“Why was I referred to speech therapy?”
When most people think of speech therapy or rehabilitation, they probably think of children learning to pronounce words correctly. In VA, speech-language pathologists serve veterans and service members of all ages by treating disorders that affect the entire communication system, including the brain.
Veterans who have suffered from trauma or illness may have problems forgetting, problem solving, responding accurately, understanding jokes, following directions, or interacting with others. These may be symptoms of a cognitive communication disorder.
The good news? With the help of a speech-language pathologist, veterans can improve their cognitive skills and learn strategies to improve their cognitive functioning and ultimately improve their quality of life.
More than 400 speech-language pathologists across VA provide screening, assessment, cognitive rehabilitation, and treatment for a wide range of communication and swallowing disorders.
“Why was I referred to speech therapy?”
Often, the first question veterans ask when referred to a speech-language pathologist is, “Why was I referred to speech-language pathology?” »
The Durham VA Speech-Language Clinic is one of many VA clinics that provide rehabilitation for cognitive communication issues where trained speech-language pathologists provide education, training and strategies for coping with issues after a brain injury, a trauma or stroke.
Carol Smith Hammond, speech-language pathologist in Durham VA, begins each patient visit by asking questions, including:
- “Do you have attention or memory problems? »
- “Do you have organizational problems or do you forget things you are supposed to do during the day?”
- “Are you struggling at work or studying for college courses?
The veterans Dr. Hammond treats were active and successful members of the military. After the trauma or injury, they experienced mild cognitive issues. Many of these veterans also suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sleep disorders that can affect a person’s ability to pay attention or concentrate.
“Patients often come to me and cry,” Dr. Hammond said. “They are so afraid of losing their jobs or missing school.”
Provide tools to help veterans improve their lives
The first time Dr. Hammond meets a veteran, she immediately provides key strategies to increase focus and concentration. She advises patients to “stop and plan” before starting the day or starting a new task. She also recommends easy-to-use tools, like a daily planner and whiteboard, for patients to organize each day and check off completed tasks.
In each session, Dr. Hammond also includes mindfulness or meditation training to teach patients to clear their minds of all negative thoughts or fear of failure when tackling a difficult project. or getting ready for a busy day. Most patients complete an average of eight speech therapy appointments, and many participate in group programs.
Recently, Dr. Hammond worked with a veteran in North Carolina who is now a farmer. He explained that he had to make several trips between his house and the farm every day because he forgot what task he was planning to do and left things in the wrong place.
He would become frustrated and angry with his family members. After cognitive rehabilitation, he commented, “The one strategy – stop and plan each day – changed my life.
Telehealth options with convenient support anytime, anywhere
VA speech therapy services are available for in-person and telehealth visits. In February 2021, Durham VA provided cognitive rehabilitation using VA Video Connect technology to over 50 veterans. VA speech-language pathologists performed more than 93,000 telehealth visits in 2021 nationwide.
The veterans who participate in cognitive rehabilitation are between 20 and 40 years old. They work, attend university and many have young children at home. Telehealth visits provide veterans with an easy and convenient way to access VA health care when and where they need it.
Learn more about VA speech therapy services for veterans.