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Rehabilitation services: Speech therapy

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Speech-language pathology programs and services

Speech-language pathology

If you or a loved one is having difficulty speaking, swallowing or understanding others following an injury or illness, our speech-language pathologists can help.

You or a family member may benefit from programs to help treat . . .

Source: Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Reviewed by: Jane Chandler, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist
First Published: 03/22/2011
Last Reviewed: 03/01/2011

Cancer effects

therapist shows patient a model of the esphagus

During cancer rehabilitation, a therapist explains to a patient how cancer treatment affected his ability to swallow.

Cancer rehabilitation is available to manage speech and swallowing disorders caused by head and neck cancer.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute collaborates with specialists from several Allina Health facilities to treat the physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment.

Children's communication disorders

Speech therapy for children is offered at many facilities throughout Allina Health. Our therapists have special training to help children and their families who are coping with medical conditions that interfere with normal development.

Children with autism, cerebral palsy, speech and language disorders, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and other special needs can receive speech therapy in a fun, friendly and safe environment. Kenny Kids and Capable Kids are two specialized programs currently available.

Communication difficulties

Communication difficulties can include impaired speech (dysarthria or apraxis) difficulty expressing oneself or understanding (aphasia), voice problems, cognitive loss (attention, memory, reasoning, thought processing, planning, organizing, etc.).

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Memory loss

Memory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness.

Learn more about memory loss in our health encyclopedia.

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Memory loss

Memory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness.

Learn more about memory loss in our health encyclopedia.

Swallowing problems: Dysphagia

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia (dis-FAY-ja) is a swallowing problem. This problem may be caused by weakness or loss of feeling in your tongue, lips, palate and/or throat. You may notice:

  • food moving around your mouth
  • food sticking in your throat
  • coughing or choking on liquids or solids.

What causes swallowing problems?

Your swallowing problems may be caused by:

  • stroke
  • head injury
  • disorder such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease
  • cancer in the mouth, throat or esophagus
  • injury or surgery to the head or neck
  • recent intubation (a breathing tube placed in your throat)
  • decline in overall strength.

How will your swallowing problems be found?

A doctor or speech-language pathologist (SLP) can determine if you have swallowing problems. There are many tests that can confirm if you have dysphagia:

  • swallowing evaluation. The SLP watches you eat foods and drink liquids. This will help him or her tell if other tests are needed.
  • fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing. The doctor or SLP inserts a thin flexible scope into your nose. A tiny camera at the end of the scope lets him or her watch as you swallow foods and liquids. (This test is known as FEES.)
  • video swallow study. You will swallow small amounts of barium (a white liquid that shows up on X-ray) to simulate "normal" eating. A video is taken as you swallow the barium. Your doctor or SLP can study your ability to chew and swallow and to check for aspiration.

Together, you, your health care provider and your speech-language pathologist will choose the test that's right for you.

What is aspiration?

Aspiration occurs when food or liquid goes down your windpipe (trachea). It can sometimes lead to pneumonia (infection or swelling of your lungs).

Signs of aspiration include:

  • coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • a wet-sounding voice
  • noisy breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • pneumonia that won't go away
  • rattle sound in your lungs.

Aspiration can cause pneumonia. Signs of pneumonia are:

  • fever
  • rattle sound in your lungs
  • rapid breathing
  • chills
  • cough with mucus
  • chest pain
  • feeling drowsy or not as alert.

Call your doctor right away if you are having shortness of breath or fever.

What causes choking or coughing?

Choking and coughing are reflexes. They are caused by your body's instinct to protect itself from food or liquid going down your windpipe (trachea) and into your lungs.

Choking and coughing can be scary because they can be caused by serious problems. You can reduce your risk of choking. Here are some things you can do:

  • Watch for signs of aspiration (listed above).
  • Check with your doctor or speech-language pathologist if you cough when you swallow.
  • Don't try to stop a cough. A cough is your body's natural protection against choking.
  • Stop eating if you can't stop coughing or if you can't clear your airway. If this happens, call 911 right away.

What can be done to help your swallowing?

The speech-language pathologist may recommend one or more of the following to make swallowing safer:

  • body and head positions
  • changed food textures
  • smaller meals eaten more often
  • special feeding utensils and containers
  • exercises to strengthen your swallow
  • electrical stimulation to improve your swallow. (Patches are placed on your neck. A machine sends electrical impulses to help make your swallowing muscles stronger.)

You and your caregiver may also work with a dietitian, occupational therapist and nursing staff during swallowing treatment and recovery.

If your swallow is too weak or unsafe, you may need to get your nutrients by a tube. A feeding tube is passed through your nose and esophagus to your stomach. This will be used for short-term tube feedings.

If your recovery is slow, a gastrostomy tube is put through your abdominal wall into your stomach. This will be used for long-term tube feedings.

When can you swallow again?

Your ability to swallow may improve during recovery. As your swallow improves, changes may be made to your diet, exercises or swallowing techniques. This speech-language pathologist will give you updates on your progress.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Should Know About Dysphagia, neuro-ahc-11677
Reviewed by: Jane E Chandler, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
First Published: 07/25/2011
Last Reviewed: 07/25/2011

Neurologic condition

LSVT Big and Loud exercise class

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute offers Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®) Big and Loud Therapy to empower those living with Parkinson's disease to speak loud and move big.

Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®) Big and Loud Therapy offers intensive therapy for patients with Parkinson's disease or other neurological conditions.

  • LSVT LOUD can dramatically improve vocal loudness, intonation and voice quality.
  • LSVT BIG is used to improve major motor skills needed for walking, movement and balance.

For more about Big and Loud,
call 612-262-7979
or 1-800-519-0014.

A doctor's referral is required.

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Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.

Learn more about Parkinson's disease in our health library.

Voice disorders

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Hoarseness is having difficulty producing sound when trying to speak, or a change in the pitch or quality of the voice. The voice may sound weak, very breathy, scratchy, or husky.

Learn more about hoarseness in our health library.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Voice Clinic evaluates and treats people who are experiencing hoarseness or other voice problems.

Speech pathologists teach patients how to find a healthy, clear, strong voice. They also use videostroboscopy to examine vocal folds in action and identify causes of problems.


Understanding videostroboscopy: A speech-language pathologist at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's Voice Clinic explains what to expect during a videostroboscopy exam.

Read the video transcript.

Appointment information

A health care provider's order is needed before an appointment can be scheduled. Someone at your clinic will need to fax the order to 612-262-7980 or 1-888-460-0018.

A scheduler will call you. You may also call 612-262-7979 or 1-888-519-0014.

Videostroboscopy is a special exam of your vocal cords.

Your vocal cords vibrate too fast to be seen by the "naked eye." A videostroboscopy uses a strobe light to create a slow motion picture of your vocal cords in action.

This exam allows your health care provider to see what's wrong with your vocal cords and work with you on how to care for your voice.

The exam is simple and takes about one hour total. The exam will be done at Courage Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute.

Before the exam

  • You do not need to prepare.
  • You may eat and drink as you wish.
  • You can drive yourself to and from the exam.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes early to fill out any paperwork.

During the exam

  • The health care provider will talk with you about the exam.
  • You may receive a numbing medicine in your mouth or nose for your comfort.
  • The health care provider will insert the scope into your mouth.
    • It does not go down your throat.
    • It does not touch anything.
    • It is not painful.
  • The health care provider may also gently insert a thin, flexible scope through your nose to look at your vocal cords.
  • The images from the scope(s) are seen on a computer screen and recorded.
  • The scope will be in your mouth or nose for just a few minutes before it is removed.

After the exam

  • Your health care provider will review the results with you.
  • He or she will talk with you about treatment options.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Videostroboscopy, pt-ahc-14977
Reviewed by: Jane E Chandler, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, Courage Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute
First Published: 08/15/2011
Last Reviewed: 08/15/2011