Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a serious disorder that causes progressive loss of motor neurons, the nerve cells that control muscle movement. Most patients will experience some disability, including difficulty swallowing and slurred speech, as a result of the loss of these nerve cells.

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy involves strengthening the muscles involved in speaking and swallowing. Just as physiotherapy and occupational therapy can help patients develop an exercise regimen for large muscle groups, speech therapy can help strengthen mouth, jaw, and throat muscles through a series of exercises.

As the disease progresses, speech therapists can also work with the patient to determine which adaptive aids will be most useful for tasks such as eating and drinking. The therapist may also make recommendations about foods that might be easier for patients to manage.

If patients are having difficulty speaking, a speech therapist can suggest advanced communication aids that are controlled by eye movement or gestures.

When should patients meet with a speech therapist?

Patients should meet with a speech therapist as early as possible after diagnosis to discuss what help they can get and learn strategies that both patients and caregivers can use. Patients should also meet with a speech therapist as soon as they notice any changes in their ability to communicate.

Goals of speech therapy

The goal of speech therapy is to ensure that patients can meet certain competencies at every stage of the disease. These include:

  • Alerting people in other rooms or outside the home if he or she needs anything or has an emergency.
  • Having strategies for communication that will reduce fatigue and increase communication efficiency.
  • Communicating with people not in the immediate area via email, text message, phone, or other means.
  • Independently setting up, customizing, and using all of elements of their communication system.
  • Having communication strategies prepared for changes in speech he or she might experience at each stage of disease progression.

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ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.