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May is Better Speech and Hearing Month and the perfect time to learn more about what Speech Language Pathologists do at Special Tree.  Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) have a long job title, but they need all those words to reflect the many aspects of their job.  Speech is our ability to make sounds so others hear and understand us.  Language is much broader and involves a system of communication – the underlying rules (sounds, words, grammar) we all use to communicate.  SLPs diagnose and treat communication disorders that interfere with BOTH speech and language.   At Special Tree, SLPs treat clients with communication disorders following brain injuries and other neurological impairments whose injuries have affected skills such as eating, swallowing, verbal and non-verbal communication, memory, sequencing, problem-solving and more.  Speech-Language Pathologists work with the interdisciplinary team to develop appropriate rehabilitation for each client.

Our SLPs diagnose and treat the following communication disorders:

Aphasia
Aphasia is an impairment of language that can mildly, moderately, or severely impact a persons’ ability to express and understand many aspects of language. This language impairment can impair the ability to express oneself through talking, writing, or gesture (e.g., sign language). Aphasia can also impair the ability to understand what one hears or reads, or what is being gestured

Apraxia
Apraxia is a disorder that makes difficult the sequencing and coordination of movements. Many different body structures can be affected by apraxia, and as such, there are many different forms of this disorder including but not limited to oral apraxia, apraxia of speech (verbal apraxia), limb apraxia, and conceptual apraxia.

Cognitive-Communication Disorders
This refers to communication difficulties that stem from underlying impairments in cognition, behavior, and/or emotion

Cognitive Impairment
Cognition can be described as the means by which we acquire knowledge or understanding. The essential processes by which we acquire information include the five primary senses paired with our arousal, attention, speed of processing, visual-spatial ability, memory, language, and executive functioning. These are all neural functions and consequently, neurologic injury can often impair one or many of these processes

Communication and Environmental Access Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
AAC includes all forms of communication, other than speech.  SLPs provide assessments, recommendations, and training to those with severe speech or language problems who may rely on a system to supplement their existing communication or completely replace speech that may be non-functional. AAC systems (whether low- or high-tech) allow individuals to communicate their thoughts, express their feelings, direct their caregivers regarding their wants/needs, and participate in social interaction

Dysarthria
Dysarthria is a neurogenic speech disorder caused by a weakened, paralyzed, or uncoordinated speech system. The speech of a person with dysarthria may sound sluggish, weak, imprecise, or uncoordinated

Dysphagia
Dysphagia is a term used when a person experiences difficulty swallowing food, liquid or managing secretions.  Special Tree SLPs assess client’s strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing, and observe feeding to see a client's posture, behavior, and oral movements during eating and drinking. Speech therapy may involve special tests to evaluate swallowing. Therapists may recommend exercises, positions, or strategies to help clients swallow more effectively. Working closely with the Dietary Manager and Nutritionist, specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer to swallow may be recommended.