Speech and hearing therapy (also known as speech-language pathology and audiology) are important health-related specialties concerned with normal development of human communication and treatment of its disorders. Speech therapy focuses on voice and speech-language skills while hearing therapy deals with hearing and hearing impairment.
Speech or language disorders may be present at birth or acquired later in life by disease, illness, head injury, substance abuse or allergy.
Hearing loss may be acquired before or during birth if a pregnant woman takes certain drugs or contracts a viral disease such as rubella (German Measles). Children sometimes acquire hearing loss from infection and inflammation of the middle ear or from communicable diseases. Adult hearing may be affected by prolonged exposure to loud noise and the process of aging.
WHO NEEDS SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY AND AUDIOLOGICAL SERVICES?
Speech-Language Pathology is used to help:
- Individuals with voice disorders to develop proper control of their vocal and respiratory systems
- Individuals who stutter to learn to cope with the disorder and increase fluency
- Individuals with aphasia (a condition in which an individual has difficulty expressing thoughts and understanding others) as a result of a stroke or head injury. Speech-language pathology helps individuals relearn language and speech skills.
- Children and young adults with language disorders
Audiological services are used to:
- Determine the existence and type of hearing impairments
- Provide rehabilitative services
- Assess amplification devices, such as hearing aids
- Teach individuals ways in which they can make the best use of their remaining hearing
Speech and hearing therapists, recognized as speech-language pathologists and audiologists, who provide treatment are professionally trained specialists holding master’s degrees or the equivalent from programs accredited by an Educational Standards Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Some speech-language pathologists and audiologists hold doctoral degrees and work as teachers, advisors, researchers, and consultants. Some specialize in certain areas, such as aphasia or hearing disorders in children, or participate in prevention and early identification programs.
Speech-language pathologists who use the initials “CCC-SLP” after their name have passed a national examination administered by the Clinical Certification Board of ASHA. Audiologists who pass a different national test, administered by the board, receive a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology and qualify to use the initials “CCC-A” after their name. A person who meets requirements in both professional areas may be awarded both certificates.
Individualized Treatment Plans
A speech-language pathologist evaluates a person’s speech-language skills, determines the probable cause and extent of any existing disorder and develops an appropriate treatment to correct or lessen the communication problem. Clinical methods used depend on the nature and severity of the problem, the age of the client and the client’s awareness of the problem.
An audiologist, after evaluating a person’s hearing and determining the type of hearing loss, establishes a treatment plan. This may involve therapy, prescription of special equipment such as hearing aids and electronic communication devices and referral for possible surgery or medication.
Both speech-language pathologists and audiologists refer their clients to other sources when necessary and help the client and the client’s family understand the problem and treatment plan. They work closely with other professionals in health and education, including physicians, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, and teachers.
Occupational therapy is a major health service that can be used to manage pain, regain performance skills lost through injury, maximize independence, promote and maintain health, and prevent injury or disability.
Who Needs Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is often necessary for persons who have had a stroke, arthritis, behavior problems, back injury, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, psychiatric disturbances or other conditions.
Occupational therapy is used to:
- Improve muscle strength and range of motion through activities
- Increase independence in daily living skills, such as dressing, eating, bathing, and vocational pursuits
- Improve gross motor skills
- Develop play skills and leisure interests
- Help individuals adjust to the use of artificial limbs and adaptive devices
- Modify environments, including home and workplace accommodations
- Apply emerging technologies that contribute to independent living
The Occupational Therapist
The occupational therapist (or O.T.) who provides treatment is a professionally-trained specialist, a graduate of a college program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Extensive supervised fieldwork provides occupational therapy students opportunities for both observation and broad clinical experience.
Some occupational therapists hold master’s and doctoral degrees and work as teachers, administrators, researchers or consultants. Some specialize in a specific area, such as mental health, pediatrics or aging.
Occupational therapists who pass a national exam given by the national board certification on occupational therapy qualify to use the initials “OTR” after their name. OTRIL means they are licensed in their state, e.g. in Illinois.
Certified occupational therapy assistants sometimes are employed to provide certain aspects of treatment included in occupational therapy programs; they use the initials “COTA” after their name.
Occupational therapy aides also may be employed to assist occupational therapists. Aides are trained on the job.
Individualized Treatment Plans
To plan a client’s program, an occupational therapist evaluates a person’s needs, abilities, and interests using interviews, assessments and medical records.
Treatment may cover one or more areas, ranging from muscle strengthening and self-care to social-emotional adjustment and use of adaptive equipment and splints.
The first focus in therapy for a person with a disability is on performing daily activities, including dressing, grooming, bathing, and eating. Then emphasis is placed on family and home responsibilities, participating in education or seeking and maintaining employment.
Therapy goals change as treatment progresses and programs are reevaluated. The occupational therapist consults and works very closely with a team that often includes a physician, other health care practitioners, the client, and the client’s family to set treatment objectives that are realistic and consistent with the client’s needs.