Speech and Language Therapists are highly trained to assess and manage a wide range of swallowing, voice and communication difficulties.
What happens when I have problems Swallowing?
If you have noticed the following, you may need to see a Speech Therapist –
- Coughing or spluttering when taking a drink or food; sometimes you might cough a few seconds afterwards
- Watery/tearing eyes when eating/drinking
- Becoming short of breath or changing in colour whilst eating/drinking
- Choking on foods
- Having to modify how or what you eat and drink due to difficulty
- Pain or discomfort when swallowing
- Over time, you may notice loss of appetite, weight loss, low mood, avoidance of social situations…even dehydration and recurrent chest infections/pneumonias.
What can I do if I have Difficulty Swallowing?
The Speech Therapist will assess many things – first we will take a case history (find out your history and what changes or concerns you have about your swallow), then we will assess the muscles you use to eat and drink with.
From here, we will then do a swallow evaluation simply by asking you to eat and drink various things – we might try different things to make swallowing easier. With all of this information, we then decide (with you) on the best course of management (this may include strategies or postures, exercises, diet and fluids recommendations, use of specific utensils, and education) – we will give you lots of written information to take home and digest.
If you have suffered a stroke or head injury, you are going through or are finished with head and neck cancer treatment, or if you have a diagnosis such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis, you may benefit from review if you have new or ongoing difficulty with eating, drinking, and swallowing.
How can Speech Therapy help my Communication?
Have you ever had difficulty finding the right words…..only for them to come to mind hours later when it’s too late or maybe not at all? Have you experienced people asking you to repeat yourself again and again because you have slurred, slow, or fast rate of speech? Have you had the sensation of knowing what you want to say but being unable to get your lips or tongue to form the correct words, instead coming out with something completely different?
When people have speech and language difficulties, it can be very frustrating and often embarrassing. Whether you have an aphasia (difficulty talking, understanding, reading, or writing), dysarthria (impaired articulation, monotone or monopitch), or apraxia (knowing what you want to say but not being able to get your speech muscles to produce the words your brain wants them to) we can work with you to assess your abilities, set goals and plan therapy just for you.
Can Speech Therapy help my voice?
Our voice defines who we are – it portrays our emotions, if we are healthy or unwell, young or old. Our voice allows us to communicate our needs and wants, and it is uniquely special to us.
Voice problems are much more common than many people think – they can affect adults of all ages and for many different reasons, for example:
- Overuse or misuse of your voice leading to hoarseness, loss of voice, strained or breathy voice – this can happen to teachers and singers, or even from talking too much on the phone, speaking in noisy situations, or using inappropriate pitch (too high or low)
- Loss of or changed voice following head and neck cancer treatment
- Poor vocal hygiene and developing poor vocal behaviours
- Exposure to things that damage your voice (chemicals, irritants)
- Gradual change of your voice due to a progressive condition (such as Parkinson’s disease)
- Vocal fold paralysis
- Vocal fold nodule or polyps
- Laryngeal cancer
We are trained to assess your voice using an array of measures – this means that we will have very clear information about what we need to treat and how we plan to do it. It can take a lot of practice to break old habits but it can be done! Before we start working on your voice though, you may need a recent report from an ENT Consultant or you may need to make an appointment to see one – this is to check the current status and function of your vocal folds, so we know what we are dealing with and what we are trying to improve on. We may work on your voice directly (voice exercises) and/or indirectly (education or counselling). Direct therapy can involve a number of sessions to notice improvements.