Speech therapy – or speech language pathology – helps people with speech disorders or impairments caused by illness or injury to improve their communication skills.

Speech language pathologists – or SLPs – help those afflicted with speech delays or disorders, as well as speech and communication issues which manifest later in life – to improve their communication abilities. The three main types of disorders a speech language pathologist would typically work with are speech disorders, language disorders, and feeding disorders.

What Are Speech Disorders?

A speech disorders are diagnosed when a person has difficulty making sounds, and thus, the inability to communicate properly. The four main types of speech disorders are articulation disorders, fluency disorders, and resonance disorders.

Articulation Disorders

Articulation disorders are expressed when a person has problems creating sounds into syllables, or is unable to say words correctly leading to confusion in the listener and frustration in the speaker. Speech therapists work with people experiencing articulation disorders to demonstrate, instruct, and practice various sounds, syllables, words and phrases so that the speaker learns to clearly express themselves.

Fluency disorders

Fluency disorders are expressed when a person experiences stuttering or other repetition sounds when speaking. Stuttering occurs when a person is unable to complete a speech phrase without the flow of speech becoming interrupted or stopped. Other people may experience partial-word repetitions, such as “t - t- toy”, or getting stuck on one sound, such as “s s s - top”.

Resonance disorders

Resonance disorders occur when the speaker’s pitch, volume, or vocal is distracting, and sometimes even painful for the speaker. They occur with disorders such as cleft palate, neurological disorders, and swollen tonsils with a blockage or obstruction in the nasal/oral cavities or the velopharyngeal valve doesn’t close properly. These issues alter the vibrations responsible for voice quality.

What Are Language Disorders?

Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. If a person has difficulty understanding language it is called a receptive disorder. If a person has difficulty using language themselves it is called an expressive disorder.

Receptive disorders

Receptive disorders can occur along with autism, hearing loss, or a head injury, when a person will be unable to process what is being said to them, and they are unable to follow directions or participate in a conversation.

Expressive disorders

Expressive disorders are associated with developmental impairments, such as Down syndrome and hearing loss, as well as from head trauma or a medical condition. Such people have difficulty expressing information and forming meaningful sentences, perhaps due to a limited vocabulary, or inability to connect words together into understandable speech patterns.

Some additional language disorders include:

Cognitive-communication disorders

Cognitive-communication disorders occur when a person is able to receive the words that are being communicated, into understandable language, but are unable process them in ways involving problem-solving or organization, or lack memory, attention, or perception.


Aphasia is a language disorder that is acquired later in life, and can affect a person’s ability to speak and understand others, as well as to read and write. Aphasia is most commonly caused by a stroke or other brain disorder.


Dysarthria is a language disorder caused by a condition in a person’s nervous system causing a weakness or inability to control the muscles used for speech, resulting in slow or slurred speech. Some conditions that cause facial paralysis or throat and tongue weakness include strokes, multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

What Are Feeding Disorders?

Dysphagia or feeding disorders are disorders in a person’s ability to eat food or drink liquids. Afflicted people may experience problems with chewing and swallowing, or they may experience coughing, gagging, and often refuse foods entirely. Speech pathologists work with people with feeding disorders from birth or caused later due to a stroke, injury or illness.

Working With a Speech Therapist

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often called speech therapists, are licensed and certified in their field, after having earned at least a Master’s Degree in Speech language Pathology. Additionally, an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certificate of clinical competency is issued after an ASHA-certified SLP has passed a national exam and completed an ASHA-accredited supervised clinical fellowship. A speech assistant, supervised by an SLP and possessing a 2-year associate’s or 4-year bachelor’s degree, may help give speech-language services.

At AC Cares, we have worked with Speech language Pathologists certified and experienced with people of varying ages and issues, and can connect you with the SLP best suited to assess, identify and treat the speech, language, or feeding issues being faced.

A SLP (speech language pathologist) begins by assessing a person’s speech, language, cognitive-communication, and oral/feeding/swallowing skills, so that they can identify a person’s issues and determine the best way to treat them.

The speech therapist will determine the appropriate course of action for the person to address their particular issues. Some typical activities and therapies are described below.

Speech intervention therapy

Speech intervention therapy may include the SLP modeling correct sounds and syllables during age-appropriate play or activities to teach the person how to make certain sounds. The SLP will demonstrate oral techniques, such as the “r” sound, and may show how to move the tongue to make specific sounds. The person will then model and practice during various activities.

Additionally, there may be:

  • conversational games or activities to improve social communication
  • breathing exercises to improve resonance
  • various exercises to strengthen the oral muscles
Language intervention activities

During language intervention activities, the SLP may employ playing and talking, using pictures, books, or objects to encourage and stimulate the development of language. The therapist may introduce and model correct vocabulary and grammar usage, and through the use of repetition exercises the person will build their language skills.

Oral-motor/feeding and swallowing therapy

The Speech Language Pathologist will work to strengthen the muscles of the mouth for eating, drinking, and swallowing. To accomplish this, they may use different oral exercises, such as tongue, lip, and jaw exercises, or even facial massage to stimulate muscle tone. Different food textures and temperatures may also be introduced to address and improve a person’s oral awareness during eating and swallowing.

Who can benefit from Speech-Language Therapy?

People may require the intervention of speech-language therapy for many reasons. Some of these include:

  • autism
  • traumatic brain injury
  • stroke
  • cleft lip or cleft palate
  • respiratory problems (breathing disorders)
  • feeding and swallowing disorders
  • hearing impairments
  • developmental delays

Early intervention is key in addressing these issues so that the Speech Language Pathologist has the greatest chance for success. For children, the parents will be a key component in the overall success of speech therapy, as the SLP will have exercises and activities to do at home to keep the consistency of speech therapy going even at home.