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Speech Therapy

St. Jude Medical Center Speech Therapy provides comprehensive services to help children and adults with disorders or difficulties related to speaking, understanding, cognitive deficiencies, feeding, swallowing and using language effectively. Each patient's individualized therapy program is based on comprehensive evaluation, planning and personalized goals. We are committed to providing the highest quality of care and to making a positive difference for our patients and their families.

St. Jude Medical Center is one of the few providers of electrical stimulation for swallowing for children and adults with dysphagia (swallowing dysfunction). All our Speech Language Pathologists hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and are licensed by the state of California. They have advanced certification in “Vital Stim,” a special treatment for people with a swallowing impairment (dysphagia), and we have specialized therapists who are dedicated to treating children and adults who have all types of communication disorders.

For more information, please contact Lori Peirson, Manager, Speech and Audiology Practice, at (714) 992-3000, extension 3733. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call our scheduling desk at (714) 578-8706, extension 2327.

Speech Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Speech Language Pathologist?

Speech Language Pathologists help people to develop and regain their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings. They evaluate and treat disorders affecting speech, voice, verbal and written expression, auditory and reading comprehension, pragmatics (how we interact with each other), cognitive skills (i.e. attention, memory, problem solving, reasoning) and swallowing.

Who do we help?

At St. Jude our Speech Language Pathologists see people with a diverse range of challenges caused by:

  • Aging
  • Birth defects and developmental disabilities
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Dysphagia (swallowing disorder)
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Pediatric Disorders
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Tracheotomy and ventilator
  • Other conditions that affect the ability to speak, swallow or feed properly

What services do we provide?

We believe in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. In addition to treating these conditions, our services also include diagnosis and assessment, as well as health and wellness promotion.

Speech and swallowing therapy services include:

  • Articulation and language rehabilitation (speech)
  • Assessment and treatment of swallowing disorders
  • Cleft lip and palate services
  • Cognitive rehabilitation
  • Family education, caretaker education
  • Geriatric feeding and swallowing rehabilitation
  • Head and neck cancer rehabilitation (focused on speech and swallowing)
  • Pediatric feeding and swallowing therapy
  • Pediatric evaluations and treatment for speech development, oral motor skills, sensory processing, and feeding and swallowing skills
  • Videofluoroscopic swallowing evaluations (also known as Modified Barium Swallowing Evaluation)
  • VitalStim® to stimulate muscle activity necessary for functional swallowing
  • Voice assessment and treatment

Adult Speech Language Services


Along with traditional individual and group therapy sessions for adults with stroke (CVA) or brain injury, St. Jude offers the nationally known Communication Recovery Program. It is one of few programs that allows adults who are dealing with chronic aphasia and other communication difficulties to partner with loved ones or volunteers who are trained in ‘partner conversational skills.’ Through the use of these skills stroke survivors are given help, hope, and a sense of community that they would have never had without their involvement in the Communication Recovery Program. This program was established in 1999, and has been involved in several research projects which have been published in professional journals.

Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

The medical term for difficulty in swallowing is dysphagia. The problem is widespread among the elderly, particularly among stroke victims and patients who have undergone radiation therapy. Without treatment, consequences can be chronic malnutrition, choking, or pneumonia due to bacteria in food and liquids that enter breathing passages. Some of these are potentially deadly. The psychological and social consequences can be equally devastating. For patients with dysphagia, social isolation and depression often arises.

We don’t think much about swallowing. That’s because, once we start the process, an automatic sequence of highly coordinated nerve impulses and muscle actions occur to make sure that our breathing tube is sealed shut and whatever we are swallowing is channeled and pushed down the “right pipe.” During swallowing, one set of muscles pulls our “voice box” (or larynx) up to block off breathing passageways and prevents food or liquids from going down the wrong way. We’ve all experienced the sometimes frightening result when something goes wrong and we inhale a bit of food or liquid. For some people with swallowing problems, that “wrong way” experience happens regularly.

Once we’ve swallowed, another set of muscles pulls the larynx back down, so we are free to breathe. If the nerve impulses are not just right or the muscles are too weak to do their jobs, the process can be difficult, misdirected, or even impossible.

Brain Injury

  • Coughing during, or right after eating or drinking
  • Wet or gurgly-sounding voice, during or after eating or drinking
  • Extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
  • Recurring pneumonia, or chest congestion after eating
  • Weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat or drink enough

Voice Disorders

There are many options in treating dysphagia, and to regain the ability to safely swallow food and liquid. Treatment varies greatly depending on the cause, symptoms, and type of swallowing problem. A knowledgeable Speech Language Pathologist may recommend:

  • Exercises, positions, or strategies to help you swallow more effectively,
  • Specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer for you to swallow,
  • Electrical stimulation of the muscles used for swallowing.

Electrical stimulation for swallowing is a relatively new technique for the treatment of dysphagia. The Speech Language Pathologists at St. Jude Medical Center are experts at using electrical stimulation for dysphagia, and have had significantly increased the rate of recovery for many patients. Although not every person with dysphagia is a candidate, patients receiving electrical stimulation have been able to avoid tube feedings, and many of them are eating a wider variety of food and liquids than would have been expected prior to the implementation of electrical stimulation.

Symptoms of vocal abuse or misuse

  • Chronic hoarseness
  • Pain in the throat area
  • Decreased range of voice
  • Lack of phonation
  • Vocal fatigue
  • Pitch breaks

If you are having trouble with your voice, please see an Otolaryngologist prior to contacting our Speech Language Pathologists. Your Otolaryngologists must give you medical clearance prior to beginning voice therapy to ensure that it is needed, and will be beneficial to you in your particular situation.

Pediatric Speech Language Services

St. Jude's provides treatment for a wide variety of pediatric communication or speech disorders resulting from conditions or circumstances, such as:

  • Autism
  • Cleft palate
  • Dysphagia
  • Fluency
  • Myofunctional therapy
  • Apraxia of speech
  • Hearing loss (intermittent or ongoing)
  • Developmental delays
  • And many other conditions

The Speech Language Pathologists at St. Jude Medical Center provide a wide variety of individual and group treatments for children with speech and language disorders. Each session is tailored to the child’s specific needs. Some examples of our group treatments include:

  • Summer group therapy programs for children with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome; including early social skills involving eye contact, anticipation and reciprocal interactions.
  • Language, articulation, oral motor therapy activities.
  • Activities of all groups focus on stimulating the children’s use of age-level vocabulary and sentences, as well as making friends through developmentally appropriate play activities.