Disorders affecting speech and swallowing

Penn State Health Otolaryngology offers a robust speech-language pathology program that evaluates and treats a wide range of speech, language, cognitive, voice and feeding/swallowing disorders.

Our dedicated speech-language pathology team offers outpatient services as well as inpatient services at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. Our services include:

  • Clinical swallowing evaluations
  • Instrumental swallowing evaluations
    • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES)
    • Modified barium swallow studies (MBSS)
    • Swallowing treatment
  • Voice evaluation and treatment
  • Post-laryngectomy care
  • Speech-language-cognition evaluation and treatment
  • Tracheostomy and speaking valve evaluation and treatment

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Our team of speech-language pathologists specializes in helping patients improve their ability to communicate in their daily lives. Our services include:

  • Aural rehabilitation – helping patients with cochlear implants adjust and process environmental sounds by developing new speech and language skills. Aural rehabilitation can include practicing auditory training tasks, as well as implementing strategies to help prevent and troubleshoot communication issues.
  • Cognition – most often impacted by stroke, brain injury and neurodegenerative disease. Cognition disorders can affect attention, executive functioning and planning, information processing, memory, learning and self-awareness.
  • Facial nerve – patients with facial weakness or facial paralysis are evaluated at our Facial Nerve Disorders Clinic as part of a multidisciplinary team. 
  • Language – Many stroke and brain injury patients experience disorders of language production and comprehension. Progressive neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease and dementia can also result in language difficulty. Our team is skilled in diagnosing and treating aphasia, which is an impairment in expressing spoken language, understanding spoken language, reading and writing.  
  • Laryngectomy – our Penn State Otolaryngology team offers comprehensive services for patients undergoing a laryngectomy (removal of the voice box), including:
    • Pre-laryngectomy counseling
    • Post-laryngectomy education and care
    • Education on post-laryngectomy voicing options
    • Tracheoesophageal voice prosthesis (TEP) changes
  • Speech – difficulty producing speech, either with the planning or articulation of speech, can be caused by weakness or discoordination from stroke, brain injury, facial injury or progressive disease. Patients with a speech disorder might have a diagnosis such as dysarthria, acquired apraxia of speech or neurogenic stuttering.
  • Swallowing – Difficulty swallowing is called dysphagia. Swallowing occurs in three phases – the mouth, the throat and the esophagus. Our team diagnoses and treats swallowing disorders related to the mouth and throat, and we work with the gastroenterology team for esophagus swallowing concerns. Patients can experience swallowing difficulties due to neurological conditions, stroke, brain injuries, head and neck cancers and progressive diseases. Our team utilizes X-ray swallow studies to assess swallow function and diagnose swallowing disorders.
    • Dysphagia pathway – patients who are currently undergoing surgical and/or radiation treatment for head and neck cancer are a part of our dysphagia pathway program. Our team provides patients with pre-radiation counseling and swallowing exercises to help prevent surgical or radiation-related swallowing difficulties. If needed, our team will also create a more intensive swallowing therapy program after cancer treatment
  • Voice and airway – our multidisciplinary team evaluates and treats voice disorders in the Otolaryngology Clinic. We work closely with a laryngologist to create a comprehensive treatment plan that includes voice evaluations and voice therapy for patients with voice disorders, including specialization with singers and professional voice users. We see a wide variety of voice disorders at the Otolaryngology clinic, including:
    • Hoarseness
    • Voice change
    • Loss of range
    • Muscle tension dysphonia
    • Vocal cord dysfunction
    • Vocal fold nodules
    • Vocal fold paralysis
    • Vocal fold polyps
    • Vocal fold cysts
    • Age-related changes of the vocal folds (presbylarynx)
    • Spasmodic dysphonia

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Speech-Language Pathologists

  • Melissa Allibone, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Sarah J. Ames, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Erin Ayala, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Svetlana Bazhan, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Megan Clark, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Nicole Fisher, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Brandon Henken, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Lauralee Hoffner, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Kelly Kauffman, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Megan Klinger, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Marie Kurtz, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Kristen Maurer, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Kali McCornac, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Laura Nairns, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Heather Noll, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Kate O’Connor, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Rachel Painter, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Molly Polacco, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Carrie Reichwein, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Carrie Ruggiero, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Joan Schwanger, MS, CCC-SLP
  • McKenzie Troutman, MA, CCC-SLP

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Pediatric Speech-Language Pathology Services

Our pediatric speech-language pathology team at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital offers comprehensive services for our youngest patients. Our services are provided in both the inpatient and outpatient setting and include:

  • Aural habilitation – helping children with cochlear implants adjust and process the sounds in their environment to develop new speech and language skills
  • Cognition – assessment of cognitive functioning in children who have suffered brain injuries and concussions. Treatment addresses attention, executive functioning and planning, information processing, memory, learning and self-awareness
  • Development – diagnosis and treatment planning of autism and childhood apraxia of speech. We also see children with phonological processing disorders and other various developmental speech and language disorders
  • Facial nerve – evaluating and treating children with facial weakness or facial paralysis at our Facial Nerve Disorders Clinic 
  • Feeding and swallowing – feeding and swallowing disorders can occur from birth through childhood and may be related to:
    • Behavioral factors
    • Syndromes
    • Delayed development
    • Developmental disorders
    • Neurological conditions
    • Prematurity
    • Sensory factors
    • Structural abnormalities
  • Language – late language development or challenges associated with developmental disabilities and delays, autism spectrum disorder, brain injury and hearing loss
  • Speech – difficulty producing and planning speech sounds due to articulation and phonological disorders and childhood apraxia of speech
  • Voice and airway – evaluation and treatment of voice and airway disorders such as vocal fold nodules or vocal cord dysfunction (VCD)

Commitment to Clinical Trials

The speech-language pathology team at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is committed to furthering research in speech and language development. We are actively involved in clinical trials to research safe, effective and innovative treatment options. To learn more about clinical trials available at Penn State Health, visit StudyFinder.


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