Speech impairment is an umbrella term that includes several disorders that affects a person and prevents them from forming words normally. Stuttering or stammering is one of the most common speech impairments in people. Other speech difficulties or conditions include dysarthria and apraxia.
Apraxia is a condition where a part of the brain is affected adversely, which in turn can impair the speech. Dysarthria is a motor disorder where the muscles of the mouth, throat and respiratory system are affected, which makes moving the mouth quite difficult. However, speech impairments may leave severe psychological effects as well. The treatment for such disorders should also include psychological counselling for the patient.
Since, people with speech impairment often have difficulty expressing their feelings to others, such a disorder can lead to self-esteem issues. Depression is another side effect of the impairment. While the disorder may affect adults, it is commonly seen in children. Starting the treatment early usually increases the chances of full recovery.
The speech impairment may be caused as a result of vocal cord damage, muscle weakness, respiratory weakness, vocal cord paralysis and strokes. Apart from these causes, the speech impairment may also be a side effect of ADHD, oral cancer, autism, dementia, laryngeal cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Speech disorders can have several symptoms, which include emitting sounds repeatedly. Adding extra sounds while speaking, elongating words, blinking rapidly while talking, distorting sounds when talking. Hoarseness can often be considered a speech disorder as well. Family members and relatives can notice these symptoms.
However, diagnosing the speech trouble may also require proper medical examinations. Some of these tests include Denver articulation screening examination, which is mainly used for diagnosing speech impairment in children aged 2-7 years old. Another important and common test is known as the Peabody picture vocabulary test.
Speech impairment treatment depends on the intensity of the symptoms. For instance, if the disorder is mild, treatment may not be required. However, more serious forms of the problem can be cured using speech therapy. This therapy consists of several different speech exercises and muscle-strengthening workout programs.
Along with the speech therapy, mental counselling is required to rectify personality disorders for the people suffering from speech impairments. For instance, such people may suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem and depression as well.
Untreated speech conditions may cause severe problems later on in life and may prevent the patient from functioning normally in society. Talk therapy is also used for treating speech impairment if the patient has embarassment, depression and nervousness.
When a child shows abnormal or stuttering speech, he/she should be taken to a doctor. The doctor may use one of the diagnostic tests to detect such a disorder. If the impairment is diagnosed, then the child or patient will be eligible for the treatment.
If the child suffers from a mild form of speech impairment, treatment may not be required at all. In such cases, the condition may get rectified without any additional remedies. Furthermore, people who do not have any problems with their speech should not seek the treatment.
There are almost no side effects for the speech therapy used to treat the condition. However, the medication used alongside the therapy may cause some side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness and weight-gain. However, none of these side effects are serious and in most cases the effects will disappear in a few days on their own.
There are no such guidelines after the treatment as it is an ongoing process and the condition is improved eventually with exercises
Recovery time depends on the seriousness of the disorder. For insatnce, a mild speech impairment may go away after a few months. However, more chronic forms of the condition can take years to get completely rectified. If the speech impairment is caused due to underlying conditions, the therapy may not show any effect
In India, speech therapy is a very costly procedure that may be difficult for people to undergo. One three month speech therapy session costs anywhere between Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1 Lakh. However, several sessions may be required in order to rectify the condition.
Results of the treatment are permanent in most cases, if the impairment is cured. If the impairment is only managed through the therapy, the results may not be permanent.