In a medical setting, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) assess, diagnose and treat patients with oral-motor, swallowing, cognitive linguistic and speech and language disorders. These patients have been affected by a neurological event, degenerative disease, head/neck cancer, or other debilitation related to a medical disease process. This includes patients:
- With Dysarthria (speech articulation or fluency difficulty)
- With Dysphonia (any voice dysfunction such as inappropriate pitch or strained vocal quality secondary to laryngeal cancer or vocal abuse)
- With cognitive-linguistic dysfunction, including underlyingattention, memory, abstract reasoning or problem solving dysfunction related to CVA, TBI or other underlying medical disease process
- With Expressive and/or Receptive Aphasia (language disorders) or Verbal Apraxia (a motor planning disorder)
- Who have oropharyngeal weakness that puts them at risk for aspiration that can lead to respiratory complications, including Aspiration Pneumonia, an airway blocker or even the demise of the patient
SLPs develop a plan of care tailored to the patient's needs related to their dysfunction. Based on aspiration risk, the SLP may recommend alternative nutrition or diet modifications, compensatory techniques and volitional swallow maneuvers. They may recommend an augmentative communication system or speech generating device for the patient with nonfunctional communication. Speech-language pathologists provide patient/caregiver education related to impairment, disease process and compensatory techniques. At discharge fro the hospital, the SLP will provide skilled recommendations and/or a home exercise program related to the patient's strengths and weaknesses to facilitate the patient's optimal level of function.