Speech therapists are often associated with helping children, but certified Speech-Language Pathologists also commonly work with adults to help with speech or language problems. Whether these issues originated in childhood, or may have developed as a result of an illness or injury in adulthood, many can be treated with effective speech therapy.
How Many Adults Have a Speech Issue?
Speech and language disorders are very common for adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, over 17.9 million people reported a voice problem within the last year. This translates into one in 13 adults annually, or the equivalent of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and Seattle metropolitan area combined.
However, even though speech issues among adults are common, only a relative minority seek treatment for their voice problem even though speech therapy can often help their condition. In fact, speech therapy can help with the prevention and rehabilitation of communication, language, speech, and voice disorders at any age.
Common Conditions for Adults
There are many speech and language disorders that can be treated with speech therapy services:
Apraxia: A motor speech disorder that makes it difficult or impossible to control the muscles used to form words. This can happen even if the person has the desire to speak and the muscles are physically able to form words. Apraxia can happen in adults as the result of head injury, dementia, or stroke. This type of apraxia in adults is referred to as Acquired Apraxia.
Dysarthria: When the muscles used for speech are weak, this can cause slurred, quiet, or slow speech that may be difficult for others to understand. Dysarthria can happen in adults as the result of head injury, muscular dystrophy, or a stroke.
Aphasia: Due to a brain injury or a stroke in the language areas of the brain, Aphasia hinders a person’s ability to use or understand words. It affects their ability to retrieve certain words and can affect their ability to speak, read, or write. It is estimated that 2 million adults in the United States currently have Aphasia and that nearly 180,000 Americans acquire it every year.
Stuttering: Involves the involuntary repetition of syllables, sounds, or words and affects people of all ages. Adults who stutter know what they would like to say, but have difficulty in producing this speech fluently. Stuttering affects around 3 million Americans.
Voice Disorders: Anything that interferes with your vocal cord movement can cause a voice disorder. Voice disorders affect pitch, volume, and tone. Some voice disorders include Laryngitis, polyps, vocal cord paralysis, or Spasmodic dysphonia. If you have a voice disorder, your voice may quiver, sound strained, be weak, or change in pitch.
Dementia: An overall term for diseases and conditions that result in a loss of cognitive functioning. This can greatly interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia not only affects a person’s memory, but their ability to use language. Speech therapy can help with this as well as provide help for eating, drinking, and swallowing difficulties that many dementia patients possess. Currently 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
Laryngeal Cancer: Cancer in the Larynx, a part of the throat, and procedures meant to treat Laryngeal cancer may affect a person’s ability to speak. Speech therapy can help patients recover from surgeries and help them to speak again. Roughly 12,000 Americans are diagnosed with Laryngeal cancer every year.
Accent Modification for Adults
Accent Modification is considered an elective service and is not considered a speech language disorder. Accents are a natural part of language. While everybody has an accent, sometimes people want to change the way they speak because of difficulties being understood. This can lead to troubles at work, school, or in that person’s social life.
People who seek accent modification are often:
- People who speak English as a second language
- People who want to more effectively communicate at work
After a speech therapist assessment and once a speech therapist better understands the patient's way of speaking, the therapist will provide exercises and methods to change their sound and intonation in alignment with their speech goals.
What Happens in Speech Therapy for Adults?
Speech therapy begins with a full assessment to determine a patient’s needs. This may involve formal or informal tests. A speech therapist is looking for a specific diagnosis as well as the severity of the possible condition. They may also interview family members to learn more about particular communication challenges.
After this is complete, the speech therapist will put together a treatment plan based on their findings as well as recommend the proper frequency of visits for future speech therapy sessions.
Speech Therapy Sessions
Typical speech therapy sessions may involve:
- Language Intervention Activities: These are individualized exercises designed to improve language development. Speech therapists will model language using pictures, books, and objects to improve vocabulary and grammar.
- Articulation therapy: Therapists determine what sounds the patient is having difficulty with and provides individual exercises around teaching those specific sounds and patterns.
- Feeding and Swallowing therapy: Speech therapists can provide oral exercises to strengthen the muscles of the mouth and improve the way a patient swallows.
These are longer evaluation sessions typically done twice a year to adjust patient goals and track their progress. Clinicians will spend time reviewing the patient’s medical history and inquiring about their concerns and goals. Evaluations may include standardized assessments or informal measures. Depending on the presenting problem, a variety of activities may be used to assess receptive language, expressive language, fluency, speech sounds, executive functioning, or social skills. Often, evaluations will include conversation for the therapist to make clinical observations.
At the end of the evaluation, the speech-language pathologist may give initial impressions and early recommendations regarding whether treatment is warranted.
How Long Does Speech Therapy Take for Adults?
Clinicians wish they could look into a crystal ball to give families a short answer to this question! The long answer is that each patient's progress will depend on his or her individual needs, their follow-through on the provided home programs, and strong attendance to scheduled sessions. Expressable clinicians are certified and experienced; they will be able to field your questions or concerns regarding you or your loved one's progress. With Expressable, we believe communication between clinicians and clients is crucial for success.
How Often Should Should Adults be Seen by a Speech Therapist?
Most adults use Expressable to visit with their speech therapist one to two times per week in addition to provided home programs. Depending on the therapy and severity of condition, more intensive schedules are occasionally implemented as needed.
How Can Teletherapy Help with Stuttering?
- Teletherapy is More Affordable
Practices have to pay for a lot of expenses that aren’t directly related to patient care, such as facility costs, overhead, marketing, support staff. With teletherapy, these cost savings are passed down to the customers.
- Flexible Scheduling and Convenience
Instead of spending time traveling to and from in-person therapy sessions, patients can schedule and attend appointments from the comfort of their own home. Patients also have greater flexibility to schedule sessions on the dates that work best, and at the times that they prefer.
- Just as Effective as Traditional Therapy
Because all Expressable therapists are licensed Speech Language therapists, there’s no difference in quality between teletherapy and on-site sessions. A landmark study from Kent State University showed that there was no significant difference in scores between students who participated in teletherapy versus on-site therapy.
For more information on Teletherapy, view our latest post “Why Choose Teletherapy?”
How Can Expressable Help?
Speech therapy with Expressable is just like traditional therapy, but sessions are administered online with modern video conferencing software that our clients can access from the convenience of their home. Expressable can offer incredible therapy at one-fifth the price because our therapists focus on serving families instead of dealing with long commutes, administrative tasks, and the burden of insurance overhead.
A pilot study comparing the effectiveness of speech language therapy provided by telemedicine with conventional on-site therapy - Kent State University
Aphasia Definitions - Aphasia.org
Apraxia of Speech - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Cancer Stat Facts: Laryngeal Cancer
Dementia - Alzheimer’s Association
Dysarthria - Mayo Clinic
Quick Statistics on Voice, Speech, Language
Stuttering - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Stuttering - Mayo Clinic
U.S. burden of Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias to double by 2060 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Voice Disorders - Symptoms and Causes - Mayo Clinic
Voice Disorders - Johns Hopkins Medicine
Why Choose Teletherapy?