What is a speech language pathologist?

A speech language pathologist is a professional who is educated to diagnose and provide treatment for disorders in speech, language, cognition and swallowing.  They are commonly referred to as speech therapist.

Potential Causes of speech and language disorders:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Variety of Neurological Diseases
  • Surgery
  • Vocal Abuse
  • TMJ

Examples/Types of disorders:

  • Aphasia: difficulty understanding and/or using language for communication. Aphasia may also affect reading and writing abilities.
  • Dysarthria: difficulty with control of the muscles used for speech, usually due to weakness. Dysarthria may include changes in rate of speech, volume, and quality of speech. A person with dysarthria may have slurred speech or speech that is difficult to understand.
  • Apraxia of Speech: difficulty with planning speech production and pronouncing words.  A person with apraxia may know what he/she wants to say, however may have difficulty producing it accurately.
  • Cognitive Communication Disorders: difficulty with short-term memory, reasoning, problem solving, attention, orientation, and organization.  Cognitive communication disorders are most often caused by traumatic brain injury or right hemisphere stroke.
  • Swallowing Disorders: (dysphagia) difficulty with eating or drinking or taking medications. Swallowing difficulties are very common following stroke or brain injury and are often symptoms of neurological diseases as well. Swallowing difficulties are very serious and, if not treated, could lead to pneumonia.

Individualized Care at RRI

At Riverside Rehabilitation Institute, the speech pathologists work collaboratively with the physical therapists,  occupational therapists and the physicians to create the most comprehensive plan of care for their clients.  Individual therapy sessions are provided daily with a licensed speech pathologist. Opportunities for group therapy also exist at the inpatient level of care, however they do not replace the individual therapy sessions provided.  Each plan of care is personalized to the client with maximum progress towards independence the primary goal.

Specialized Services Provided at RRI

  • VitalStim Therapy – RRI is pleased to offer 5 therapists certified to perform Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation for the treatment of dysphagia or swallowing disorders. RRI is able to offer this service both in the inpatient and outpatient settings.
  • Lee Silverman Voice Therapy – A specialized program for persons with Parkinson’s Disease focusing on improving speech volume, vocal quality and overall re-strengthening and maintenance to preserve communication abilities.  Lee Silverman Voice Therapy is offered in the outpatient therapy setting.
  • Myofascial Release --  A manual therapy technique that has proved beneficial in decreasing pain and increasing function in persons with dysarthria, swallowing disorders and TMJ.  RRI has 2 speech pathologists trained to perform myofascial release, both in the inpatient and outpatient settings.

Instrumental Swallowing Assessments:

  • Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) – For people who have difficulty swallowing, the SLP uses a small camera to view the inside of a person’s throat and upper airway to see what happens inside when the person is eating an drinking.  From this, the therapist can put together a specific therapy plan to target the cause of the trouble. 
  • Swallowing Signals Lab- Swallowing is complicated and many things affect whether the person can eat or drink safely:  muscles in the mouth or throat can be weak, and/or the person may have a breathing disorder than can interfere and cause food to “go the wrong way.”  The Signals Lab allows for a state-of-the-art, objective assessment to allow the speech pathologist to get closer to the root cause and tailor therapy to be as effective as possible. 

To schedule an appointment, please call RRI at (757) 928-8000 or 1 (800) 262-3019.

Additional information on speech/language/swallowing disorders can be found at: