficulties organizing their thoughts, focusing, remembering, planning and problem solving.
“Memory is not a passive process,” said YRMC Speech-Language Pathologist Jill Wingard, MA, CCC-LP. “There’s lots going on in our brains to help us remember. We help the patient tap into all of this.”
Swallowing – A swallowing disorder called dysphagia (pronounced dis-FAY-juh) is the most common condition addressed by YRMC’s speech-language pathologists.
“We work with people of all ages and with all kinds of conditions to strengthen the swallowing function,” Nebrig explained.
Heart problems, stroke, respiratory conditions and more can weaken the swallowing function.
“Our goal is to ensure people are safe and not aspirating into the airway,” said Smith.
Infants born early also may need swallowing therapy, which YRMC’s speech-language pathologists provide at the Family Birthing Center at YRMC East.
Older children diagnosed with chronic reflux, enlarged adenoids and other health issues undergo swallowing therapy at Outpatient Pediatric Services at YRMC East and YRMC West.
Voice – Ongoing laryngitis, a paralyzed vocal cord and Parkinson’s disease are examples of conditions that impact the quality of an individual’s voice.
“We look at all of the characteristics that go into creating a good, solid, clear voice,” Nebrig said. “Once we’ve gathered this information, we structure a therapy program to address each patient’s specific needs.” QCBN
By Bridget O’Gara
Bridget O’Gara is a health care communications and marketing professional who works with Yavapai Regional Medical Center. For more information about YRMC’s programs and services, contact email@example.com.