Mealtime is generally a pleasant part of the day and often a social activity that most people enjoy in company of family or friends. However there are many individuals who cannot enjoy this experience fully due to dysphagia, feeding and swallowing disorder. This disorder usually results from a neurological or physical impairment of the oral, pharyngeal or oesophageal mechanisms. In 2016 more than 700 people were treated by Speech-Language Pathologists for dysphagia. Speech-Language Pathologists play a primary role in the evaluation and treatment of infants, children, and adults with dysphagia. This condition can be caused and is associated with a broad range of developmental, neurological and head and neck disorders such as cerebral, palsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and head and neck tumours. It can affect the whole age spectrum, from premature infants to geriatric adults. Stroke and head injury may be other causative factors. If not given the appropriate attention, dysphagia can cause severe respiratory complications such as pneumonia. Other consequences might include anxiety and stress which will lead to abnormal behaviour during mealtimes. There is also the risk of choking and death. Proper management of dysphagia can reduce complications and length of stay in hospital. Scientific evidence shows that the appropriate identification and management of dysphagia by speech-language pathologists reduces morbidity, mortality and improves quality of life. They are integral members of the multidisciplinary team supporting people with dysphagia, their families and carers. Studies have shown that dependency for feeding can place the person being fed at high risk of pneumonia, malnutrition and dehydration. Thus, the role of the Speech-Language Pathologist also includes raising awareness amongst family members and staff in the caring profession, regarding the importance of feeding a person with dysphagia in a safe manner.
On 6 March, the Association of Speech-Language Pathologists (ASLP) joins the rest of Europe to celebrate Speech Language Therapy day. SLT Day was set in 1988 by CPLOL, the umbrella organisation for 35 European professional organisations of Speech-Language Pathologists and Logopedists. This year’s theme is Eat and Drink Safely: Taste Life. To mark this day, ASLP is organising a seminar in collaboration with the Speech- Language Department, at Hilltop Gardens, Naxxar. The seminar, Dysphagia: a multidisciplinary team approach will focus on the role that several professionals, particularly the speech-language pathologist, play in the treatment plan and intervention of this condition. Presentations will be given by Speech-Language Pathologists, Doctors, Nutritionists and Dietitians, focusing on different areas such as feeding in children, dementia and cancer amongst others. The event will also include a practical session on different consistencies, as well as a multidisciplinary panel for discussion. ASLP organises talks, courses and seminars to meet one of the objectives of the association, which is to increase awareness of the profession and related conditions to the general public as well as other professionals.
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