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Speech therapy is the corrective or rehabilitative treatment of physical and/or cognitive deficits/disorders resulting in difficulty with verbal communication. This includes both speech (articulation, intonation, rate, intensity) and language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, both receptive and expressive language, including reading and writing). Depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, common treatments may range from physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice and drilling, to the use of audio-visual aids.

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Speech-language pathologists, in India widely called as speech therapists - assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders.

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There are recognized courses in the field of Speech-Language pathology. There are many institutes in India offering Bsc & Msc programs in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences. The Bachelors program is of 4 years duration. The Masters program is of 2 years duration. Only individuals who have completed the Bachelors or both these courses are eligible to be called as Speech-language pathologists or Speech therapists.

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Speech-language pathologists work with people:

  • who cannot produce speech sounds, or cannot produce them clearly;
  • who cannot produce speech sounds, or cannot produce them clearly;
  • who have problems with speech rhythm and fluency, such as stuttering;
  • who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice;
  • who have problems with understanding and producing language;
  • who wish to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent;
  • who have cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory, and problem solving disorders.
  • who have swallowing difficulties.

Speech, language, and swallowing difficulties can result from a variety of causes including developmental delays or disorders, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, voice pathology, mental retardation, hearing loss, stroke, brain injury or deterioration, or emotional problems. Problems can be congenital, developmental, or acquired.

The practice of speech-language pathology involves:

  • Providing prevention, screening, consultation, assessment and diagnosis, treatment, intervention, management, counseling, and follow-up services for disorders of:
    • speech (i.e., articulation, fluency, resonance, and voice including aeromechanical components of respiration);
    • language (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatic/social aspects of communication) including comprehension and expression in oral, written, graphic, and manual modalities; language processing; preliteracy and language-based literacy skills, including phonological awareness;
    • swallowing or other upper aerodigestive functions such as infant feeding and aeromechanical events (evaluation of esophageal function is for the purpose of referral to medical professionals);
    • cognitive aspects of communication (e.g., attention, memory, problem solving, executive functions).
    • sensory awareness related to communication, swallowing, or other upper aerodigestive functions.
  • Collaborating in the assessment of central auditory processing disorders (CAPD) and providing intervention where there is evidence of speech, language, and/or other cognitive communication disorders.
  • Speech-language pathologists in schools collaborate with teachers, special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents to develop and implement individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities.
  • Speech-language pathologists can also conduct research on how people communicate.
  • Speech-language pathologists design and develop equipment or techniques for diagnosing and treating speech problems.

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Speech-language pathologists provide services to individuals with disorders often along with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists. Speech-language pathologists use qualitative and quantitative assessment methods, including standardized tests, as well as special instruments, to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of speech, language, and swallowing impairments. Speech-language pathologists develop an individualized plan of care, tailored to each patient's needs. For individuals with little or no speech capability, speech-language pathologists may select augmentative or alternative communication methods, including automated devices and sign language, and teach their use. They teach these individuals how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their oral or written language skills to communicate more effectively. They also teach individuals how to strengthen muscles or use compensatory strategies to swallow without choking or inhaling food or liquid. Speech-language pathologists help patients develop, or recover, reliable communication and swallowing skills so patients can fulfill their educational, vocational, and social roles. They counsel individuals and their families concerning communication disorders and how to cope with the stress and misunderstanding that often accompany them. They also work with family members to recognize and change behavior patterns that impede communication and treatment and show them communication-enhancing techniques to use at home. Speech-language pathologists keep records on the initial evaluation, progress, and discharge of clients. This helps pinpoint problems and track client progress.

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 Where do they work?

There are a variety of facilities in which these professionals work.

  • Hospitals/Clinics: There are many hospitals/clinics in which these professionals are employed with in the pediatric department. The children will be directly referred to them by doctors for assessment and therapy.
  • Rehabilitation centre: There are many public/private rehabilitation centers.
  • Special schools: Therapists also work within the school settings.
  • Private practice: In India private practice is very common where many therapists work independently. They may be working part-time in any of the facilities mentioned above along with private practice also.

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