Communicating our needs, ideas and feelings is the most complex of human behaviors, a process that can be affected by genetic syndromes, developmental delay, disease or injury. At the University of Michigan, Speech-Language Pathologists assess and treat children who experience difficulty with communication. They also assess and treat children who are experiencing difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), as some of the structures that enable us to swallow are also involved in speech. Each member of this department is certified by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), maintaining the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence.
Our Speech-Language Pathologists collaborate with many patient care teams throughout the Health System to advance patient treatment, education and clinical research in the areas of communication and feeding/swallowing. Areas of specialty include:
- Assessment and treatment of feeding and swallowing disorders (dysphagia). A comprehensive evaluation may include a videofluoroscopic evaluation, completed with a Radiologist, in which an video x-ray is used to observe the safety and accuracy of swallowing. At times, the SLP may complete a Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES), in which an endoscope is used to observe the swallowing process.
- Assessment and treatment of children and teens with voice disorders or lack of voice (aphonia). We identify alternative communication options for children with tracheostomy,ventilator-dependence, or other complications that affect the ability to vocalize.
- Assessment and treatment of children with developmental speech-language delay or disorder, including children with autism, cerebral palsy, and childhood apraxia of speech (difficulty with the motor-planning required to produce speech sounds).
- Comprehensive assessment through the multidisciplinary Augmentative/Alternative Communication Clinic, directed by Speech-Language Pathology, for children who are functionally nonverbal. Evaluations incorporate recommendations for development and use of augmentative communication systems, including computer-based communication systems.
- Cognitive-communication assessment and treatment. We evaluate and treat children who have experienced injury or illness that affects brain functioning, and design treatment programs to improve the processes that underlie communication, including attention, memory, and thought organization skills.
- Assessment and treatment of children with communication disorders associated with cleft lip and palate through our renowned Craniofacial Anomalies Program.
- Participation in intra and extra-operative language mapping, which identifies specific areas of the brain that are essential for speech and language. As part of the Epilepsy Surgery Team, we assess children during awake craniotomy (intraoperative), or prior to surgery (extraoperative) to identify areas of the brain that must be preserved during surgery to remove a seizure focus or brain tumor.
- Communication assessment and treatment following stroke, including treatment of aphasia (aphasia may affect a person’s ability to understand and use both spoken and written language).
Depending on your child’s particular need, an evaluation may include assessment of:
- Speech: the ability to use oral structures accurately/appropriately for speech sound production, voice, resonance (the amount of nasality in speech) and speech melody (prosody)
- Language: the ability to understand spoken and written language; the ability to express thoughts in words and sentences, answer questions and participate in conversation; the ability to express oneself in writing
- Cognitive-Communication: the ability to attend to information, recall information and to initiate and use language effectively, including conversing with others at age-appropriate levels.
- Feeding and Swallowing: the ability to coordinate movement of the structures involved in swallowing to maintain nutrition and hydration.
Results of the communication or swallowing evaluation are used to develop an individualized treatment program for your child. As communication or swallowing difficulties may reflect a specific medical disease process, test results are communicated to your physician to assist in medical evaluation and patient education.
For the past 30 years, our Speech-Language Pathology department has been a leader in advancing diagnostic and treatment protocols for children experiencing communication and/or swallowing difficulties. Whether participating in NIH research grants, teaching courses at local universities and national conferences, or evaluating a new treatment method, our certified speech-language pathologists have one central goal: to work closely with children and families to improve quality of life through enhanced communication and swallowing skills.
Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-763-2554