One of the members of the sub-acute care team that probably is involved with all stroke survivors is the speech-language pathologist (or SLP). The speech-language pathologist is involved in a few different types of recovery. All of these are connected to the mouth and the related systems. And all of these will hopefully improve the quality of life for a patient.
The Areas of Expertise of the Speech-Language Pathologist
In general, a speech-language pathologist may assess, diagnose and treat a patient for one or a combination of:
- Voice issues
- Speech issues
- Cognitive and Communication issues
- Swallowing problems.
The SLP for Stroke Survivors and Dementia Patients
- Perform an assessment to help diagnose which type of aphasia a patient has. The speech-language pathologist works together with the neurologist for this.
- Work with patient in a way to assess the patient’s changing needs.
- Provide exercises to improve muscle control in the mouth and swallowing system. Improve muscles strength gradually to the best it can be for that patient.
- Re-learning language skills – reading writing and talking – as part of the treatment for Aphasia.
- Help stroke survivors with right-brain injuries improve communication problems. Problems might arise due to issues controlling facial muscles or thinking skills.
- As part of treatment for dysphagia, teach swallowing strategies.
- For dementia patients, improve cognitive skills towards better understanding.
- Teach family members supportive and coping strategies for the issue that their relative is dealing with.
How Long Did your Speech-Language Pathologist study for?
The speech-language pathologist studies for several years. All SLPs need a graduate degree, and a number of years of clinical experience. How long the experirence must be for depends on the state in which the SLP works. Some SLPs work towards opening a private practice, for which the journey is around 7 years of studying and gaining experience. Some speech-language pathologists go on to earn a doctorate.
The longer a speech-language pathologist has studied, you can expect them to have better skills. But educational skills are not the only important thing to look out for in a good SLP.
A Speech-Language Pathologist You Would Want to Work With Is….
The personal skills of the speech-language pathologist are especially important in working with a patient for communication issues. You can expect them to have some special traits including:
- Being sensitive to the patient’s needs and feelings
- Have excellent communication skills
- Be gentle but firm
- An ability to listen and teach well
- Be consistent and persistent
- Adaptability is important to find solutions for patients
- To keep their finger on the technological pulse, since there are always new developments
- Accept and apply feedback from the patient or their family
- Know when to ask a superior or a different sub-acute care team member for input
Learning to Adapt Following Stroke or Other Condition
In his book, Stories of a Speech Pathologist: Volume 1.0, Brian Hurley reminds us all that “all patients are humans with a story to tell”. This really is the case, with senior rehabilitation patients.
The speech-language pathologist provides speech therapy or speech-language therapy. The therapy, together with the exercises and strategies that the patient learns gives the patient the best opportunities to recover the skills that they can. The patient learns how to adapt to their situation, through the involvement of the speech language pathologist.
Of course, the speech-language pathologist works as part of the sub-acute care rehab team. Read the other available articles in the series on the members of the sub-acute care team: the Physiatrist, the Neurologist, the Rehabilitation Nurse, the Physical Therapist and the Dietitian.