Improving communication across the lifespan

May 22, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees

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The ability to communicate needs, ideas and feelings is the most complex of human behaviors. As you may have read earlier this month, speech-language pathologists evaluate and treat children and adults who have motor speech, language, cognitive and/or swallowing disorders.  Speech-language pathologists have a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), maintain ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) and have Michigan Licensure.

Effective communication requires smooth sequencing of the motor act of speaking, programming of speech sounds into words, language skills such as finding words, putting the words into sentences, understanding, reading and writing, as well as cognition or thinking and memory skills. All of these areas can be adversely affected by disease, trauma or cancer affecting the brain and nervous system.  

Another subspecialty of speech-language pathology focuses on the evaluation and management of communication and swallowing disorders due to a wide range of acquired neurological diagnoses, such as:

  • Brain tumor
  • Encephalopathy
  • Epilepsy
  • Neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders (such as Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Progressive Aphasia)
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury

Speech-language pathologists develop individualized treatment plans, including patient/family education to enhance recovery and provision of compensatory strategies for the following neurogenic communication problems: 

  • Dysarthria or changes with the motor act of speaking including respiration, voice, articulation and prosody or the melody of speech. Treatment may focus on improving the volume level and intelligibility of speech via strategies or in some cases recommend an augmentative communication system. Different motor speech characteristics can help pinpoint an underlying neurological diagnosis.
  • Apraxia of speech or difficulty sequencing and programming sounds into words.
  • Aphasia/dysphasia or language changes including understanding spoken language, verbal expression (finding words, putting words into sentences) reading comprehension and writing. In addition to improving, regaining language skills, treatment may focus on strategies to improve communication partner training, life participation, technology.
  • Cognitive-communication changes including attention, memory, problem-solving, reasoning, executive functions.
  • Social communication/pragmatics problems such as following the rules of conversation.
  • Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) when the individual is unable to speak.
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing: which will be discussed in more detail in next week’s Headline.

Speech-language pathologists specializing in neurogenic communication disorders participate in a variety of inpatient and outpatient multidisciplinary clinics such as:

  • Ambulatory Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology Adult Neurorehabilitation at MedRehab, Canton and Brighton Center for Specialty Care
  • Ambulatory Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology Pediatric Neurorehabilitation at Pediatric Rehabilitation Center and Briarwood Pediatric Rehabilitation
  • Ataxia Center of Excellence in Neurology
  • Atypical Parkinsonism Center Cure PSP Center of Care in Neurology
  • Functional Wellness Initiative/Brain Tumor Clinic in Neurosurgery
  • Inpatient Adult Rehabilitation Unit at University Hospital
  • Inpatient Comprehensive Stroke Unit at University Hospital
  • Inpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit at Mott
  • Intraoperative and Extraoperative Brain Mapping Studies with Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Motor Neuron Disease-Pranger ALS Center of Excellence in Neurology
  • Refractory Epilepsy Surgery Team – Adult and Pediatric with Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • STIM Team with Neurosurgery and Neurology

One example of intensive speech-language treatment while closely working as a team with Neuropsychology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, PM&R, is the Pediatric Neurorehabilitation Program founded in 1989 by Speech-Language Pathology. The speech-language pathologist works closely with the team, the caregivers and often with the teachers, to promote as full a recovery as possible. Treatment is designed to foster recovery, teach new ways of learning skills and assist the child in learning to compensate for areas of weakness. 

For more information about communication and swallowing disorders or to speak with a speech-language pathologist, please contact us at 734-763-4003. To be seen as an outpatient for speech-language pathology evaluation and intervention, a referral needs to be placed by the patient’s physician or advanced practice provider.

See one of the following web resources to connect with a speech-language pathologist, or for additional information regarding Better Speech, Language and Hearing Month:

Speech-Language Pathology