A Speech Therapist’s Role In Treating ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

A Speech Therapist's Role In Treating ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the famous New York Yankee whose career was cut short by illness.

For a more modern frame of reference, ALS is also the disease that affected renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

Short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS affects all systems of the body, causing loss of control over movement and basic functions, including walking, breathing, and speaking.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ALS, it may be a frightening and overwhelming time, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Treatment for ALS will include many different medical professionals, including a speech and language therapist who can help you preserve your ability to communicate with those around you.

Let’s take a closer look at ALS – what it is, what causes it, and how adult speech therapy can help with ALS symptoms.

What Is ALS?

ALS is a degenerative disease affecting the motor neurons of the brain and spinal cord.

There’s a whole lot to that sentence, so let’s unpack it.

A degenerative disease is a disease that tends to get worse over time.

These include, but are not limited to:

Motor neurons send messages from the brain to the muscles.

This is what allows your brain to coordinate the various movements you need to do during your daily life.

ALS destroys these neurons, making it impossible for the brain to communicate with parts of your body.

As your illness progresses, you’ll lose your ability to control your muscles voluntarily.

Eventually, it will affect most areas of your body, including your respiratory system, mobility, eating, cognitive function, and even mood.

What Causes ALS?

We don’t yet know what causes ALS.

Here’s what we do know, however:

  • It’s not contagious
  • It most commonly occurs between age 40 and 70
  • Smoking puts you at great risk
  • If you have a parent with ALS you’re only slightly more likely to have it
  • Men are at greater risk of ALS
  • People of European descent are at greater risk of ALS
  • Military veterans seem to be of greater risk, though we don’t yet know why

How Common Is ALS?

ALS is a very rare disease.

Approximately 5000 people a year are diagnosed with ALS in the United States.

Currently, there are around 30,000 Americans living with the disease.

It’s beginning to be more common, though that may be a combination of the population on average getting older, as well as longer lifespans.

How Does ALS Affect Speech?

There is a wide variety of different symptoms of ALS.

However, we’re a Washington DC speech therapy clinic, so let’s focus on how it affects speech.

ALS destroys the neurons your brain uses to communicate with the rest of your body, and that can include the neurons that control your speech muscles like your larynx.

As a result, over time you may notice your speech begins to slur and you have difficulty with articulation.

You may also notice you begin to experience adult dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

How Can Speech Therapy For ALS Help | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

How Can Speech Therapy For ALS Help?

As of this writing, there’s no known cure for ALS.

And while speech therapy can’t reverse its effects, it can help you communicate better as your disease progresses.

In the early stages, your speech therapist will work with you to strengthen your throat muscles, cope with decreased muscle function, and find new ways to form words.

In later stages of ALS, it may be the case that you’re unable to speak at all.

However, communication at this point is more critical than ever.

Not only does communication allow you to continue to advocate for yourself, it can also help preserve your mental health.

After all, one of the most common symptoms of degenerative diseases is depression, and being able to speak with your loved ones can help manage your mood.

Your speech therapist will help you with AAC – augmentative and alternative communication methods, which can help you continue to communicate electronically with the people in your life.

Some of the software available can even use a synthesized version of your own voice.

Your speech therapist will be with you every step of the way, easing the progression of your disorder from a speech and language perspective.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

A diagnosis of ALS can be overwhelming and stressful, whether for you or someone you love.

But you don’t have to go through it alone.

Be sure to include a speech therapist in your team of healthcare professionals – we can help you continue to communicate.

Book your appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/districtspeech

District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.