Speech therapy helps more than just speech

September 23, 2016

This is the third in a four-part series on Mercy Therapy Services in Carthage. Other parts of the series are physical therapy, occupational therapy and cardiac rehab.

Speech therapy is needed for a variety of reasons. No matter a person’s age or the cause, virtually all speech conditions can be treated in Carthage.

Carrie Roberts and Greta Nicholas are a team that provides speech therapy services at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus. As speech-language pathologists with a certificate of clinical competence, they assess, diagnose, treat and help prevent speech, language and communication disorders.

"We're pretty unique here in Carthage because we both have many years of experience and treat a diverse age group,” as opposed to treating specific ages or problems, said Nicholas, who has been with Mercy for 19 years. She’s joined Roberts for the last eight in Carthage. “Carrie and I treat all speech conditions.”

Speech therapy helps patients who have difficulty communicating due to speech, language, memory or cognition problems. Speech-language pathologists work with people who have:

  • Difficulty making speech sounds or cannot make them clearly
  • Speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering
  • Voice quality problems, such as an inappropriate pitch or harsh voice
  • Problems understanding and producing language
  • Cognitive communication problems, such as attention, memory and problem-solving disorders
  • Oral motor problems that cause eating and swallowing difficulties
  • Communication or behavioral disturbances associated with autism
  • Little to no speech such as following an injury or illness

Some of the most common causes of communication or swallow deficits in adults are acute neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, stroke, head injury, Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Speech therapy treatment depends on whether the impairment is physical or mental, said Nicholas, who used the tongue as an example.

“With speech, if it’s an articulation disorder, you’re training and educating about proper tongue and mouth positions to achieve the right sounds,” she said. “If it is muscle weakness altering articulation, we may try to strengthen the muscles. We can do range of motion or resistive exercises to help build the weak oral muscles, such as the lips, tongue or palate.”

For children, a common diagnosis includes developmental delays. This may result in articulation disorders with pronunciation issues. Delayed development may affect language abilities including difficulty putting words together to use proper syntax or grammar. Delays in language also may disrupt vocabulary knowledge or understanding verbal or written language.

Not all speech conditions affect only verbal communication as therapy includes treating breathing or swallowing problems. Swallow studies with instrumentation provides patients with the ability to watch their swallow and better understand their deficit. In addition, Roberts and Nicholas teach patients proper breathing techniques to support speaking.

“You have to coordinate breathing and swallowing patterns,” Nicholas said. “If patients have shallow breathing or a disruption in their ability to breathe efficiently, it can create aspiration.”

Mercy Therapy Services at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, can be reached at 417-359-1910.