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Speech Pathology

Frequently Asked Questions about Speech Pathology from Wake Forest Baptist

About Speech Pathology

What is a speech-language pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are also frequently called speech therapists or speech pathologists. They are professionals who evaluate, diagnose and treat speech, language, voice, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders in individuals of all ages. They also provide treatment and rehabilitation services, engage in research to enhance knowledge about communication and swallowing, develop methods to improve communication and swallowing, and educate and train patients, family members and caregivers on the management of these disorders. To become a speech-language pathologist, one must earn a graduate degree, pass a national examination and complete required clinical experiences (including a clinical fellowship year).

What is the difference between language and speech?

Language is a socially shared set of rules for what words mean and how they can be used. People with language disorders have trouble understanding others or expressing themselves to others. 

While language includes reception, understanding others, and sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings with others, speech is a verbal means of communication that uses a person's language. People with speech disorders have trouble producing speech for expression, including articulation (how sounds are made with use of the lips, tongue and teeth movement), voice (how sounds are made with use of vocal folds and breath), and fluency (the rhythm of speech) that may result in stuttering, or starting and stopping speech.

Treatment for Speech and Language Disorders at Wake Forest Baptist 

Do I need to see a speech-language pathologist?

If you have one of more of the following problems, you may need to be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist:

  • Swallowing is difficult, painful or unsafe
  • Choking or coughing with food or liquid
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Frequent aspiration pneumonia
  • Child has a delay reaching speech and language milestones 
  • Difficulty producing speech or language
  • Slurred speech
  • Breathing and speaking at the same time is difficult
  • Voice is lost, changed or hard to control
  • Surgical changes cause inability to utilize one's voice independently (tracheostomy, laryngectomy)
  • Rhythm of speech is distorted
  • Listeners have difficulty understanding what is being said
  • Words are produced incorrectly
  • Inability to control, start or stop speech
  • Frustration with (or avoidance of) communication
  • Inability to produce meaningful words, sentences or conversation
  • Inability or decreased ability to communicate wants and needs or understand what others are saying
  • Difficulty with cognition
  • Difficulty understanding directions
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty completing tasks that had been familiar

What speech pathology services are offered at Wake Forest Baptist Health?

We provide a wide range of swallowing, speech, language, cognitive-linguistic and oral motor services for patients of all ages. Learn more about our services

Does Wake Forest Baptist treat children who have speech and language problems?

Yes, Wake Forest Baptist has both inpatient and outpatient speech-language pathologists who specialize in evaluating and treating children with all types of speech and language disorders. Learn more. 

What are signs that a child may benefit from speech and language therapy and treatment? 

  • When children by age 3 cannot:
    • Be understood by family or caregivers
    • Produce vowels and such sounds as p, b, m, w, in words
    • Be asked to repeat themselves without frustration
  • When children by age 4 cannot:
    • Be understood by family or caregivers
    • Be understood by unfamiliar people
    • Correctly produce t, d, k, g, f
    • Be asked to repeat themselves without frustration
  • When children by age 5 cannot:
    • Be understood in all situations by most people (familiar or not)
    • Correctly produce most speech sounds
    • Be asked to repeat themselves without frustration

This information can be found on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's website

What tests are used to evaluate speech and language patients at Wake Forest Baptist?

Our speech-language pathologists have several tests that may be used to evaluate a patient:

Swallowing/Feeding Tests

  • Clinical Swallow Evaluations (CSEs) - observation of patients with food and liquid
  • Flexible Endoscopic Evaluations of Swallowing (FEES) - endoscopic (small camera passed through the nose and to the throat) to observe patients with food and liquid
  • Pharyngeal Function Study/Modified Barium Swallow - x-ray observation of patients with food and liquid

Speech-Language and Cognition Tests

  • Various standardized and informal methods of assessment for communication and cognitive disorders are used
  • For patients with surgical changes or other limitations preventing typical speech production, speaking valves, prosthetics, and devices may be used

Voice Tests

  • Various methods and strategies of sound production are observed, sometimes using recording and/or endoscopy (small camera passed through the nose and to the throat)

How long will my appointment take?

  • Most outpatient evaluations take 1 to 1.5 hours
  • Most outpatient therapy sessions are 45 minutes but could be longer based on specific needs
  • Inpatient evaluations and therapies vary in time based on patient specifics

Are patients allowed to eat the day of the swallowing test (prior to the testing?)?

Yes, you may eat before your swallowing test, unless told different by your speech-language pathologist or doctor. If the patient is an infant, young child or someone who has difficulty comprehending the reason for the evaluation, we ask that they are not fed approximately 4 hours prior to their evaluation so that they will be hungry and willing to eat for the evaluation.

What do I need to bring to a swallow study? 

Adults: If you have particular food or liquid difficulty, please bring a sample of that food/liquid for use during testing. If your difficulty is more general, we will have a variety of options available for you.

Children/Pediatric Patients: Please bring a variety of food choices that your child typically eats, including food and liquids. If there is a certain type of food or drink that your child has difficulty with, please be sure to bring that as well. If the child is an infant, bring at least 4 ounces of formula or breast milk.

Can I continue therapy on my own, outside of sessions with the speech-language pathologist?

Yes. Sometimes, patients and family can perform independent or self-led sessions to speed progress after treatment. This is patient dependent, so please ask your speech-language pathologist for more specific information or instructions.

If a patient receives inpatient care (or is in the hospital), will the speech-language pathologist see the patient every day?

Wake Forest Baptist speech-language pathologists try to see each inpatient as frequently as is appropriate to the patient’s conditions and medical status. In order to increase the frequency of visits, you may see multiple different speech-language pathologists during your stay.

Why does my food or liquid have to be changed or restricted?

If you have been told to eat or drink specific consistencies, it is because a swallow evaluation showed that the restricted consistencies are unsafe for you to eat. Eating unsafe food or drinking unsafe liquids can cause airway obstruction (choking) or pneumonia (lung infection).

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Last Updated: 08-18-2016
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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