Q&A with JoAnn Cahill MA, CCC-SLP

What does a Speech Language Pathologist do?
Speech Therapy provides both in-patient and out-patient services across the life span. Speech therapy addresses a multitude of issues, not just talking. The Speech Language Pathologist (speech therapist) will evaluate and create a comprehensive plan of treatment specific to a patient’s needs. Depending on needs of a patient a speech therapist may work on improving: Expressive and Receptive language, Cognition, Memory problems, Articulation, Swallowing issues (Dysphagia), Voice quality and strength. Speech therapy specializes in treating patients who suffer from any of these issues as a result of a : Stroke, Traumatic brain injury (including concussions), Neurogenic disorder, Neurological disease (i.e. Parkinson’s, MS), Birth defect, Developmental Disorder, a Motor Movement Disorder, and the process of aging. The goal of speech therapy is to facilitate the patient attaining the highest level of independent function.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?
A general Health History,
A description of their concerns,
And what their ultimate goal is with therapy.

What are three questions patients should consider asking during their visit?
What will treatment entail?
How long do you think it will take to alleviate my problem?
How often do you see patients with these types of issues.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about aging in regards to language, cognitive and swallowing impairments?
In my practice I often hear from people that they didn’t know that they could do anything about their symptoms, that it was just part of getting older. BUT as with other parts of the body you can make your: voice stronger, memory issues better, speech clearer, swallow stronger. You can: not have food or pills stick in your throat, not cough throughout a meal, not wake up in middle of the night coughing on your own saliva, not wake up with copious amounts of Mucus to clear out of your throat. These are a few symptoms that occur as people get older, that you don’t have to put up with, you can make better.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?
Swallowing: Stay hydrated and brush your tongue (gently)
Language and Cognition: Play game or do activities that require you to engage your brain (something as simple as a crossword puzzle can help maintain you language/cognitive function)

If folks wanted additional health information about Dysphagia (swallowing problems) Treatment, Parkinson’s Treatment what are some available resources?
A treatment protocol for swallowing that the Speech therapist at MMC is certified to do.
LSVT Global (treatment program for people with Parkinsons which both the speech therapist and the Occupational therapist at MMC are certified in)
American Speech and Hearing Association will have links and information about speech therapy and the areas they treat.