Speech Language Pathology | Swallowing Disorders | MedStar Health
Grandparent reading to children

Speech-language pathologists treat speech, language, cognitive communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency disorders, as well as related conditions. Treatment depends on the nature and severity of the speech disorder; however, the goals of every speech-related treatment program are to:

  • Fully assess each patient and develop a comprehensive plan of care
  • Help each patient to understand their condition and to achieve a comfortable level of communication in personal and professional settings
  • Encourage each patient to practice preventive measures and continue with a long-term home program to continue progress


Our specialists often evaluate and treat patients with the following conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome
  • Neuromuscular speech disorders resulting from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other conditions
  • Geriatric-related conditions including Alzheimer's and dementia
  • Communication disorders
  • Swallowing disorders

Communication disorders

Communication disorders can be a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, head and neck cancer, neurological disorders, and other medical conditions. They include:

  • Aphasia is an acquired language disorder characterized by impaired comprehension and production of language as a result of brain damage (most often as a result of a stroke). It can dramatically impair a person's ability to communicate. The main symptom of aphasia is impairment in the ability to speak, while the understanding of speech, reading, and writing can also be impaired.
  • Dysarthria is a speech disorder that results from weakness, paralysis, or in-coordination of the muscles that control speech, resulting from neurological diseases and injuries. Dysarthria can result from progressive types of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. It can also result from an injury to the brain, such as stroke or head injury.
  • Voice disorders are characterized by an abnormality in the pitch, loudness, duration, or quality of the voice. Hoarseness caused by vocal abuse or misuse is the most common voice disorder; however, infection, trauma, reflux, and cancer can also cause voice disorders. Cancer or trauma can result in a total laryngectomy—the removal of the entire voice box or larynx. Removal of the larynx results in a complete loss of voice. In some cases, only part of the larynx is removed (partial laryngectomy), which leaves the patient with an abnormal voice quality.
  • Cognitive-linguistic disorders are problems with attention, memory, organization, reasoning, and social skills that impact communication. A cognitive-linguistic disorder can be a result of a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Swallowing disorders

Your doctor or healthcare provider may have recommended that you be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist for a swallowing disorder, also called dysphagia. This condition can accompany stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, dementia, or other neurological disorders. Swallowing disorders can also occur after treatment for head and neck cancers.