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The rehabilitation of a person who has undergone an injury, a neurological injury or a disease that affects their functionality is multidisciplinary in nature, requiring the collaboration of different fields to achieve the desired outcome. In this context, speech therapy and rehabilitation are inextricably linked.

Thus, in the multidisciplinary team that treats each case, the speech and language therapist plays an important role, as he or she makes a major contribution to the restoration of the person’s communication and swallowing ability, which may have been impaired.

Very often patients after strokes or brain injuries, degenerative or neurological lesions present with aphasic disorders, i.e. problems in understanding or transmitting speech, dysarthria (articulation difficulties/dyspraxia), but also swallowing problems (dysphagia/dysphagia). It is in these areas that speech therapy takes action.

The mission of speech therapy

Speech, voice, and chewing-swallowing disorders are the focus of the speech therapy programme, which is co-ordinated by the responsible physiotherapist and the speech therapist and is an integral part of rehabilitation in cases of stroke, brain injury and neurological disorders.

The task of the speech and language therapist is to assess, diagnose and treat speech, voice and language disorders and problems of the swallowing mechanism.

In particular, the speech and language therapist checks the damage and its extent, determines how far the person’s functionality reaches and which of the structures of the oral mechanism have been affected, but also to what extent he or she can be independent. Then, in collaboration with the other members of the interdisciplinary rehabilitation team, he or she comes up with the design of an appropriate treatment program that will be applied to the specific exercises.

Speech therapy techniques in rehabilitation

A person who has suffered – for example – a stroke and is in the process of rehabilitation may experience functional communication deficits, such as an inability to express their needs adequately or to connect what they want to say with the right words. These difficulties vary in severity as some people can communicate at a basic level while others lose this ability completely.

At the same time he may experience swallowing problems, such as inability to safely manage food or fluids that if not properly treated lead to respiratory infection – aspiration, which he receives with risk even to his own life.

Within the framework of speech therapy, both techniques to improve the patient’s communication means (speech and language) and techniques to retrain the swallowing mechanism are applied. The techniques for improving the means of communication include language intervention activities, articulation therapy or the use of an alternative programme and many other techniques depending on the speech or language disorder we are called upon to treat, while in the case of speech, exercises are carried out to strengthen and increase the mobility of the structures of the oral mechanism. As regards the techniques for retraining the swallowing mechanism, neuromuscular exercises are performed, sensory stimuli (temperature, gustatory and tactile stimuli) are provided, and neuromuscular electrostimulation (NMES) and neuromuscular taping techniques may be used.

At the Euromedica-Arogi Centre, the team of highly qualified speech and language therapists examines the patient and, if necessary, proposes a treatment programme. The speech therapy programme, which is determined by the physiotherapist in collaboration with the speech therapist in charge, is adjusted after regular check-ups and reassessment of the situation.

Speech therapy is a vital part of rehabilitation, so the role of the speech therapist in the process of regaining the patient’s functionality and returning to his or her previous habits is catalytic.

By Georgia Bousiou, Speech and Language Therapist, NDT/NMES

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