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What to expect when attending speech language therapy (SLT)

Dear friends,

TGIF! Welcome to another Euan's ENT blog post!

Today's blog post is the second graciously written by guest writer Dr Phua Sin Yong, following up from the last one she wrote on vocal strain which you can read more here. She is a Speech-Language Therapist at Speech Matters Pte Ltd.

The topic for today is about what you may experience in a session of Speech-Language Therapy. We hope you enjoy it!

What is Speech-Language Therapy?

Speech-Language Therapy, or SLT, is the management and treatment of communication, cognitive, and swallowing disorders. SLT is performed by specialized healthcare professionals known as Speech-Language Therapists or just Speech Therapists. Patients of different ages may be referred for SLT for various concerns. Speech-Language Therapists (SLT) and Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialists work closely together. It is not unusual to get a referral to see a Speech-Language therapist.

When may a child need to be referred for SLT?

Children may be referred by an ENT specialist for SLT if there are concerns about the child’s speech and language development.

Common reasons for recommending speech therapy may include:

  • Unclear speech (for example, when “key” sounds like “tea”, or “snow” is pronounced as “no”. Excessive mumbling or slurred speech )

  • Delay in language development (e.g. when a child is still not talking by 18 months or not able to string a few words to form a short sentence by 30 months)

  • Hoarseness of voice (dysphonia)

  • Concerns about hearing issues affecting speech and language development

  • Swallowing difficulties

  • Concerns about reading, spelling, and learning difficulties (dyslexia)

What can you expect during a speech therapy evaluation session?

During an evaluation, detailed developmental information will be obtained. Speech therapy sessions may look like play sessions depending on the age of the child. During the session, the therapist would evaluate the child by ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses to plan for therapy.

Points of Evaluation may include:

  • Examining the movement of the mouth and muscles involved in talking

  • Assessment of the child’s speech and voice

  • Determining the child’s ability to understand what is being said to them

  • Determining what the child is able to say independently / without help

Some evaluations may take more than 1 session to complete. If the therapist recommends proceeding with SLT, they would first provide an overview of what needs to be done in order to address the concerns. For younger children, SLT is often conducted with a more play-based approach.

When may Teenagers and Adults be referred for SLT?

Teenagers and adults are often referred for SLT for different reasons.

The common concerns that SLT addresses for this age group include:

  • Voice problems (dysphonia) (e.g. hoarseness of voice, change in voice, voice loss)

  • Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) (inability to eat or swallow, experiencing pain while swallowing)

  • Post-surgery speech & voice rehabilitation

  • Communication difficulties following a stroke

  • Neurological disorders such as aphasia (damage to the area of the brain controlling language expression) & dysarthria (weak muscles related to speech or difficulty using them)

  • Cognitive decline, including dementia & aging

Stroke survivors may benefit from SLT to help them speak more fluently

What can you expect during an SLT consultation?

During a consultation, the therapist would seek to find out more about how the voice, swallowing, and communication challenges developed. They may conduct an evaluation of the function of muscles in the mouth and throat.

Patients with vocal disorders should expect the therapist to examine how they produce their voices. Therapists may test their vocal pitch range in producing high and low sounds, and their volume range in making loud and soft sounds. Patients are often surprised by the many interesting sounds they find they can produce during voice therapy.

Patients with swallowing difficulties or dysphagia should expect the therapist to do a thorough examination of the muscles and to observe movements of the mouth and throat. Patients may be required to swallow or eat different types of food and drinks to help the SLT determine the extent of the disorder and how to start therapy.

Patients with communication difficulties such as difficulties speaking or understanding spoken words should expect the therapist to attempt to elicit words or sounds from them to determine the extent of their difficulties, and what needs to be done to address and alleviate them. Patients may be shown picture cards to point out and name what they see.

What's next after the first consultation?

The therapist would then advise the patient on whether they think SLT is necessary. Speech Therapy sessions can often be fun and interesting.

With children, SLT can sometimes seem like playtime

Most importantly, SLT is aimed at resolving speech, language, voice, or swallowing difficulties that patients experience.

Still not sure?

If you have any concerns about what to expect or prepare for a visit for SLT, please do call ahead of your appointment and speak to a therapist to find out more about what to expect during your visit.

You can also find out more on the Speech Matters website.

On behalf of the Euan's ENT team, we would like to say another huge thank you again to Dr Phua Sin Yong for her insightful advice!

If you have any further throat or voice concerns and would like to make an appointment with an ENT specialist, you can contact us at Euan's ENT Surgery & Clinic.

Thank you for reading! We wish you a pleasant Friday!


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