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Speech Language Pathologists Treat Communication, Swallowing Disorders


By Morgan Murray

Speech Language Pathologist

CRMC Speech Therapy Outpatient Clinic

What does a speech language pathologist do?

Speech language pathologists (SLPs) treat people of all ages for many types of communication and swallowing disorders (also known as dysphagia).

Common concerns are when someone has trouble swallowing meat, bread or other foods, or when someone starts coughing while drinking water. These problems can be caused by a structural anomaly or weakness.

SLPs can also treat articulation in children, cognitive changes in individuals diagnosed with a stroke or other brain injury and the voices of people with vocal cord dysfunction or progressive neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

What kind of tests are available to diagnose a swallowing issue?

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s speech therapy clinic offers complete modified barium swallow (MBS) studies, which take place in the radiology department, or fiberoptic endoscopic exams (FEEs), which take place in the clinic itself. The CRMC clinic is the only one in Wyoming that offers FEEs.

What help is available for patients being treated for head and neck cancer?

Radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments to the head and neck can affect a person’s ability to eat and drink. An SLP can help ensure patients can continue to eat and drink before, during and after treatment. Head and neck cancer treatments can also affect the voice and ability to communicate. The CRMC clinic offers several services to help with these concerns.

How can the clinic help children with language development?

SLPs help children from birth through high school with language development and speech sounds. For example, an SLP can work with children who have cochlear implants or who have had recurrent ear infections. Sometimes children in these situations need a minimal amount of assistance to help them catch up to their peers. In other instances, the child may need more extensive treatment to meet development targets. In addition, SLPs assist children who are having difficulty eating a variety of foods or who have a history of aversion to foods and textures. SLPs also work with the caregivers of infants who have had a tongue or lip tie correction, so that the infant develops good feeding habits.

What treatment is available for voice disorders?

CRMC’s speech therapy clinic has three therapists certified in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT LOUD), which assists individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. SLPs can also address voice disorders caused by vocal cord dysfunction, vocal nodules and voice changes that can occur due to age. With therapy, people who have struggled with voice changes can learn to speak louder, clearer and stronger.

How else can SLPs help someone?

An SLP might help stroke survivors improve their word-finding ability or re-learn critical skills in organization and memory. An SLP can also help someone with a progressive disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) establish a voice bank, which will allow the person to use their voice on an augmentative and alternative communication device.

How to get help

CRMC’s speech therapy clinic has recently expanded its staff to three full-time and two part-time SLPs so it is now able to provide more services and support to the community. The clinic is located in the medical office building attached to CRMC. A referral is required for services. For more information, call the clinic at (307) 773-8120.

Bio: Morgan Murray is a speech language pathologist in the CRMC Speech Therapy Outpatient Clinic. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University. She currently sees pediatric language and phonology patients as well as adults with dysphagia and cognitive deficits.

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