Speech-language pathologists treat a wide variety of communication and swallowing disorders. We provide both inpatient and outpatient speech therapy services to patients of all ages.
Speech pathologists (SLP) hold at least a master’s degree and are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A speech pathologist can be trained to work in a medical setting (such as a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center), or in the academic setting, (the school system or at the collegiate level).
If you suffer from speech or swallowing concerns, talk to your doctor for more information about speech therapy at Winneshiek Medical Center.
Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia)
Difficulties swallowing (also called dysphagia) can have a significant impact on daily life and may occur for many reasons. Symptoms of dysphagia can include coughing or gagging when eating or drinking, a feeling of food getting stuck, pain while swallowing, drooling, and unintended weightloss among other symptoms. Of greatest concern is the risk of choking or that food or drink may enter the airway (aspiration) placing a person at risk of developing pneumonia.
Evaluation of swallowing disorders
- Clinical swallow evaluation
- A speech language pathologist will gather information related to your swallow difficulties and other pertinent medical history. They will assess the function of face, mouth, and throat muscles involved in swallowing and will then observe eating and drinking for signs of aspiration or choking.
- Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS)/Modified Barium Swallow (MBS)
- Sometimes called a “video swallow study” or “X-ray swallow study”, VFSS is completed in the radiology department with both a speech language pathologist and radiologist. VFSS allows the speech language pathologist to view and assess the function of mouth and throat muscles during swallowing while also determining whether and how food or liquid may be entering the airway (aspiration). This provides information to guide treatment and liquid/diet recommendations.
Swallowing therapy and treatment
- The speech language pathologist will train you how to use exercises and strategies to improve the function of swallow muscles and increase safety with eating and drinking by decreasing the risk of food/drink entering the airway.
Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders
Neurogenic speech and language disorders are caused by damage to areas of the brain that control speech and language. This damage may be caused by many different things including stroke (cerebrovascular accident), traumatic brain injury (TBI), tumors, or degenerative disorders.
- Dysarthria refers to difficulties or changes in speaking that make speech difficult for others to understand. People may notice mouth, lip, or tongue weakness that affects their ability to speak. Speech may be slurred, too slow or too rapid, uneven rhythm or loudness, monotone, or nasal sounding.
- Treatment may focus on strengthening and coordination exercises as well as strategies to compensate and improve speech intelligibility/clarity
- Aphasia refers to difficulty using or understanding language and can affect both speaking and understanding language as well as reading and writing. People with aphasia often have difficulty with word finding in addition to other language difficulties. They know what they are trying to say, but have difficulty finding the correct word. Aphasia is most commonly associated with a stroke, but can occur following other brain injuries.
- Treatment for aphasia will frequently involve word and language exercises targeted to specific difficulties, such as naming items, word finding, answering questions, reading and/or writing.
- Following a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other brain damage, some people experience cognitive difficulties including trouble with memory, attention, organization, or problem solving.
- An speech language pathologist and ENT physician work together when evaluating voice problems to determine the cause and rule out other medical issues.
- Videostroboscopy is completed with an ENT and speech language pathologist together to assess the health and function of the vocal folds. A flexible nasal endoscope is used to view the throat and larynx (voice box).
- The speech language pathologist will also take recordings of the voice and use a computer to analyze the recording to provide more information about a person’s voice troubles.
- Voice therapy will include exercises to reduce hoarseness, prevent damage to the vocal folds, and reduce tension, strain, and vocal fatigue. The goal is to be able to use your voice in a comfortable and sustainable way, and to have strategies to prevent further problems with your voice.
- Many people with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in their voice and speech such as speaking quieter. Specialized programs have been developed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Gender Affirming Voice Therapy
- Those who are transgender or gender non-conforming may experience dysphoria involving their voice and feel their voice doesn’t reflect their gender. Gender affirming voice therapy can help a person to find their authentic voice that is comfortable and sustainable. Voice therapy will often target both pitch and resonance together, but may also include intonation, reflexive sounds, non-verbal communication, and other areas as desired.
Many different symptoms are associated with dementia including memory loss, difficulties planning and problem solving, and other troubles related to thinking. People with dementia may also develop difficulties with communication such as word finding difficulties, difficulties telling a cohesive story, and trouble understanding lengthy and complex information.
- Treatment often focuses on strategies to help a person with dementia maintain as much independence as possible. These might be memory strategies, calendars, visual reminders, and other memory/planning aids.
- SLPs will work with family and caregivers to teach communication strategies to help minimize communication difficulties and frustrations.
- Speech therapy for dementia can also include a variety of exercises such as memory, planning, problem solving, and organization.
Your child may be referred for speech therapy services if presenting with the following conditions:
The list below is not exhaustive; therefore, does not include every possible presenting condition or difficulty we may treat.
- 12-15 months of age and using no or few words
- 18-24 months of age and not combining two words together (e.g., “more milk” or “no cookie”)
- Utilizes an augmentative alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate
- Does not follow simple directives
- Difficulty understanding spoken or written language
- Speech is unclear or unable to be understood by peers
- Difficulty producing specific sounds; for example:
- Difficulty producing the “r” sound (‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’, ‘fauh-ee’ for ‘fairy’)
- uses a “t” sound for a “k” (‘tate’ for ‘cake’)
- Difficulty understanding non-verbal/social cues
- Difficulty understanding the “rules” of conversation (i.e., taking turns as listener or and speaker)
- Repeats sounds, parts of words, whole words or phrases, or prolongs parts of words
- Chronic hoarseness
- Complains of pain or discomfort when using voice
Feeding and Swallowing
- Difficulty swallowing liquids and/or solids
- Coughing/choking when eating or drinking
- Frequent gagging or vomiting during meals
- Eats only a very limited number of foods
Cognition/Traumatic Brain Injury
- Difficulty with memory, problem solving, attention, organizing, planning
A person needing speech pathology services is first seen by their primary care doctor. If a person is admitted to Winneshiek Medical Center due to a stroke, the patient may be seen for additional therapy once discharged from the medical center, either at home, at a nursing home, or as an outpatient.