May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Charissa Moulton, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC

Speech Therapy is a brief title that encompasses a wide variety of services that are available to anyone across the life span. A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) is able to assess and treat speech and language disorders, swallowing disorders, and cognitive-linguistic disorders. The month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) which makes this month the perfect opportunity to put a spotlight on communication.

At its base, communication is just an exchange of information in any form. It requires two participants; one to send the information and the other to receive it. When that cycle is completed, it is called a communication loop.

Communication is something that comes instinctively to many of us as it begins at birth when we cry to let our parents know we are hungry. When our mother or father responds to our cry and gives us a bottle or nurses us at the breast, they are responding to our attempt to communicate and are closing that communication loop. When caregivers continue to respond to our cry with food, they are reinforcing that communication effort and we learn that if we are hungry, we can cry and someone will bring us food. As we get older, we learn how to point, gesture, make sounds, use words, and then ultimately string those words together into functional sentences. We instinctively use our body language (eye contact, facial expressions, etc.) to help us communicate and then we learn how to refine that communication tool. We then learn how to write and read and we add those to our communication toolbox. By the time we are adults, our communication toolboxes are overflowing with tools at our disposal.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), communication disorders are among the most common disabilities experienced by young children. A young child might experience difficulty with using or understanding language, producing speech sounds correctly, stuttering, using communication in social interactions, or difficulty with thinking and memory (also called cognitive communication). Good communication skills are essential for laying the foundation for future school success; especially when it comes to reading, spelling, and writing. If your child is experiencing one or more of this difficulties, it can make it more difficult to do well in school, make and maintain friendships, or build self-esteem. Speech therapy is here to help.

As an adult, there are a variety of medical conditions or injuries that can lead to a disruption in our ability to communicate effectively. This can include a brain injury or stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, breathing problems, voice damage, or cancers of the head and neck, among many others. For someone who has never had difficulty communicating before, this disruption can be frustrating, disorienting, and scary. Speech therapy is here to help you learn to communicate effectively again and gain back your independence. This is usually done through a variety of methods, such as using communication boards of devices, teaching compensatory strategies, supporting the process of re-learning language, and providing education to patients and family.

Communication is life. It is necessary to meet our basic needs, form and continue relationships, earn a living, and experience the world around us. That is why speech therapy is available at Blue Mountain Hospital District through Rehabilitation Services as an outpatient, inpatient and transitional care program, and now is available through Home Health. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties in communication, swallowing, or cognitive-linguistic processing reach out to your primary care physician, or reach us in the Rehab Department at 541-575-4157. We are here to serve the health of you, our valued community.