The Versatility of Speech-Language Pathology
By Tamer Abouras
If there’s one objective of a site such as this one — aside from serving its particular healthcare constituencies in the realms of speech and hearing — it’s to provide clear, succinct information about what professionals in these fields do and how they could be of help to untreated patient populations in ways they might not have imagined.
While there’s little ambiguity about what your local audiologist — often just referred to colloquially as the ‘hearing doctor’ or something — can help you out with, there’s a widespread misconception that the majority of speech-language pathologists spend all of their time helping children with speech impediments form better consonant sounds and speak more fluidly.
Just as SLPs fit into the broader, larger and much more diverse spectrum of communication disorders, however, those things that they are able to treat (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Alzheimer’s disease) as a result of their background and expertise are similarly misunderstood and subject to misconceptions.
SEE ALSO: Stroke & SLP
One such condition that SLPs are often called upon to care for is aphasia. According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA), aphasia is an impairment of language affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Often brought on by stroke, aphasia can also be the result of brain tumors, head trauma or infection.
NJ.com has this week published a particularly informative article about the condition and in it, spoke to the startling lack of attention aphasia receives while highlighting the work of the New Jersey Aphasia Study Commission, a bipartisan group brought together by Governor (and presidential hopeful) Chris Christie and the state legislature.
From NJ Advance Media’s Martta Kelly’s reporting, “Aphasia affects more than two million Americans, making the condition more common that Parkinson's disease, ALS, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. Most people have encountered someone with aphasia but just don't know it by name. Despite its prevalence, it's rarely discussed and care options for people with aphasia go widely unrecognized.”
As New Jersey addresses how best to care for its estimated 56,000 aphasia patients, members of the commission who are experts on the topic such as Andrew Gomory, CEO of Lingraphica, have taken note and been encouraged by the progress they’ve witnessed.
“Lack of awareness about aphasia has made it extremely difficult to get much-needed funding for research and treatment. If people understand the prevalence of aphasia, there would be more research dollars and treatment options available," he said.
According to Gomory, the commission hopes to accomplish three things: "One, establish an accurate count of people who have aphasia. Two, push for more accurate reporting metrics and systems in our medical facilities that allow for physicians and speech-language pathologists to correctly document and report on the numbers. Finally, we want to broaden the support and increase awareness of aphasias because this will open the door for expanded treatment options at most a community and online level." And by all accounts, the commission is meeting those goals.
What’s most important to takeaway about all this is that in the process of raising aphasia awareness, both in-state and nationally, New Jersey is also bringing to light another little known fact for anyone caring for a loved one who has aphasia: SLPs are here to help — and they have been all along.