Man participating in speech therapyIndividuals encountering problems with their communication, language and swallowing may benefit from the specialized attention of TIRR Memorial Hermann's Speech Therapy. Our certified speech therapists and language pathologists diagnose and treat a variety of disorders resulting from stroke, brain injury or other neurological conditions.

Therapy usually entails individual therapy training, and education to help an individual overcome or compensate for any of their difficulties. TIRR Memorial Hermann's speech therapists address the individual needs of patients diagnosed with a wide range of disorders, including, but not limited to:

  • Aphasia is the impairment or absence of comprehension and/or communication skills as a result of an injury to the brain's language center. It can apply to spoken or written words and numbers and is most commonly associated with stroke and brain injury.
  • Apraxia is the inability to execute purposeful and coordinated movements even though muscular strength and mental capacity remain intact.
  • Dysarthria is difficulty in articulating words due to a disturbance in the central nervous system. Speech is characteristically slow and slurred. It is most commonly associated with stroke and traumatic brain injury. Treatment involves intensive speech therapy with the focus on oral-motor skill development.
  • Dysphagia is difficulty in swallowing food, liquids, and even saliva, due to muscle weakness or paralysis. It is most commonly associated with stroke, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. Individuals may experience mild to severe difficulties when swallowing, including:
    • Coughing, choking or throat-clearing while eating or drinking
    • Throat pain or discomfort
    • A sensation of food sticking the mouth, throat or upper chest
    • Gurgling noises when speaking
  • Speech therapists offer a variety of specialized treatments to address needs of individuals with Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders, the impaired function of the muscles of the face, jaw and neck.

What Are the Types of Speech Therapy?

A harmonized plan of treatment for each individual is developed by a team of doctors and specialists in order to ensure the best possible care and a return to independence.

Speech and Augmentative Communications

There are a wide range of treatments, techniques and technologies being used to enhance speech skills, including melodic intonation therapy, Visi-Pitch® and Bungalow software programs.

As appropriate, we work closely with each client to find alternative methods of communication. There are many different kinds of devices that meet different needs from the simple, non-electronic variety to the complex, computerized device. Devices may be controlled by a puff of air, a blink of an eye, typing on a keyboard, or a synthesized voice.

Swallowing Therapy

For those with swallowing problems, the department utilizes a number of special diagnostic tools, including non-invasive x-ray procedures, to help evaluate the nature and extent of the condition. Various electronic devices and computers, if appropriate, may also be used both in assessment and treatment.

Most swallowing problems can be diagnosed upon examination of speech, oral function and by observation of the swallowing mechanisms but sometimes it is necessary to confirm this by videofluoroscopy. This is a video x-ray to show exactly what is happening when food and drink of different consistencies is swallowed. From the results of the video swallow, appropriate treatment recommendations are made.

Vital Stim® Therapy

With the guidance of a speech pathologist, treatment may involve incorporating compensatory strategies when eating (including chin tuck, frequent swallows or checking mouth), altering food consistencies (including soft, pureed or chopped) and specialized eating/drinking equipment.

Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT)

LSVT is a proven effective treatment program that restores oral communication in individuals with Parkinson disease (PD) beyond what current pharmacological and surgical interventions can offer.

The development of LSVT was motivated by the recognition that the reduced ability to communicate is one of the most difficult aspects of PD. Soft voice, monotone, hoarse voice quality, and imprecise articulation, together with lessened facial expression, contribute to limitations in communication.

The LSVT approach centers on a very specific therapeutic target: increased vocal loudness. This key target acts as a trigger to increase effort and coordination across the speech production system.

Speech therapists also work to improve cognitive function, helping individuals with attention to tasks, memory, reasoning, problem solving, and executive functioning, such as goal setting, planning, initiating, self-awareness, self-monitoring and evaluation.

Digital Swallowing Workstation

Improving Imaging and Analysis with the KayPENTAX Digital Swallowing Workstation

TIRR Memorial Hermann offers a new swallowing workstation technology that helps medical professionals assess and improve a patient's swallowing. Housed on a mobile cart that can be rolled to radiology or to the bedside, the swallow station can be used for imaging studies, therapy, patient and family education and further evaluation.

The workstation has three components:

  • digital recording
  • a swallow signals lab
  • fiber endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES)

Digital Recording

Digital recording allows for visualization and recording of modified barium swallow studies without exposing the patient to additional radiation. Studies are stored and can be retrieved and analyzed in real time, either frame by frame or in slow motion. Multiple swallow studies can be compared side by side to evaluate a patient's improvement.

Swallow Signals Lab

The swallow signals lab can be used to enhance therapy by giving patients visual feedback on a screen, which facilitates learning during swallowing exercises. Patients are able to see how they're breathing in relation to each swallow and see the timing of each swallow.

Fiber Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)

FEES is an endoscopic technique used to evaluation patients with dysphagia. During the procedure a flexible tube is passed through the nose, allowing clinicians to see internal structures during swallowing and non-swallowing tasks.

FEES advantages over fluoroscopy include:

  • No exposure to radiation
  • Test is portable
  • Good for repeat evaluations
  • Lower cost
  • Suitable for patients on a ventilator or those with physical impairments

Patient Stories

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    July 25, 2023

    For over 17 years, Eric Blumentritt has worked for a power tool service company in Deer Park, Texas. Away from his job, he is a husband, father and musician who plays with a local band. After an accident at work resulted in a traumatic brain injury, Eric went to TIRR Memorial Hermann for rehabili...

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    Alexandra: Finding a New Career Path

    April 7, 2023

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    Brandon's Story: Playing Music Once Again

    May 3, 2022

    Shortly following a surgery, Brandon had several acute strokes. Although he survived, he lost his ability to walk, speak and, most importantly, to sing. But with the love of his wife and help from the specialists at TIRR Memorial Hermann, Brandon has found his voice again and is sharing it on sta...

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    Sandra's Story: Working Toward Personal Goals

    February 28, 2022

    Sandra Mora has had a series of personal goals she has been working towards as a patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann. She wanted to stand as a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding as well as help her daughter prepare for her modeling jobs. Finally, she wanted to take her kids to Disney World. She has ch...

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    Carrie's Story: Baking Her Cake and Eating it Too

    October 19, 2021

    Wife, mom of two young daughters, and financial controller for a Fortune 100 company, Carrie Jobe is a self-proclaimed ‘working momma and boss lady.’ When a series of fainting spells led to a benign brain tumor diagnosis, she didn’t intend to let it slow her down for too long.

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  • Lewis on stage after rehabilitation

    Lewis: Back on Stage Making Music

    May 14, 2020

    After retiring in 2017, Lewis Frey turned his part-time love of playing his guitar, into a full-time job. He had regular gigs around the Houston area, and he and his band were enjoying entertaining their audiences. But, in June 2019 he had a stroke which put a pause in his playing. After his inpa...

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    Phil Eaton: Road to Recovery

    May 1, 2020

    In March 2020, high school principal Phil Eaton was admitted to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center with pneumonia. A short time later, he was diagnosed with COVID-19. His condition became serious, and he spent 21 days on a ventilator. After being discharged from acute care, Phil was ex...

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    Cathy's Story: Stroke Rehabilitation

    April 16, 2020

    After having a stroke and being rushed into surgery to remove a large portion of her skull to allow for brain swelling, Cathy was accepted into TIRR Memorial Hermann for rehabilitation.

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  • River Rasmussen with Aryia and his therapist

    River Rasmussen: A Family Finds Hope

    August 10, 2018

    After an automobile accident left him bedridden and unresponsive, River's sister found hope for him with the TIRR Memorial Hermann Disorders of Consciousness Rehabilitation Program.

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  • Evelyn Suber

    Evelyn Suber: Like Family

    August 22, 2016

    In July 2013, Evelyn Suber was hospitalized for dehydration – the result of a serious viral infection. At some point during the two weeks she was ill, she noticed numbness in her legs. A month later, when the numbness persisted, neurologist Suresh Roongta, MD, admitted her to Memorial Hermann Gre...

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  • Natalie Franker

    Therapy Gives Natalie Fraker Strength and a Boost of Confidence

    September 23, 2015

    A couple of months shy of her fourth birthday, Natalie Fraker’s voice grew a little hoarse. An endoscopic examination by an otolaryngologist revealed a partially paralyzed vocal cord. On biopsy, it was identified as a grade II astrocytoma, a tumor that arises from the star-shaped cells that...

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  • Mikayla Williams

    Mikayla Williams Makes a 180-Degree Turn

    September 22, 2015

    Easter Sunday in April 2014, out of the blue, Mikayla Williams had a seizure – a dramatic occurrence for an otherwise healthy 12-year-old girl. A CT scan and blood tests done at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital produced inconclusive results, and Mikayla was sent home with an anti-...

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  • Samantha Shine

    Samantha Shines On

    September 22, 2015

    When Samantha Shine came to TIRR Memorial Hermann Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Kirby Glen Center, the 3-year-old was still eating puréed food – very slowly – and was underweight for her age. Six months later, she eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with her family an...

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  • Gabrielle Giffords

    Gabrielle Giffords' Extraordinary Journey

    April 10, 2013

    On January 21, 2011, United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords was transferred from the University of Arizona Medical Center to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit. Rep. Giffords’ physician team upgraded her condition from serious to good fou...

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  • Moya

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    March 26, 2013

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    Isabella: Occupational & Physical Therapy

    March 26, 2013

    Karen and Vincent adopted Isabella from a Chinese orphanage in 2008. They took her to an international adoption doctor to complete the adoption process. The doctor informed Isabella's parents she had developmental and speech delays.

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  • Curran

    Curran: Language Delay

    March 26, 2013

    In November 2008, 2-year-old Curran started treatment for a language delay. When he started treatment, he was nonverbal and communicated only by using hand gestures and vocalizations. The speech-language pathologist suggested Curran’s family encourage English as his primary language, and after pr...

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  • Kara Beatty

    Kara Beatty: Recovery from Neurotrauma

    February 5, 2013

    Kara Beatty was on her way to summer school at a community college when a truck ran a red light and T-boned her car. She lost consciousness, and emergency responders had to use the “jaws of life” to free her from the wreckage. She remained in a coma for three days in the Neurotrauma ICU, with a m...

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  • McKenzie

    McKenzy Winne: Traumatic Brain Injury

    January 10, 2013

    On September 15, 2007, McKenzy Winne was riding with two friends on the tailgate of a pickup truck. Suddenly and without warning, McKenzy was thrown from the tailgate. She tried to stand up, then collapsed in the street. After being flown to the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas...

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