Updated: May 27
People are often surprised to learn that a Speech-Language Pathologist’s (SLP) scope of practice isn't limited to working with children or only helping people speak. SLPs also play a significant role in treating disorders related to cognition, communication, and swallowing in adults. Additionally, an SLP’s job includes working with other professionals such as doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, and dieticians. They also work with the patient and his or her care partners solving problems and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Causes and types of disorders related to speech, language, and swallowing problems in adults include:
· Head injury
· Breathing difficulties
· Head and neck cancer
· Vocal abuse
· Severe long-term illness
· Multiple Sclerosis
Types of disorders:
· Cognitive-communication disorders
· Voice disorders
· Swallowing (Dysphasia)
So what is the role of a SLP in adult rehabilitation?
SLPs are trained to evaluate and treat cognitive, communication, voice, and swallowing abilities. This is how they do it:
Cognition: what is it? Cognition can loosely be described as “thinking skills”. It is the brain's ability to focus on one or more tasks simultaneously, to recognize and remember people and daily tasks, to make decisions, solve problems, and to successfully organize and complete multi-step tasks. An SLP's role is to develop an individualized treatment plan which may include exercises and strategies for improving attention, memory, problem-solving, executive functioning, and visuospatial skills.
Communication: Is an individual's ability to speak, understand, read or write. An SLP's treatment for communication disorders may include word retrieval exercises, sentence formulation, following auditory or written directions, rehearsing specific responses, and training with alternative and augmentative communication devices.
Swallowing: Allows food or drink to pass down the throat. When someone has dysphasia that usually means that there is some weaknesses or dysfunction within an individuals swallow. This dysfunction or weakness can cause a safety concern for someone to eat or drink safely and receive adequate nutrition. An SLP's role is to help the individual eat safely and strengthen the swallowing mechanism.
The role of the SLP in relation to family:
An SLP’s scope of practice extends beyond the patient; they must understand the perspective and work between the medical professionals and the family to accomplish the highest achievable goal for the patient and their family. Part of the role of an SLP is to facilitate and encourage familial involvement with regard to planning, decision making, and program implementation.
The good news!
According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, eighty-one percent (81%) of people with language problems after a stroke improve with outpatient services, and over half of the people in the hospital no longer need a feeding tube after receiving swallowing treatment from an SLP. (ASHA National Outcomes Measurement System).
There is hope after a difficult diagnosis, and SLPs specializing in adult rehabilitation are that hope!
Article written by Josie Ehrlich. Josie holds a BS in Psychology and is currently completing a Graduate Certificate in Pre-Professional Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Georgia. She also works full-time as an assistant teacher at The Howard School, a K-12 school in Atlanta specializing in language-based learning differences. Josie hopes to do her graduate work in Communication Sciences and Disorders, starting in 2023.
“National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS).” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, https://www.asha.org/NOMS/.
“ASHA.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, https://www.asha.org/.
Dragga, Amanda. “The Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Stroke Rehabilitation.” Rhode Island Medical Journal, 20 Dec. 2015, pp. 20–21., www.rimedicalsociety.org/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2022.
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