The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently it is an essential thing in a gregarious and social being like the human being. Communication helps us to transfer and express our thoughts, knowledge, emotions and intentions to the rest of the world, and their correct transmission and reception can have a great effect in the social sphere.
We learn to speak, read and write throughout our lives, but for various reasons sometimes this learning is not done correctly or is influenced or altered by some kind of problem. That is why there must be professionals who help to improve the situation of those whose skills have been impaired or reduced.
One of the professionals in charge is the one who belongs to the field of speech therapy. However, this discipline covers a large number of different populations and situations, which means that in practice one can observe different branches of speech therapy. Let’s see what they are.
What is speech therapy?
Before entering into the different branches or outputs that speech therapy can have, it is relevant to briefly mention what speech therapy is and its purpose.
Speech therapy is one scientific discipline of a sanitary and socio-sanitary nature dedicated to the study of human speech and communication and all the organs and elements of the human body related to these functions. If communication is one of its main goals, it also works on aspects such as breathing, ingestion or even auditory perception.
It is a branch of science which aims to prevent, detect and diagnose, assess and treat disorders and problems in oral communication as well as the improvement and optimization of these oral skills.
We are therefore confronted with a discipline which, although part of its solid theoretical basis, focuses above all on the practical exercise of its functions in different contexts, in a care-oriented manner.
Although speech therapy is a health discipline, it should be borne in mind that the people who practice as such are not doctors, but professionals trained directly in this sector. That implies that the speech therapist does not prescribe medication he does not perform medical or surgical interventions either, but conducts his professional action from a fundamentally behavioral, educational and psycho-pedagogical perspective.
Some of the techniques they use are language therapy, oral exercises and learning psychoeducational guidelines focused on improving and / or rehabilitating the subject’s expressive / understanding abilities. Elements such as articulation, posture, resonances, voice projection or rhythmicity are worked on.
Also, although speech therapy is socially identified as a profession centered on the childhood scene, the truth is that it is not the only area of work.
You can work with people of all ages and conditions, such as adults with aphasia or communication problems that may be the result of brain illness or injury, acquired or untreated problems in young people ( for example, dysphamia or stuttering) or even in case of dementia (in which it helps to maintain and preserve the functions of the language).
Different branches of speech therapy
Speech therapy is a profession that focuses as we have seen on the functioning of the audiophonic and maxillofacial system and in particular on language and communication (although it is also possible to work on aspects such as breathing and chewing).
But the truth is, not all speech-language pathology professionals are in charge or focus on all aspects of this profession and / or on all types of people: there are several specializations and branches of speech therapy, Which we will see below.
1. Speech therapy for children
As we have stated above, language and communication problems do not only arise in childhood, but one of the most attention-grabbing stages of child and adolescent development and one of the best-known branches or specializations.
In this sense, speech therapists specializing in this sector of the population generally treat cases of dysphasia, joint problems or dyslalia that have an organic cause (for example a cleft lip) or are of a functional type (learning and psychological causes. ).
It is common for them to treat cases of specific language disorder, stuttering or dyslexia., Or even working with children with problems such as autism, ADHD or intellectual disabilities (at the oral and communication level). Its role is generally preventive by avoiding possible problems or even reducing the impact that an alteration of the language can have throughout its development.
2. School speech therapy
One of the areas in which they typically spot language and communication problems is school. In this sense, it is essential and of great interest that there are educational psychologists and speech therapists capable of assessing the child’s language, Their development of this skill or incorporate individualized plans or specific programs that can help improve the situation of the child in question.
In this case, it is also common for professionals to focus on issues such as dyslalia, mutism, dysphonia, stuttering or dyslexia. Also in intellectual disability or autism. Last but not least, the school speech-language pathologist may need to assess and improve oral communication skills of children with sensory impairments, especially deafness.
3. Clinical speech therapy
Another of the main branches of speech therapy, far removed from the school environment, is clinical speech therapy. In this sense in addition to minor clinical speech therapists they usually work with adults who have speech or joint problems.
Among the various difficulties they may encounter, they may have to deal with people with speech disorders (for example due to anxiety problems), language problems related to psychopathologies (for example in case negative symptoms of schizophrenia), stuttering, nerve disease or muscle damage, brain damage, tumors, paralysis or even dementia.
4. Geriatric speech therapy
Another age group that may require speech therapy is the elderly.
With age, the skills of expression and communication may decrease. It is also common for neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or stroke to appear at these ages, which means that in practice it is not uncommon for professionals in this sector to work with problems similar to those of neurology. with neurological disease).
This branch or specialty of speech therapy incorporates in addition to the usual knowledge of general speech therapists knowledge of the functioning of the nervous system and various neurological disorders, In addition to notions of neuropsychology.
Here, the focus is on language difficulties resulting from specific neurological injuries or diseases, in order to improve the quality of life of patients and in case of neurodegenerative disorder, try to preserve their capacities as much as possible.
6. Speech therapist specializing in voice disorders and voice rehabilitation
Speech therapy is generally associated with our oral communication, but in this category there are many aspects that can be worked on. Inside them is the voice, which can be impaired in people with aphonia or breathing problems, among others, regardless of their pronunciation or articulation. In this meaning, there is a specialization or branch of speech therapy focused on voice problems.
In addition to this, their services they can aim not to rehabilitate but to enhance the communicative resources of users. It is also a branch that generally treats like patients with professionals who depend heavily on their voices to accomplish their professional task. Presenters, singers, diplomats, or actors may be some of the types of clients who may require this type of service.
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- Richard GJ (2011). The role of the speech-language pathologist in the identification and treatment of children with auditory processing disorders. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 42 (3): 241-255.