Speech Therapy Terms Explained

It is frustrating to hear medical terms or speech terms that we don't understand.

For example:

What the heck is diadochokinesis?

How do you even pronounce that word?

As professionals, speech pathologists use medical terms to explain conditions related to speech and language deficits. Unfortunately, these speech terms are not familiar to most people.

We (yes, we are guilty of this too), sometimes forget to explain what these terms mean in everyday language.

Having said that, we will try to help you better understand the meaning of some of the speech and language jargon related to speech therapy.

Some terms may seem obvious. Please bear with us as we make sure everyone gets a fair chance to learn.

Here are some common speech terms you might hear a speech pathologist say:

Diadochokinesis: Let's start with the example from above and the hardest term to even pronounce. Here is a syllable breakdown so you can pronounce it correctly and maybe even impress a few people: (die-uh-doe-ko-kin-ee-sis).

Diadochokinesis is the rapid repetition of several different sounds in a row.

For example, the sound sequence of, "Puh - Tuh - Kuh" forces you to make three different sounds in three different places.

The "P" sound is made with the lips, the "T" sound is made with the tip of your tongue, and the "K" sound is made with the back of your tongue
(try it).

This is a traditional oral motor exercise (as used in the Oral Motor Training Video). It is used to improve the quick lip and tongue movement required to produce clear speech.

Speech Intelligibility: This is how well a person's speech can be understood. If your "speech intelligibility" is good, that means the words you are speaking are clear and can be understood most or all of the time.

Speaking rate: A speech term for how fast or slowly you speak.

Dysarthria: A reduction in strength and coordination in the muscles associated with speech. Simply put; weak oral muscles.

Verbal Apraxia: Not being able to perform coordinated oral muscle movements. However, there is no paralysis or muscle damage involved.

This means that the person's oral muscles are fine, but the messages sent from the brain to move those muscles are being interrupted.

Dysphagia: A condition which causes difficulty swallowing liquids and food. Dysphagia requires very specialized speech therapy and should be carried out with a qualified therapist one-on-one.

Aspiration: Most everyone has done this without knowing there is a name for it. Have you ever drunk or eaten something that went down the wrong pipe?

That is called, "aspiration." This is usually followed by coughing which clears the wind pipe (trachea).

However, some people with swallowing disorders aspirate frequently and may not be able to cough the food or liquid back into their throat. This condition also requires specialized speech therapy.

Range of Motion: The distance you can move your tongue and/or lips in and out, back and forth, up and down, or side to side.

Compensatory Strategies: Learning new ways to complete a task. For example, if you are having difficulty saying long sentences then you can "compensate" by saying several shorter sentences instead.

Saying two or three short sentences instead of one long sentence is a compensatory strategy.

Prosody: A collective speech term related to intonation, rhythm, and vocal stress in speech.

You're probably saying, "Great, but what do all those things mean?

Don't worry, we thought of that too ...

Intonation: The rising and falling of your voice (also known as pitch). Using a "high" pitch or a "low" pitch to add meaning to your message.

Have you ever heard someone speak in a monotone voice? They speak without any changes in their pitch. It's like one long, unchanging sound.

Intonation puts passion and spark into our speech!

Rhythm: The proper timing between pauses and spoken words in your speech. If your rhythm is "off" your pauses may be too long or too short between words.

Vocal Stress: This is putting an emphasis on certain words or syllables.

For example, let's say you are the best poker player in your neighborhood. One day a stranger walks up to you and says, "I heard you are the worst poker player in town" (This stranger emphasized the word, worst).

With confidence, you respond, "You have heard wrong, I am the BEST poker player in town." You emphasized or stressed the word BEST in that sentence to get your point across (in a graceful manner, of course).

Thermal Stimulation: placing ice or a cold object on a weak muscle to stimulate nerve and muscle reaction.

Manual Stimulation: The use of touch and pressure to stimulate nerves in and around weak muscles.

If you don't understand something ...

Do not be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand what your speech pathologist or physician is explaining to you.

It is normal human behavior not wanting to appear "foolish." However, you are not expected to know these speech terms (medical terms).

It would be in your best interest to fully understand any communication disorder that may be affecting you or your loved one.

Learn more about Speech and Language Therapy on DVD

Copyright © 2006 speech-therapy-on-video.com