A Complete Guide to Speech Therapy

Imagine being unable to swallow. Or speak clearly to those you love.

Think of the frustration of not being able to convey your meaning to others.

This is just a small snapshot of what many Americans with speech disorders face.
In fact, according to the Speech Language Hearing Association, 5 to 10 percent of Americans have some type of communication disorder. Another 7 percent have some type of language impairment.

Those in these situations can benefit from a speech therapist like the ones we have at East Carolina Rehabilitation and Wellness.

What Does Speech Therapy Do?

Did you know that it is about much more than learning how to speak more clearly?

It’s also about improving your memory, communication and even helping your brain function more efficiently. In some cases, it can even assist those who have difficulty swallowing. This is one of several rehabilitative therapies we offer.

Speech Therapy Helps with Communication and Swallowing

At its core, this type of therapy is a treatment designed to help someone overcome a communication disorder. This could mean helping someone learn to speak again after a stroke or enabling them to articulate their words clearly.

Those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or oral cancer may have difficulty swallowing. Speech therapists work with these residents by training their throat muscles, which allow them to swallow smoothly again.

Of course, communication involves much more than what is said. It also involves the way your brain receives, processes, and produces information. Speech therapists work with our residents to help them with memory and cognitive issues. As a result, they’re able to better communicate with those that they love.

But are you wondering what you can expect from your first session? We’ve got the answers for you, along with the many kinds of speech disorders and how speech language pathologists help our residents every day.

What Is a Speech Therapist?

These health care specialists work closely with our residents in order to help them communicate effectively. This is important when someone has problems with both verbal and nonverbal communication.

They work closely with those who have had a stroke or other disorder that has impaired their speech.

These therapists also help those who have swallowing problems. In many cases, they can “train” the muscles used in the throat and mouth to enable them to swallow without problems.

What Training Does a Speech Therapist Have?

Typically, speech language pathologists have a master’s degree and are licensed by the state. They may also have national certification from the Speech Language Therapy Association of America. In addition, they must have a minimum of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience.

What Can I Expect From My Speech Therapy Session?

Don’t be nervous.

We understand it may be natural to be anxious when you don’t know what to expect. But our compassionate therapists demonstrate gentle, nurturing therapy that will not only set you at ease but will also help you meet your treatment goals.

At your first session, our therapist will evaluate your condition and why you were referred. Obviously, the details of what exercises you may do will depend upon your diagnosis.

However, in general, here are a few things you can expect for what happens during a speech therapy clinic.

What Are Speech Therapy Techniques?

Specialized Exercises

You will likely do some exercises targeted to address your problem. These will help you overcome a speech or cognitive disorder. Of course, the specifics of what exercise you do will depend on what your therapist feels will help you most.

Here are some examples:


It can be very easy to forget names, and organization can be challenging for anyone at various times. However, for those who have experienced a stroke or traumatic injury, this challenge reaches a new level of difficulty.

Your health care professional may want to help you by using flash cards with the name of a person on one side and a picture of that person on the other. They may also repeat this flash card game with places or objects.

You may be asked to simply tell a story, then answer questions about the story you just told. You may be asked to remember things you’ve seen on TV or in the news.


Deep breathing can help you form your words and can help improve the resonance of your voice. It also helps train your diaphragm. Your therapist will direct you in these exercises so you can get the greatest benefit from the technique.


If you wanted to strengthen your arms, you’d lift weights or do other types of exercises, wouldn’t you? Therefore, if you want to strengthen the muscles used for speaking and swallowing, you’d also do certain types of exercises to strengthen these areas.

For example, your speech therapist may ask you to do an exercise like this:

Take small pieces of paper and place them on a towel. Take a straw, put it in your mouth and suck on it. Use this suction to pick up the small pieces of paper. Continue practicing until you can “carry” the small pieces of paper into a cup by sucking on the straw.


Sometimes it’s difficult to think of the right word at the right time. This happens to everyone occasionally, from time to time.

However, when it impedes your daily functioning and basic communication with others, then it becomes a problem that is best addressed by speech therapy.

Your speech therapist will help you by practicing and having conversations with you.

Regardless of your situation, at EC Rehab and Wellness, you can expect the best in comprehensive care from your session. We take time to carefully evaluate you so our tailored treatment plans will provide the best possible results.

What Are Different Types of Speech Disorders?

Some of our residents have difficulty communicating, whether it’s because they are unable to come up with the right word at the right time, it’s difficult for them to form words, or their throat muscles aren’t working as they should.

Our speech therapists treat those with a wide range of conditions. Some of these conditions include:

Articulation and Fluency Problems

This includes stuttering, distorting words, or speaking so fast that words are running together. These issues affect the form, speed and rhythm of speech.

Resonance Issues

If the airflow is blocked or obstructed, it will affect the sound and quality of your voice. Breathing exercises often help residents who have resonance issues with their voices.

Receptive Challenges

If someone has a receptive language disorder, it means that they have difficulty interpreting, processing or understanding conversations.

Expressive Disorders

Those with expressive disorders have difficulties using correct verb tenses and conveying information in a way that is easily understandable. This is sometimes the result of head trauma or other medical conditions.

Cognitive Communication Problems

Communication is a complicated process because it requires close and accurate interaction between the parts of your brain that creates ideas (cognitive) to the part of your body that is able to express them (communication). If there is a problem with the cognitive communication process, this means that you may have memory issues, problems speaking or difficulty solving problems.


This disorder dramatically affects someone’s ability to read, write, speak and understand what others are saying. Many who have had a stroke struggle with aphasia.


When the muscles used for speech are weakened by injury, illness or facial paralysis, the result is dysarthria. Dysarthria is slurred or slow speech.

How Long Is Speech Therapy Needed?

It’s difficult to give an exact time because, as you see, there are many different facets involved in speech therapy.

Recovery depends upon your condition and other factors such as your age, the severity of the disorder, and whether or not you have any underlying medical conditions that are contributing to this disorder.

Can Speech Therapy Help With Swallowing Problems?

Millions of Americans are unable to eat without pain—or they may be barely able to swallow.
In certain cases, swallowing can even be impossible.
The medical term for difficulty swallowing is dysphagia, and working with a speech therapy clinic can help resolve these issues, enabling you to enjoy eating normally again.

Anyone at any age can have dysphagia, but it’s most common in older adults. Therefore, some residents at East Carolina Rehab and Wellness have this problem. This is one reason we provide certified speech therapists to help our residents return to the joy of eating without pain.

What Are the Signs of Dysphagia?

Everyone occasionally has some difficulty swallowing. This may come from eating too fast or not chewing thoroughly.

However, it’s when this becomes a continual problem that you or your loved one may benefit from therapy.

In addition to difficulty swallowing, some of the signs of dysphagia are:

  • Painful swallowing
  • Feeling like food is stuck in the throat
  • Drooling
  • Feeling like food is behind your breastbone
  • Hoarseness
  • Spitting up food
  • Repeated heartburn
  • Losing weight unexpectedly
  • Coughing or gagging

What Causes Dysphagia?

Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it often happens when someone is affected by a disease that affects the nervous system. This includes Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy.

Other disorders can contribute to difficulty swallowing. These include:

  • GERD
  • Stroke
  • Other issues with the esophagus/throat
  • Head injuries
  • Problems or injuries to the spinal cord
  • Head and neck cancers

In some instances, dysphagia can be effectively treated with medicines while other cases may require surgery.

How Can Speech Therapy Resolve Swallowing Problems?

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of working with a speech therapy clinic is that they can tailor the treatment approach to your individual situation.

Speech therapists can show you methods to help. This can involve changing your diet or holding your head and neck in a certain way.

In other cases, speech therapy involves teaching your muscles how to effectively swallow. Often, this involves exercises. Most of these help with strengthening the tongue.

Swallowing is actually a complicated process. It involves coordination among several muscle groups used to push food down your throat and into the stomach. Speech therapy exercises help increase control over these muscles.

Examples of Swallowing Exercises

There is no one swallowing exercise that works for everybody. However, during speech therapy, you may be asked to complete an exercise like the following:

Dry swallowing (meaning you’re only swallowing your saliva).

When you swallow, try to squeeze all muscles that are used in swallowing as tightly as possible. Eventually, repeating this action will strengthen these muscles.

Using a Straw

Another exercise is the one we illustrated earlier—taking a straw and using suction to move small pieces of paper into a cup.

Speech Therapy at East Carolina Rehabilitation and Wellness in Greenville, NC

All of our residents are on a journey. Some are recovering from a hip or knee replacement, while others may have started a new chapter through our assisted living services.

Our goal is to work with residents and take that journey together so that they will know they are not alone. We surround our residents with the same compassionate care that we would give to members of our own family.

Whatever your situation, we will help you get back to your day-to-day functioning so you can return home to the activities and people you love.

See why our residents love East Carolina Rehab and Wellness. Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour. But hurry, our spaces fill quickly.