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Contributed by Integrated Therapy Specialists

Speech therapy is aimed at improving speech, language skills, swallowing, and oral motor skills in everyone from infants to the elderly. Communication and swallowing encompass many facets of functioning. Communication includes speech production and articulation, fluency, expressive and receptive language, cognition, voice, resonance, and hearing. Swallowing includes every stage of the swallowing process, from feeding-related issues to the swallowing mechanism in the throat.

While speech therapy services are more well known in the pediatric world, the knowledge of what services a Speech-Language Pathologist can provide for the adult and geriatric population is not quite as widespread. The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a speech-language pathologist as “the professional who engages in professional practice in the areas of communication and swallowing across the life span.”

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have focused my career on working with the adult and geriatric population. We do not “just do speech,” as I have heard many times. Speech and talking are just a small portion of what we can do. We evaluate and treat swallowing disorders, aphasia/language disorders, dysarthria/speech production deficits, oral motor strengthening/retraining (i.e., apraxia), acquired cognitive-linguistic deficits (i.e., memory, reasoning, problem solving, attention), voice disorders, and so much more.

The satisfaction and gratitude in helping patients say, “I love you” to their spouse for the first time after having a stroke is like nothing else. I have helped people go from eating and drinking nothing to having that first drink of water in weeks or even months. I have helped retrain people’s memory and cognition so they can return to work. I have been able to improve vocal quality for people who have suffered with hoarseness and other vocal cord trauma in order to improve their ability to communicate with their family and friends.

One of the most important career goals that I have is educating and increasing awareness of how speech therapy can drastically improve the quality of life. Because, as Daniel Webster once said, “If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest.”

Erica is currently employed with Integrated Therapy Specialists, PC in Muscatine. She has a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology as well as a Certificate of Clinical Competence. She is certified in PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) and Lee-Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT), targeting those with Parkinson’s disease. If you believe you or a loved one could be helped by speech therapy, request an appointment online at www.itherapys.com or call us at (563) 263-0557.