New Treatments That Could Transform Speech Therapy

by VocoVision on September 16, 2015

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new treatments speech therapyMatt Maxon, at seven years old, knew that he had trouble pronouncing the “in” the word nugget, so whenever he visited a fast food restaurant where he really wanted to order chicken nuggets, he always ordered hamburgers. Now, Maxon is 24. He is one of the nearly 7.5 million people in the United States who struggle with speech disorders.

Maxon is also among the millions of people who could benefit from scientific discoveries into the genetic and neurological roots of speech disorders. Scientists are working to identify the DNA sequences, biomarkers, and other signs of speech problems. Their works could produce a large decline in the incidence of speech disorders.

With the right research, genetic testing may be able to predict which babies are susceptible to developing various speech disorders. This would therefore allow for the appropriate intervention while the brains are still pliable. Brain stimulation could supplement, and potentially replace, any sort of therapy. And as a research continues, a simple pill may offer relief.

These developments are part of a trend all across the health industry known as precision-based medicine. Basically, this approach places an emphasis on precise diagnostic measures that allow clinicians to tailor treatments to the individual patient. Using this personalization has already begun to transform mental health. We’ve already seen the development of blood tests that are capable of predicting depression, and experts suggest that speech therapy is next.

Currently, any diagnosis of speech pathology is pretty much a shot in the dark. Pathologists must rely on subjective behavioral tests, but many speech disorders share symptoms. Childhood apraxia, or difficulty pronouncing words, may also sound a lot like stuttering. With the wrong diagnosis, children can receive the wrong type of therapy. Kids usually don’t display enough symptoms to qualify for therapy until they’re already in grade school, and by then, their brains are not quite as receptive to behavioral therapy.

That standard treatment comes with relapse rates as high as 84% for stuttering. Speech is one of the most basic human abilities. The reason why genetic tests may offer diagnosis is because more than half of those who suffer report having a close relative who suffers the same problem. Even now, stuttering tends to disappear spontaneously, but it persists in about 20% of cases. Approaching treatment this way could make it easier and more effective for children suffering from any number of speech disorders. 

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See how VocoVision is also helping transform speech therapy here

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