When is the best time to seek the services of a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
I am asked this question frequently. The answer is fairly easy when communication or swallowing decline suddenly due to stroke or traumatic brain injury. The need is often very apparent; the patient and family highly motivated to improve. Acting when a decline in function is fresh and obvious is reactive thinking.
Reactive thinking doesn’t serve people with chronic progressive disorders very well. My answer to this question in those cases is: at the time of diagnosis — whether changes in communication and/or swallowing are recognized or not! This is proactive thinking. It allows us to identify baseline level of function and anticipate future communication and swallowing needs based on expected progression of the individual’s unique circumstances! Strategies can be developed; exercises begun early to maintain strength, range of motion, function, and quality of life as long as possible. In other words, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
I am especially concerned about speech, voice, and swallowing function in patients with head/neck cancer and chronic progressive disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, etc. Treatment of these patients currently tends to be more reactive than proactive and less collaborative than I would like very much to see. I may be naive, and it’s almost too simplistic, but it just seems to me that early initiation of education and intervention would be exponentially less expensive and effortful than trying to restore function and quality of life once it has eroded.
I’m just sayin’…
Cyndee Williams Bowen, SLP is Owner and Founder of Bowen Speech-Language Therapy, LLC in Clearwater, Florida. Her practice specializes in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of adults and adolescents with speech, language, voice, swallowing, cognitive, and related disorders. She has a special interest in working with patients with Parkinson’s Disease and is a certified provider of Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) LOUD and eLOUD. You can learn more about the services provided at Bowen Speech-Language Therapy, LLC by visiting the company website, Facebook page, and following the @BowenSpeech handle on Twitter!