Speech and language therapy is for everyone.

Many people think of SLPs as working primarily with children. In reality, SLPs work with individuals throughout the lifespan.

Speech therapy for adults begins with an evaluation to determine areas of need and can be short term or long term, based on the results.

Two women speaking

Services can be delivered in the home, in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, in private clinics, or the hospital. Service delivery and treatment vary greatly and depend on the reason you are seeking speech and language therapy.

Reasons why an adult might need speech therapy:

Speech Disorders:

Dysarthria – Dysarthria is a speech disorder characterized by muscle weakness. Dysarthria is caused by brain damage and can occur at birth or after an illness or injury.

Apraxia – Apraxia is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult to form speech sounds accurately. In adults, this can occur as a result of any damage to the brain, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Stuttering – Stuttering is when the flow of speech gets interrupted by the involuntary repetition of sounds, syllables, words or phrases, or pauses. There is no one cause of stuttering. Many people who begin stuttering as children, continue to stutter into adulthood.

Voice – Voice disorders impact the quality of your voice. They can be short term or long term. Examples include hoarseness from overuse, vocal fold nodules, or paralysis.

Language Disorders:

Aphasia Aphasia is a language disorder that happens following some type of brain damage, most commonly stroke. Aphasia can make it hard to understand, to speak, to read, or to write, but does not impact your cognition.

Medical Conditions:

Dementia – Dementia causes memory loss and other issues with thinking and problem-solving.

Oral or Laryngeal Cancer – Oral cancer or mouth cancer can change the way you talk or eat. Treatment for cancer of the larynx will cause changes in the way your voice sounds. A trained SLP can help with these changes.

Traumatic Brain Injury – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the result of a bump or a blow to the head or when an object goes through the skull and into the brain. TBI can occur at any age and may be a reason that an adult seeks out speech and language therapy.

Swallowing Disorders – Swallowing disorders in adults can be due to conditions such as Parkinson’s or stroke and can also be the result of aging. Evaluation and treatment for swallowing disorders depend on the cause, symptoms, and type of disorder.

Communication Options:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)AAC refers to alternative means of communication, other than speaking. Adults with developmental disabilities may use AAC devices if they are nonverbal or have limited verbal output. Additionally, some adults may require AAC following a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or the onset of a neurological disorder. This could include long-term or short-term use.

Speech with Tracheostomies or VentilatorsAdults who have breathing problems may have a tracheostomy or require support from a ventilator. SLPs, typically in the hospital setting, can help with any associated speech and swallowing problems.

Elective Services:

Accent Modification – An SLP is trained to teach speech sound production. If an individual determines that they want to change or modify their accent for personal or professional reasons, an SLP can help.

Voice and Communication Changes for Transgender Individuals – This can include working on pitch, tone of voice, nonverbal communication, use of language, or any other aspect of speech and language that can help an individual represent their gender identity.

Additional Diagnoses:

There are many developmental disorders or diagnoses which impact language and communication across the lifespan. Below are just a few examples that speech therapy for adults can help with.

Down Syndrome – Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder arising from an extra chromosome. Individuals with Down Syndrome may benefit from speech and language therapy throughout their childhood and into adulthood. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – ASD is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Children with ASD may require services to extend into adulthood. Therapy might target social skills, use of AAC devices, nonverbal skills, speech sound errors, and receptive and expressive language deficits. 

ADHD – Characterized by difficulty with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. An SLP can help with speech, social, and communication difficulties which may arise from ADHD.

Hearing Loss – Adults with hearing loss may seek the services of an SLP in addition to audiology. These services can work toward improving overall communication skills or to hone specific areas of need. 

Cerebral Palsy – Individuals with cerebral palsy often experience speech and language problems due to the underlying motor, intellectual or sensory impairments. They may continue to receive speech and language services into adulthood.

There are many reasons adults may seek out an SLP, and this is not a comprehensive list. If you are an adult who has a referral for speech and language therapy, you or your caregiver should look for an SLP who can address your specific needs.

Cocoa Berry
Author: Cocoa Berry