Each May, better hearing and speech month, provides Brownwood Regional Therapy Zone speech therapist Dawn Kelly the opportunity to raise awareness about communication and swallowing disorders and her ability to provide life altering treatment. The 2020 theme for the American speech and hearing association is “Communication at work”.

Speech therapists have been vital during the Covid-19 crisis educating students and families whose school services are interrupted how to better communicate at home, giving tips to make virtual interactions more successful for people who stutter, providing alternative communication techniques to patients on ventilators, helping children and adults with communication disorders maintain social connections during Covid-19, and providing safe swallow strategies for people who have become weak after hospitalization.

Kelly was the Brownwood Regional Employee of the year for 2019. She is an advocate for patients who have had strokes and she educates nurses on swallow screening to prevent aspiration and provide safe care to patients. She specializes in swallow studies to help recommend diet consistencies. Dawn does a great job speaking up for communication and swallowing ability.

Speech therapists are all working hard to stay safe and healthy, meet the needs of the individuals they serve, and find creative ways to connect from a distance. Speech language pathologists (SLPs) work with people of all ages with a physician's order on speech and language and so much more, including social, cognitive, and physical disorders. SLPs do everything from helping people learn to speak again after traumatic brain injury, working with people with autism to improve their communication skills, to swallowing difficulties. Their education includes biology, anatomy, physiology, physics, genetics, psychology as well as health and education policy and advocacy. They get to make close personal relationships with their patients starting with a thorough evaluation and goal planning. Speech therapists work with clients from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. SLPS have a master's or doctorate level degree.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance.

Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language). Language disorders may be spoken or written and may involve the form (phonology, morphology, syntax), content (semantics), and/or use (pragmatics) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.

Social communication disorders occur when a person has trouble with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. These disorders may include problems communicating for social purposes (e.g., greeting, commenting, asking questions), talking in different ways to suit the listener and setting, and following rules for conversation and story-telling. All individuals with autism spectrum disorder have social communication problems. Social communication disorders are also found in individuals with other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury.

Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. These disorders usually happen as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia, although they can be congenital.

Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are feeding and swallowing difficulties, which may follow an illness, surgery, stroke, or injury

Provide aural rehabilitation for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for individuals with severe expressive and/or language comprehension disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or progressive neurological disorders.

Work with people who don't have speech, language, or swallowing disorders, but want to learn how to communicate more effectively (e.g., work on accent modification or other forms of communication enhancement).

The profession continues to grow for a variety of reasons, including the rapid increase in aging populations, medical advances that improve the survival rate of preterm infants as well as trauma and stroke patients, growth in elementary- and secondary-school enrollments, and increasing demand in health care and private practice settings.