Speech therapists work closely with patients, frequently on a one-to-one basis to bring about change. A disorder of speech and language may be developmental or acquired in origin so a therapist works sometimes to educate and sometimes to re-educate.
A speech therapist has a knowledge of psychology, medicine, linguistics, pathology and therapeutics. In the assessment of a patient the therapist aims for a full picture including the history and assessment of the disorder, medical, home and work or school background. Then there is observation of how a patient appears to be – nervous, tense, jumpy, fidgety, depressed, lethargic, clumsy, slow, head held on one side, nervous tic, that kind of thing.
Sheila Pehrson, a speech therapist, trained in Alexander Technique in 1987. She formulated a study to assess the role the Alexander teacher could have to support and consolidate gains made in therapy. Four patients took part, each with a different kind of voice disorder, and all at, or near the end of, therapy. All the pupils were very well focussed and well motivated to explore change. At the end of the six weeks, the patients were interviewed by Carol Harris. As well as measurable improvements in voice quality, each participant reported the general benefits to well-being.
Making the link into the Alexander Technique as speech therapy draws to a close is a valuable experience ensuring that the patient continues to listen, as they have learnt to do in therapy, and to be aware of his/her voice in the wider psycho-physical context of the Technique.
An account of this study was published in the Speech Therapy Journal, Communication Matters May 1993.