You Desperately Need Speech Therapy For Dysphagia

You desperately need speech therapy for dysphagia

A speech therapist, also known as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), specializes in speech as well as swallowing because the same muscles are involved. This means you need speech therapy for Dysphagia! This professional plays a crucial role in assessing and treating swallowing disorders. Here are the ways a speech therapist help individuals with swallowing disorders.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

A speech therapist conducts a comprehensive assessment to evaluate the nature and severity of the swallowing disorder. This may involve reviewing medical records, conducting interviews, and performing various tests such as swallowing studies or endoscopic evaluations.

The evaluation and diagnosis process conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for swallowing disorders typically involves several steps to gather information and determine the nature and severity of the condition. Here is an overview of the evaluation process.

  1. Case History: The SLP will begin by gathering information about the patient’s medical history, including any relevant medical conditions, previous surgeries, medications, and current symptoms. They may also inquire about the onset and progression of the swallowing difficulties.
  2. Clinical Observation: The SLP will conduct a clinical observation of the patient during mealtime. They will observe the patient’s posture, oral movements, coordination, and overall swallowing function. This observation helps identify any visible signs of difficulty, such as coughing, choking, or changes in breathing during eating or drinking.
  3. Patient Interview: The SLP will conduct an interview with the patient to gain a deeper understanding of their subjective experience with swallowing difficulties. They will inquire about specific symptoms, such as pain or discomfort while swallowing, food getting stuck, or the feeling of food or liquid going down the wrong way.
  4. Swallowing Assessment: The SLP may perform a variety of instrumental assessments to evaluate the swallowing function more objectively. These assessments may include:
    • Modified Barium Swallow Study (MBSS): During an MBSS, the patient is given food or liquid mixed with a barium contrast material. X-ray images or fluoroscopy are used to visualize the swallowing process in real-time, allowing the SLP to observe the movement of food or liquid through the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
    • Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES): In a FEES, a thin, flexible endoscope is passed through the patient’s nose and into the throat. This allows the SLP to directly visualize the swallowing process while the patient consumes food or liquid. The procedure provides information about the movement and coordination of the swallowing mechanism.
    • High-Resolution Manometry (HRM): HRM involves the insertion of a small catheter through the patient’s nose into the esophagus. It measures the pressure and movement of the esophageal muscles during swallowing, providing information about esophageal function.
  5. Assessment of Sensory and Motor Function: The SLP may also evaluate the patient’s sensory and motor function related to swallowing. This can involve testing the patient’s ability to detect different tastes, temperature, or textures within the mouth. It may also include assessing the strength, coordination, and range of motion of the muscles involved in swallowing.
  6. Collaboration with Other Professionals: Depending on the complexity of the swallowing disorder, the SLP may collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as radiologists, gastroenterologists, or otolaryngologists, to interpret the results of instrumental assessments and to gain additional insights into the underlying causes of the swallowing disorder.

By combining information from the case history, clinical observation, patient interview, and instrumental assessments, the SLP can form a comprehensive understanding of the swallowing disorder and its impact on the patient’s overall health and quality of life. This information guides the development of an individualized treatment plan to address the specific needs of the patient.

Treatment Planning

Once the swallowing disorder has been diagnosed, the speech therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to the specific needs of the patient. The plan may include specific exercises, strategies, and techniques to improve swallowing function.

Swallowing Exercises

A speech therapist will teach and guide patients through specific exercises designed to strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing and improve coordination. These exercises may target the lips, tongue, throat, and other structures involved in the swallowing process.

These exercises will specifically target oral, pharyngeal, or both structures simultaneously. There are very few exercises for esophageal and many Speech Therapists feel there is nothing to be done for esophageal dysphagia, but Dysphagia Duo is different.

Sensory Stimulation

Some individuals with swallowing disorders may have reduced or hyper- sensitivity or awareness of their oral and pharyngeal structures. The speech therapist may use various sensory stimulation techniques to increase awareness or decrease reaction to sensation as well as improve the coordination of swallowing.

Stephanie is certified to do Vital Stim, but not all Speech Therapists are. This requires training and testing to be able to provide this therapy. It is also not indicated for everyone.

Dietary Modifications

A speech therapist can provide guidance on appropriate food and liquid textures that are safe for swallowing. They may recommend modifications such as thickening liquids or modifying the texture of solid foods to reduce the risk of aspiration or choking.

We focus on the IDDSI framework when providing guidance on modifying your diet. Book a call with us to get more information about what is right for you.

Swallowing Strategies

The speech therapist can teach patients strategies to improve swallowing safety and efficiency. These may include techniques such as altering head or body positioning, using specific swallowing maneuvers, or pacing the eating process.

Education and Counseling

The speech therapist will educate patients and their caregivers about the nature of the swallowing disorder, its management, and any precautions to take. They can provide guidance on proper nutrition and hydration to maintain overall health.

Collaboration with Other Professionals

Speech therapists often work as part of a multidisciplinary team, collaborating with physicians, dietitians, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals. This collaboration ensures a holistic approach to managing swallowing disorders.

It’s important to note that the specific techniques and interventions used by a speech therapist may vary depending on the individual’s condition and the underlying cause of the swallowing disorder. A speech therapist will tailor the treatment plan to address the unique needs and goals of each patient.

Conclusion for Why You Need a Speech Therapist for Dysphagia

Speech Language Pathologists are integral for identifying your type of dysphagia, gathering accurate information, and developing a treatment plan for improving outcomes for people with swallowing difficulty. They evaluate and assess each person’s symptoms to develop specific and targeted treatment plans. If you need help with your swallowing difficulty, find a speech therapist!