Speech-Language Therapists will assess and treat disorders of communication and swallowing. Speech-language Therapists work in many services across our DHB and provide treatment to patients in hospital as well as providing outpatient clinics and visiting patients at home.
Speech-language therapists manage communication disorders in adults, including difficulty with expressing or understanding language, unclear speech, and voice problems. They also assess and treat swallowing and feeding problems in adults, children and infants.
Signs of swallowing difficulties in adults include: coughing or choking when eating, recent weight loss or failure to gain weight, complaints of discomfort when eating, difficulty getting food down, or recurrent chest infections.
Communication and/or swallowing problems in adults may be caused by:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Neurological conditions e.g. SAH (subarachnoid haemorrhage), brain tumour
- Head and neck cancer
- Progressive neurological diseases e.g. MND (Motor Neurone Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Voice impairments (e.g. vocal nodules, vocal fold palsy)
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Cardiac surgery
Signs of swallowing difficulties in infants and children include: refusal to eat or feed, having to be forced to feed, breath-holding or choking when feeding, coughing when feeding, noisy swallowing or breathing when feeding, failure to thrive or poor weight gain, or failure to progress across food textures as expected.
Swallowing problems in babies and children may be caused by:
- Developmental conditions (e.g. Trisomy 21, cerebral palsy, autism)
- Structural deficits (e.g. cleft palate)
- Reflux/ Cow’s milk protein intolerance
- Developmental delay
- Negative early feeding experiences
- Injury resulting from complications at birth
- Behavioural challenges
- Brain injury
- Environmental factors (e.g. bottle teat used, position during feeding
More information on specific medical problems is available here