Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease) is a disease that gradually paralyzes the patient as the brain loses its ability to communicate with the muscles of the body. ALS impacts the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and eventually, breath.
The Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) plays a pivotal role on the ALS patient’s multidisciplinary treatment team in fostering quality of life during this challenging journey in the following areas:
As the ability to speak begins to deteriorate, the SLP will help the patient and family by counselling on what to expect next. The SLP will determine ways for the ALS patient to continue using their own voice to communicate for as long as possible and to determine other forms of communication when speech is no longer an option. With advances in technology, there are options for assistive devices that continue to evolve. Our team at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks facilitates referrals to agencies that specialize in communication assistive technology.
Therapy for swallowing focuses on maintaining function for as long as possible by managing symptoms through modifications to the patients diet so that the food is easier to manage, reduces the tendency for fatigue, and optimizes safety. Strategies to compensate for swallowing difficulties may also be effective. These modifications and strategies are modified through the disease process.
Referral for SLP support before problems arise will help the clinician and family to come up with an individualized program for promoting independence. Our overriding goal is to develop a plan that will help the ALS patient remain as independent as possible for as long as possible and to promote quality of life for the patient and his/her family.