The Role of Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists are communication disorder specialists trained to diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions beyond the production of speech sounds. Speech-language pathologists do not typically provide therapy for tics. At this time, treatment for tics is typically provided by counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and occupational therapists who are trained in procedures such as Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT), or habit reversal therapy, or tics are managed with pharmaceuticals under the guidance of a physician. However, speech-language pathologists can help individuals with TS in managing other symptoms, which can interfere with social, academic, and/or communicative functioning.

Speech Therapy and Co-Occurring Conditions

As we know, people with TS can have co-occurring conditions, such as a learning disability, ADHD, OCD, or social language impairment. When these diagnoses co-occur, there is a greater chance that the individual may benefit from speech pathology services. Often, these individuals will have language-based learning disabilities, executive function disorders, and/or other communication disorders that can be significantly improved through speech pathology services.

For example, people with language-based learning disabilities may have difficulty understanding and learning new vocabulary, word relationships (such as antonyms and synonyms), word structure and/or grammar. They may have difficulty understanding questions, learning to ask questions, following directions, giving directions, and/or understanding information they hear. Problems may occur with spoken language, written language, or both. Speech-language pathologists conduct thorough evaluations to determine exactly which areas of language are strong and which areas are impaired and then develop a treatment plan for improvement.

Speech-language pathologists can help with co-occurring conditions and other symptoms that interfere with functioning.

Speech Therapy for Improving Other Skills

Social Skills

Another area of language that can be impaired in individuals with TS is pragmatics, or social skills. Speech-language pathologists often lead social skills groups to teach appropriate eye contact, personal space, remaining on topic, turn taking, conversation, and other skills needed to form successful relationships in the school, social and/or work environments..

Executive Function

One of the biggest areas of concern affecting many individuals with TS is executive function, especially when ADHD or OCD is also diagnosed. The speech-language pathologist can provide exercises to improve working memory and attention while teaching strategies to compensate for planning and organizational problems. This is one area that is often overlooked, especially in schools. Deficits in these areas can wreak havoc in all areas of academic, work, and social life.

Memory, Organization, and Other Issues

If one cannot store information in short- or long-term memory, it will obviously affect test scores. If one cannot keep assignment due dates organized, then it will affect grades because work is turned in late or incomplete. If one cannot organize his or her locker, then he or she will show up to class unprepared. The list goes on, so management of these skills is truly essential not just for academic success but also for life management skills. Unfortunately, students with TS often have deficits in these areas and they are not addressed as aggressively as is necessary.

Articulation Disorders

Last, some individuals have speech disorders that result in speech that is difficult to produce and understand. These include articulation disorders, which occur primarily in children who are not learning correct sound production, stuttering disorders, and other motor speech disorders that typically occur due to neurological impairment. Speech disorders can occur in individuals with TS just as they do in the general population, but these disorders are not related to this diagnosis; however, a speech-language pathologist can remediate these difficulties as well, if they are present.

Requesting an Evaluation

Parents of a child enrolled in public schools can request an evaluation at any time, and if he or she qualifies, services are provided free of charge. Please refer to other articles on our website, including those about the IEP or 504 process, to ensure that your child’s needs are met in every avenue available. Intervention is the key to success!