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Speech pathology changing lives of others

Speech pathologist Ruth Ann King (left) owner of King Speech Language Therapy and fellow speech pathologist Gracie Pratt discuss treatment for swallowing disorders.

Staff photo by Brant Sappington

By Brant Sappington


Speaking. Eating. Swallowing. Communicating.

All are common, every day things which become anything but ordinary when the ability is disrupted or lost, says speech pathologist Ruth Ann King.

The owner of King Speech-Language Therapy is getting the word out about the ways speech pathology can help change the lives of children and adults struggling with a wide variety of issues as the nation marks Better Hearing and Speech Month this May.

"You don't know what it's like to not be able to communicate until you can't, but seeing how grateful people are to be able to communicate again or communicate for the first time or swallow again or eat again is special. those are all things we take for granted," she said.

King and fellow speech pathologist Gracie Pratt use their skills to care for people of all ages dealing with a huge variety of issues including speech and language disorders, swallowing or feeding disorders and other problems.

King said they work with a wide range of clients all with with the goal of improving lives.

In adults they typically see people dealing with issues with language and/or cognitive skills such as slurred speech or getting words out or those with problems swallowing. Often patients are referred to them after suffering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries or other head injuries.

Childhood issues they see often include delays in developing and using language skills and problems forming or saying words.

Once they receive a referral they'll meet with a patient for an evaluation and help tailor a plan of therapy to meet their needs and goals.

Pratt said parents shouldn't put off seeking help if they have any concerns about their child's development.

"Early detection of speech and language difficulties is important," she said.

People often take a wait and see approach when a child is having problems, but research shows the sooner treatment can begin the better the outcome will likely be. Often problems can be corrected before the child reaches time to start school, giving the the chance to avoid getting behind early.

King said it never hurts for parents to share concerns with their pediatrician and seek a referral for evaluation to be sure what's going on and see if help is needed.

King grew up watching her mother, a registered nurse, impact lives through her work and wanted to do make the same kind of difference.

"I always admired that she helped others," she said.

She had the opportunity to job shadow a variety of different therapists and was immediately drawn to speech pathology. She spent time observing the pathologists do their work and knew she had found her place.

"It was my calling," she said.

Pratt has been around speech pathology her entire life. Her mother is a speech pathologist working with children in the Prentiss County School District.

"I've always grown up around her, watching her help others," she said.

It was a visit to a skilled nursing facility to observe the work of a speech pathologist with older patients that cemented her own career path. She said she was amazed at the ways they were able to help those patients with a variety of issues and challenges and wanted to be a part of it.

"I was just hooked from that moment own," she said.

King and Pratt both encourage anyone with any concerns about speech, language or swallowing disorders to seek help and an evaluation to learn about the help that's available.