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People seldom talk about speech problems, but speech,voice and language disorders are serious, treatable conditions that affect 14 million Americans.

Since 1927, May has been designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise public awarenes of hearing, speech, and language disorders.

Speaking comes so naturally for most of us, we take it for granted. But for someone with a speech or languge problem, words don't come easily. Expressing any thought is a struggle.

Speech and language disorders take many forms. Babies can be born with these disorders. Accidental injury or illness can cause them at any age. Whatever their kind or cause, these disorders have serious consequences. Speech and language disorders can limit academic achievment, social adjustment, and career advancement.

Fortunately, most people with speech and language problems can can be helped. Even if the problem cannot be eliminated, we can teach people with speech and language problems stratagies to help them cope. People may not fully regain their capacity to speak and understand, but a speech-language pathologist can help them axpress their needs and live more independently.

Some common speech and language disorders include stuttering, the most widely recognized problem; articulation problems that cause people to pronounce sounds incorrectly, making their speech difficult to understand; language disorders that limit a person's ability to understand spoken or written word; and voice disorders that make speech impossible or extremely difficult.

Aphasia is a disorder that frequently follows stroke or brain injury. People with aphasia can think clearly but cannot effectively express their thoughts. An estimated 1 million Americans have aphasia.

Speech-language pathologists are the professionals who treat all types of speech, language, and related disorders.

Anyone who has any difficultly speaking or understanding should consult a speech-language pathologist. A communication disorder is just too important to ignore!