Problem Solving Activities for Adults Speech Therapy

This blog will highlight the problem solving questions and exercises that are most commonly used in Adult Speech Therapy. It will also explore the rationale and process of Speech Therapy, what problem solving entails and how it fits into the practise of speech therapy. 

The various possible problem solving approaches that can be used within adult speech therapy would be discussed in detail, along with a brief into speech therapy and it’s need for adults. The blog will also list other approaches that can be used within the domain of speech therapy apart from problem solving. 

What Is Speech Therapy?

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Human wings are social animals that are able to function within their environment through effective communication. Communication, whether the form of speech or written word enables individuals to express and understand each other, it helps them in forming and sustaining relationships with other people. 

Understanding what people are saying and responding to them through effective communication channels is an essential part of being a human, it almost comes as second nature to individuals. Although such is not the case for individuals battling speech and communication disorders. For such people, speech therapy may prove to be an essential tool. 

Speech therapy is a psychological intervention that seeks to improve an individual’s ability to understand and produce language. It can help in better comprehension and expression of both verbal and non-verbal language. Speech therapy can also be called speech language therapy, and it helps build communication skills in people. This kind of therapy provides successful support and treatment to individuals with speech problems and communication disorders. 

Do Adults Need Speech Therapy?

It is a very common misconception that speech therapy can only serve as useful for children with speech and communication disorders. While speech therapy can help direct children’s language development onto the right path, it’s applications do not end there. Speech therapy can be extremely useful even in the case of adults with long-drawn or newly acquired speech problems. 

Adults may seek out speech therapists for a variety of reasons, ranging from regaining communications skills and confidence after trauma or injury or to simply improve on public speaking skills. 

Some of the most common reasons for adults to seek out speech therapy can be:

  • Stuttering: stuttering is a speech issue wherein a person has a hard time pronouncing certain sounds. It can cause people to either repeat their words or stretch them out. This condition may become exaggerated due to stress and can also be influenced by the person’s feelings. 
  • Swallowing Issues: Individuals with diseases such as cancer of the jaw, lips, mouth or tongue, and people with neurological issues can develop issues with speech production and clear expression of verbal content. When there are physical problems such as these, a speech therapist may help clients in regaining lost speech functions or to work around them and find alternative routes. 
  • Trauma and Speech Reception: Speech therapy is not limited to speech production, it can also aid in better comprehension and speech reception. Trauma or accidents are likely to interfere with how people process and understand spoken content; they may face difficulties in focusing attention, understanding what others are saying or retaining information they have received. Speech therapy can also help with developing these skills and improving speech reception. 
  • Cognitive Disorders or Aphasia: Aphasia is a common communicative disorder which interferes with a person’s ability to clearly speak or understand others. It is often acquired as a result of illness or injury. An individual could also require speech therapy if they have a cognitive-communication disorder, which means that the parts of their brain responsible for speech production are facing problems. 

What Happens in Adult Speech Therapy?

A Speech and Language Pathologist is likely to use various techniques as part of adult speech therapy. These can involve:

  • Breathing exercises: A speech therapist can use breathing exercises to help people with resonance issues.
  • Mouth exercises: Mouth exercises in speech therapy can be a suitable way to strengthen the oral muscle which help control and improve communication.
  • Social communication: Speech pathologists could also make use of problem-solving, memory activities, and conversation exercises to improve communication.
  • Swallowing exercises: Organic illnesses, like Parkinson’s disease, oral cancer, or a stroke, may cause swallowing difficulties which can also affect clear speech. A speech therapist can use swallowing exercises to help a person resolve and better deal with these issues. 

What is Problem Solving In Speech Therapy?

Before understanding how problem solving fits into speech therapy, it is important to review what problem solving means. The term problem solving essentially highlights the mental processes that people use to identify, understand, analyse and overcome problems. It is a multi-step, goal-directed behaviour aimed at overcoming a mental or physical obstacle. 

The problem solving process starts with defining a problem. This step usually involves the diagnosis of a situation to collect facts and information for later processing.  While a person is attempting to define a problem, they take in information from various sources and try to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between various factors involved in the situation. After a problem situation is successfully conceptualised, people try to look for alternatives solutions that may bring about a resolution. As various solutions are found and evaluated for usefulness, the final stage of problem solving is reached, which is implementation of the shortlisted solution. After scouring through dozens of possible solutions to a particular problem, an individual narrows down on the most feasible option and seeks to implement it as a final solution to the situation. 

Within the domain of speech therapy, problem solving exercises, or activities that involve the use of memory systems, organisation and decision making behaviours are most commonly used to treat cognitive communication disorders. Such disorders can affect the way in which people produce or comprehend speech, and they can be a result of either injury or illness. 

Adopting a problem solving approach with respect to communication disorders can help adults in adapting to undesirable situations that arise throughout their days. It can even help them gain a better understanding of their speech problems and come to terms with it. Once people are able to comprehend their issues, they will be better equipped to deal with the problems and take steps to improve their situation as suggested by their speech therapists. Problem solving exercises within speech therapy also help in building a person’s confidence and their capabilities for social interaction; which in turn would have benefits for their personal and professional relationships. 

Problem Solving Activities In Adult Speech Therapy

Some of the commonly practised problem solving activities within adult speech therapy are:

  • Tongue Exercises: The first step in re-training oneself to practise correct speech patterns should be to gain better control over the tongue. Moving and exercising is an essential part of speech therapy. Tongue training exercises can help the mouth to move easily in coordinated patterns which can greatly improve the quality of speech production. 
  • Expression Game: Standing in front of a mirror and practising a list of expressions is also a great cognitive exercise within speech therapy. Reading a list of expressions and then attempting to recreate them in the mirror provides the rain with essential feedback. This stimulates the brain and allows individuals to observe their progression real time. Not only this, it can also help in strengthening the muscles in a person’s face and mouth. 
  • Reading and Sentence Production: Patients with organic speech disturbances like apraxia can benefit from reading activities. Reading small passages and repeating them out loud can help such patients to strengthen their lip and tongue muscles. A speech therapist may start off by asking them to practice one or two sentences initially for short periods of time, and gradually increase theory timings and workload.  
  • Word Games: Word games either through the use of computers or with people around oneself can prove to be a great way to exercise the brain’s speech and language centers. These games can either rely on quick production or quick comprehension and repetition of speech. They force individuals to pay and sustain attention, and make use of their speech centers. 
  • Computer Games: Computer games like solitaire or alchemy are sometimes also used with speech therapy clients. Although these games do not rely on active production of speech, they can still help exercise the cognitive-linguistic pathways because the brain’s language processing skills are still being actively used. 
  • Counting Syllables: When working with a speech therapist, a client may be asked to speak various words to the therapist while the therapist does the same. When one person finishes saying a word, the other’s role is to guess how many syllables are there in the word. As a client and therapist both say words and provide each other with feedback, the individual showing up for speech therapy learns to identify and break down words for better speech comprehension and also makes improvements in the production of speech. 
  • Special Focus Games: Sometimes clients may face extreme difficulties in pronouncing certain words or sounds. In such cases they are encouraged to pair the problem consonants with all the five vowels and to practice the sounds they make over and over. 
  • Role-Play Conversations: Sometimes speech therapists may engage in role-plays with clients to enable them to slowly ease back into communicating and regain the verbal skills and confidence required to form and maintain personal and professional relationships. 
  • Speech Exercises through apps: With the advent of technology, there are various speech problem solving mobile and internet applications available today. These applications come with unique plans and exercises that can be tailored to a client’s specific problems. Apps can also be used to assess an individual’s problems areas which can help both the therapist and the person concerned to understand where they are lacking and what they need support with. 

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How Can Problem Solving In Speech Therapy Help Adults? 

The various ways in which speech language pathologists can utilise problem solving exercises within speech therapy are:

  • Using cognitive exercises to help recovery after strokes
  • Using breathing, mouth and tongue exercises to provide comfort from swallowing difficulties
  • Using conversational exercises that stimulate the brain to help repair communication between friends and family 
  • Improving the clarity of spoken language by working on speech production and pronunciation
  • Using cognitive exercises to create a strong link between language comprehension and production centres of the brain
  • Improving brain plasticity through various cognitive problem solving exercises that help individuals gain new skills in speech development 

Is Speech Therapy The Only Option For People With Speech Disturbances?

Sometimes, people who have been diagnosed with speech production or comprehension issues may not be able to benefit from speech therapy. This could be because speech therapy is unable to target their problem areas or other therapeutic factors beyond the control  of the individual or therapist. Sometimes speech therapy alone may not be able to cater to the problems of an individual. There are various approaches that can be applied in the care of such individuals, like: 

  • Music Therapy: Musical activities can  be used to facilitate speech recognition and processing in adults that have suffered traumatic brain injuries or brain damage due to illness. These exercises can strengthen language processing, communication and social skills. 
  • Neurofeedack: Neurofeedback makes use of sensors attached to a client’s scalp which provides them with realtime information about their physical states. by receiving constant information about brain processes and physical arousal, an individual can learn to manage these states better. 

Conclusion

In this blog we discussed the applications of problem solving exercises within the domain of speech therapy – what exactly is speech therapy, what is meant by problem solving and problem solving exercises, what these exercises entail and how exactly they help in speech therapy. Other applications and the most commonly used problem solving exercises were described in detail, along with alternatives to replace them in special cases. The process and scope of speech therapy was also explored to understand how the process unfolds and helps treat speech disturbances. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Problem Solving Questions for Adults Speech Therapy

What exactly is speech therapy?

When children or adults have speech problems that prevent them from clearly using verbal language and communicating effectively with people around them, they can seek speech therapy to get help for their issues. Speech therapy is a form of psychological treatment that helps people to coordinate mouth movements to be able to etter produce certain sounds, address articulation, fluency, language comprehension and production. It can also help improve the understanding and expression of language. 

How do you know if a person needs speech therapy?

A person may need speech therapy if they suffer from problems such as stammering or stuttering, if they are unable to produce or understand certain sounds and words or if they are unable to use verbal and body language appropriately in social situations. Speech therapy may also be needed in cases where people are unable to comprehend verbal cues from the people around them, in such cases speech therapists can help aid the language comprehension of individuals. Speech therapy can also be used with individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or are unable to communicate effectively due to brain cognitive or neurodegenerative disorders. 

What do speech therapists do?

The first and foremost task of speech therapists is always to identify speech and language pathologies in their patients. This can be done by giving people certain exercises that can help highlight their problem areas and help a therapist gain better understanding of their issues. After identification and isolation of the problem, speech therapists work on targeting these areas and giving the client exercises that will help improve their condition. Apart from carrying out interventions, speech therapists also act as a constant source of motivation and support for their clients, urging them and giving them the warmth and understanding needed to continue working on their problems. 

How does speech therapy last for adults?

Adults are not as malleable as children, they are more set in their ways and have ingrained methods of understanding and producing language. In order to bring about a change in how an individual understands and communicates veral content a speech therapist needs longer times as compared to children. Speech therapy with adults also includes providing constant support and encouragement to keep the client motivated towards the final goal of speech therapy. This can become an intensive and time-consuming process that might spread across months. In case of injuries or brain disorders, the severity and prognosis of the conditions is also likely to influence the length of therapy.

References:

Bedell, J. R., & Lennox, S. S. (1997). Handbook for Communication and problem-solving skills training: A cognitive-behavioral approach. Wiley.

Belsky, G. (2021, May 24). What is speech therapy? Understood. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/what-you-need-to-know-about-speech-therapy.

MEDIAmaker. (2020). Cognitive communication difficulties. Headway. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/communication-problems/cognitive-communication-difficulties/.

Rowden, A. (2021, January 5). Speech therapy: For adults, kids, and how it works. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/speech-therapy#conditions.

Smith , B. (2014). What is speech therapy? Parents. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://www.parents.com/kids/development/learning-disabilities/what-is-speech-therapy/. 

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