Why Healthy Adults Need Speech Therapy too
By Elise Mitchell, M.S. CCC-SLP
There is often a perception that adults who receive speech therapy are adults who have had a recent health crisis (i.e. recovering from a stroke, brain injury, etc.) Although speech therapists do work with this population, there are still many adults that walk into a clinic (or sit down at a computer in DotCom Therapy’s case) to receive their speech therapy needs within their busy schedule.
Here are some benefits that adults can receive speech therapy services for that are aren’t as widely known:
1. Early Onset of a Degenerative Disease
There’s this misconception that everything has to be really broken before anything can get fixed. Examples: The person with Parkinson’s disease has to be inaudible before therapy can help, or the person with ALS has to have lost his/her voice prior to receiving a communication device. That’s simply not true.The simple fact is that when individuals are diagnosed with a disease that is progressive in nature, e.g. Parkinson’s/ALS/MS, it is important to be as proactive as possible. That includes speech therapy.
2. Voice Therapy
It seems like there are constant news stories about singers having to cancel shows due to vocal nodules. The vocal folds (a.k.a. vocal chords) are twin folds of mucous membrane. Too much pressure on these folds and you can have a variety of situations occur, not limited to vocal nodules. Just like a mechanic gets blisters on his/her fingers, a singer can get blisters on his/her vocal cords. Some types of vocal injuries require vocal rest and therapy to give the vocal folds a chance to recover and to prevent the vocal cord injury from returning. Many, many things can affect vocal fold integrity. Individuals with GERD (a.k.a reflux) often receive voice therapy due to stomach acid injuring the vocal chords.
As a voice professional, I was surprised how many individuals require voice therapy due to extreme muscle tension of the larynx, i.e. the "voice box”. This muscle tension causes chronic vocal loss and can cause vocal nodules, edema, polyps, etc. Voice therapy is warranted to redirect the energy when speaking to a different part of the oral cavity, reducing the amount of energy/stress put on the voice box, which then allows the voice box to heal.
3. Accent Modification/Reduction Therapy
Here’s the deal: accents are beautiful and unique. The reality is, though, that often times thick accents can have a negative effect on an individual’s confidence and quality of life. We all want to feel like we can speak and be understood. An individual that is insecure about his/her speech, or feels nobody understands, will likely speak less and will be more withdrawn. This is where accent modification/reduction therapy comes in. Accent modification therapy can increase confidence in communication and decrease stressful communication breakdowns.
4. Vocal Hygiene Therapy
This piggy backs off of what we just discussed, but vocal hygiene therapy is a very important part of speech therapy. Obviously, we all know that opera singers require vocal hygiene therapy to reduce the risk of vocal injury. However, instructors, phone operators, and coaches are all just at-risk for vocal fatigue and injury. Some additional examples of individuals that would benefit from vocal therapy: aspiring musicians who need to learn their vocal range (and the sounds that are out of their range/damaging to the voice box), young teens that like to use the "Kardashian” glottal fry (look it up, it’s a thing), and young males that speak in a lower than optimal register. Vocal hygiene therapy allows an opportunity for individuals to learn the optimal pitch to speak in, ways to prevent vocal fatigue, ways to move energy around to the oral cavity so not as much stress is on the voice box, etc. The goal of vocal hygiene therapy is to decrease the likelihood of needing voice therapy to recover from an aforementioned vocal injury.
These are only some of the many things that may be of benefit to adults receiving speech therapy. It is important to me, as a DotCom Therapy team member, to increase awareness towards these situations. Too many of these populations discussed put off therapy because of busy schedules. This is what makes DotCom Therapy so special. If you are someone who can relate to anything mentioned above: don’t procrastinate! Don’t let you (or your loved one’s) quality of life be negatively impacted. Find a speech therapist (better yet, give us a call) because speech therapy isn’t just for kids, sometimes healthy adults need it too.