Speech Therapy Terms Defined
22 min read
A glossary of definitions for adult speech-language pathology & technology
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) – Any brain damage that occurs after birth, in contrast to genetic brain disorders or damage to the brain in the womb or during birth. Typically refers to head injury, stroke, brain tumors, and lack of oxygen to the brain, but excludes degenerative brain conditions, such as dementia. Find out more about brain injury on our Brain Injury Resources page.
Acquired Communication Disorder – A problem with speech, language, voice, pragmatics, or fluency that develops after a person has developed language. Contrasted with a developmental communication disorder. Typically refers to aphasia, dysarthria, apraxia of speech, cognitive-communication disorders that occur after an acquired brain injury. Learn the difference between these types of communication disorders.
Alphabet Supplementation – A technique of pointing to the first letter of each word as it is said. Use the letter board in AlphaTopics AAC to practice alphabet (and topic) supplementation to improve speech intelligibility for people with dysarthria. Learn 10 ways alphabet supplementation can help.
Alveolar – A class of sounds made when the tongue touches or is close to the bumpy front part of the roof of the mouth, called the alveolar ridge. English alveolar consonants include /n, t, d, s, z, ch, l, r/.
Alzheimer’s Disease – The most common type of dementia, often recognized by declining short-term memory in the early stages. Like all dementias, people with Alzheimer’s get worse over time as it is a degenerative condition. Spaced Retrieval Therapy is an app designed to be used during therapy with people with Alzheimer’s Disease to help with memory of specific facts and procedures.
Android – A mobile operating system developed by Google, run by several brands of smartphones and tablet computers such as Nexus, Samsung, Kindle, LG, Sony, and Motorola. Apps are sold on the Google Play store. Apps for Android devices are not compatible with Apple devices (iPad, iPhone) running iOS. Most of Tactus Therapy’s most popular apps are now available for Android on Google Play.
Anomia – An expressive language impairment that makes it difficult to recall words and names. Anomia is a common and frustrating part of most types of aphasia. Anomic aphasia is a specific subtype of aphasia with anomia as the primary symptom. Naming Therapy and Advanced Naming Therapy are apps designed to work on improving word retrieval for people with anomia.
Aphasia – An acquired language disorder caused by damage to the language centers of the brain. Aphasia can impact auditory comprehension, verbal expression, reading, writing, and use of symbols. It does not affect intelligence. Read “What is Aphasia?” for more information.
App – Short for “software application.” An app requires an operating system to run on. In mobile devices, an app can be downloaded from an app store and launched by touching the icon. See all the Tactus Therapy apps on this list.
App Store – An online store that sells apps for Apple devices running iOS. The App Store is part of iTunes on a computer, or can be found as an app pre-installed on an iPad or iPhone. All Tactus Therapy apps for Apple devices are purchased directly through the App Store, not through our website.
Apraxia of Speech (AOS) – An acquired motor speech disorder that impairs the ability to form and execute the motor plans for speech. Read “What is Apraxia?” for more information. Speech FlipBook is an app designed to help with apraxia of speech by presenting sounds in a hierarchy of complexity. Apraxia Therapy is an app to help people with AOS speak in time with a video.
Articulation – The movement of the tongue, lips, and jaw to make speech sounds. Articulation is one part of the whole speech process that includes respiration, phonation, articulation, resonance, and prosody. Articulation problems are common after a stroke or brain injury as part of dysarthria. Speech FilpBook is our app for articulation.
ASHA – The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is the organization that certifies Speech-Language Pathologists in the United States. The annual ASHA convention is held every year in November in various locations around the country, featuring continuing education and an exhibit hall for 10,000-14,000 attending speech pathologists, audiologists, and students.
Assessment – The evaluation phase of therapy in which a speech therapist determines whether an impairment exists, the degree and nature of the impairment, and sets the direction for therapy, usually with a written report summarizing the findings. Assessments may include formal or standardized tests or may be informal, consisting of an interview or a variety of non-standardized tasks. Many assessments include a combination of formal and informal measures.
Attention – A cognitive process of allocating processing resources to certain information. Attention is addressed in a hierarchy of focused, sustained, selective, and alternating. Attention is required for memory, and is frequently impaired after brain injury. Visual Attention Therapy is an app designed to work on attention to both sides of personal space.
Auditory Comprehension – Understanding words through listening. Auditory comprehension is often impaired in aphasia. It can be relatively in-tact for single words or simple sentences, but impaired for complex sentences, grammatical words, or when there are background distractions. Comprehension Therapy is an app that addresses auditory comprehension of single words, while Answering Therapy addresses comprehension of yes/no and wh- questions.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) – Communication methods used by a person with a communication disorder. to enhance or replace spoken or written communication. AAC can be unaided or aided by a device or communication tool, and can be low-tech (paper or equivalent) or high-tech (computer, smartphone, or dedicated device). AlphaTopics is an AAC app for dysarthria and aphasia.
Autism (ASD) – A neurodevelopmental disorder that often involves impaired social interaction, decreased communication skills, and repetitive behaviors. Read why Tactus Therapy apps work well for children with autism.
Bilabial – A class of sounds made with both lips. In English, the bilabial consonant sounds are /m, b, p/.
Brain Injury – See also Acquired Brain Injury or Traumatic Brain Injury. Learn more about the types of brain injuries and what to expect in “What is Brain Injury?”
Broca’s Aphasia – See also Expressive Aphasia. Language Therapy is an app developed for people with Broca’s aphasia to improve naming, listening, reading, and writing skills. See a video of a man with Broca’s aphasia here.
Bundle – An app bundle is a set of paid apps that can be purchased together on the App Store at a discount over buying each app separately. Tactus Therapy offers three app bundles to save you money: Tactus Aphasia Essentials, Tactus Aphasia Elements, & Tactus Clinical Tools. Learn more about how you can save when you stock up on great apps for therapy.
Caregiver – A person who provides care for a person with a disability. A caregiver can be a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend as well as a paid caregiver hired to care for a person. Also called a carer or care partner.
Category – A class of things sharing a similar attribute. Read more about the Importance of Categories in speech therapy. Category Therapy is an app designed to work on understanding and organizing categories.
Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) – The medical term for a stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked (ischemic stroke) or ruptures (hemorrhagic). Read What is a Stroke? for more information or find resources for stroke.
Circumlocution – Literally talking around a word, a method of describing a concept. Circumlocution is a strategy used by people with anomia, as well as a common characteristic of aphasic speech. This approach is used in Naming Therapy in the Describe activity. See also Semantic Feature Analysis.
Cognition – The mental processes related to knowledge, including awareness, attention, perception, reasoning, memory, language, and judgement.
Cognitive-Communication – Cognition as it relates to communication. Disorders of cognition often have a negative effect on communication. Read more about cognitive-communication disorders and see how apps can help treat cognitive-communication.
Communication – The transmission of a message from a sender to a recipient through a medium (e.g. verbal, non-verbal, written).
Communication Disorder – Any disorder that impairs communication. Communication disorders may affect speech (speech-sound disorder, articulation disorder, motor speech disorder, apraxia of speech), language (aphasia, expressive language disorder), pragmatics (autism, frontal head injury), fluency (stuttering), literacy (dyslexia, agraphia, alexia), cognition (dyscalculia, dementia), or voice. Learn more about communication disorders acquired after stroke.
Compensatory Strategy – A method of carrying out a task when the easiest or most direct method of achieving the goal is impaired. Example: Describing a word is a compensatory word-finding strategy that can be used when a person cannot think of the exact word; using this strategy may result in the listener guessing the word, thereby compensating for the word finding deficit. A person must remember to use the strategy for it to work. Compensatory strategies used for cognition, language, speech, and swallowing and are frequently taught in speech therapy.
Comprehension – Understanding. Auditory comprehension is understanding through listening. Reading comprehension is understanding written words. Comprehension Therapy is an app designed to work on auditory and reading comprehension of single words. Reading Therapy is an app meant to be used for reading comprehension at the phrase and sentence levels. Answering Therapy targets the understanding of questions.
Confrontation Naming – Saying the name of an object that is presented. Objects may be real or pictured. This ability is frequently impaired in aphasia and dementia. Naming Therapy is an app designed to practice confrontation naming.
Consonant – A speech sound in which the air is partially obstructed. Consonants combine with vowels to make syllables or with other consonants to form clusters. All of the consonants and most clusters in English are featured in Speech FlipBook.
Convergent Naming – Stating the category that certain words have in common. Given “apple, banana, pomegranate,” the category is “fruit.” Categories may be concrete or abstract. Category Therapy is an app that works on convergent naming of categories in the Classify and Add One activities.
Conversation – The exchange of ideas through language. The end goal of speech therapy in many cases. Conversation Therapy is an app designed to encourage conversation in therapy.
Cue – An auditory, visual, or tactile message that prompts a person to say or do something. Cues are given in speech therapy to help a person find a word, produce a sound, remember something, or use a compensatory strategy. Also referred to as a hint or prompt, and included in Language Therapy, Number Therapy, and Question Therapy.
Cueing Hierarchy – A set of cues arranged in an order from most helpful to least helpful. The cues in Naming Therapy in the Practice mode and Number Therapy in the Speak activity form a cueing hierarchy for word retrieval. Learn more about how to use a cueing hierarchy.
Customization – Adapting something to personal preference or needs. In apps, this can be achieved by changing settings to make the app work in a custom way, or through adding your own words, pictures, or exercises to make the app personally relevant. Language Therapy, Answering Therapy, and AlphaTopics are highly customizable apps, allowing you to add own words, questions, and pictures.
Degenerative Disease – A medical condition that gets worse, or progresses, over time. Often speech therapy for people with degenerative disorders will focus on teaching strategies that can be used by the person or family as skills deteriorate. Dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, cancer, and PPA are progressive conditions that can affect communication.
Deglutition – A scientific word for swallowing, or passing something from the mouth into the stomach via the throat and esophagus. Disorders of deglutition are called dysphagia. Treatment for dysphagia can be found in our Dysphagia Therapy app.
Dementia – An umbrella term for a set of degenerative brain disorders that often affect memory and thinking skills first, before impacting language, emotions, and motivation. Alzheimer’s, Lewy body, frontotemporal, and primary progressive aphasia are all types of dementia. See also Alzheimer’s.
Divergent Naming – Listing items in a given category. For example, “name 5 types of fruit” is a task for divergent naming. Often clients in speech therapy are asked to name items within a semantic category or that start with a common sound or letter. These exercises can test and strengthen networks in the brain and highlight organizational difficulties. Find over 200 divergent naming tasks in Advanced Naming Therapy.
Dysarthria – A motor-speech disorder that results in unclear speech, often due to stroke, TBI, Parkinson’s, ALS, or cerebral palsy. This inability to speak clearly is because of weakness, slowness, or lack of coordination in the muscles of the mouth, voice, and lungs. There are several different types of dysarthria. Read “What is dysarthria?“, then learn how using an app like AlphaTopics AAC can help improve speech intelligibility.
Dysphagia – Impaired swallowing. Dysphagia is common after a stroke, but also occurs from other neurological conditions or physical damage to the mouth, throat, or esophagus. Speech-language pathologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of oral and pharyngeal dysphagia. Exercises, modified diets, and strategies may be recommended after a clinical/bedside or instrumental assessment. Find out more by reading “What is Dysphagia?“. Clinicians can find information about dysphagia assessment and treatment in the Dysphagia Therapy app.
Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) – An approach to clinical practice that values research and evidence of efficacy above tradition when making treatment decisions. Evidence exists along a hierarchy of strength, from clinical expertise and case studies to randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses. Read “Is this app evidence-based?” for more information, or find out the evidence for using Language Therapy.
Executive Functioning – The term for the overall management of tasks, including planning, reasoning, monitoring, adjusting, problem solving, and evaluating. This is the highest level of cognitive functioning and often impaired in brain injury survivors.
Expressive Aphasia – A type of aphasia characterized by effortful, non-fluent (fewer than 5 words per utterance), and agrammatic (omitting function words) speech with relatively good auditory comprehension. Syntax and grammar are often impaired for both verbal expression and auditory comprehension. Writing is frequently more impacted than reading, though both are likely to be decreased from previous abilities. Read more about this type of aphasia, also known as Broca’s Aphasia.
Fluent Aphasia – A type of aphasia in which words, or non-words/jargon, are produced largely without effort in longer bursts. Comprehension is often impaired. Wernicke’s aphasia is a type of fluent aphasia. See a video of a person with fluent aphasia to learn more about it.
Frontal Lobe – One of the four lobes of the brain, located at the front of the skull behind the forehead. The frontal lobe is associated with executive functioning, decision making, self control, and problem solving. It is frequently damaged in brain injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions.
Generalization – The process of a skill learned in therapy being used in a broader context. Also known as carry-over or transfer.
Hierarchy – An order of cues, tasks, or stimuli ranked according to difficulty or helpfulness. The cues presented in the Naming Practice portion of Naming Therapy are arranged in a hierarchy of helpfulness. The levels in Visual Attention Therapy and Question Therapy are arranged in a hierarchy of difficulty. Apraxia Therapy takes users through a hierarchy of repetitions from the most support to the most independence. See also cueing hierarchy.
In-App Purchase – An app feature that can be purchased from within the app, after the app is downloaded. This can be a consumable or non-consumable purchase.
Intensive Therapy – A schedule of delivering speech therapy, usually for aphasia or stuttering, that provides many hours of therapy in a short period of time with the aim of seeing faster and better results. Using apps as part of a home program can help to give people with aphasia more practice to intensify the therapy experience.
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) – The set of symbols to represent all the sounds in the world’s languages. Soundable is a free app that uses IPA symbols in a social crossword game.
Intonation – The rise and fall of pitch in the voice during speech. A component of prosody.
iOS – The operating system of Apple’s mobile touch-screen devices: iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
iPad – A touch-screen tablet made by Apple. All Tactus Therapy apps can run on an iPad.
Jargon – Non-words produced by a person with aphasia, usually fluent aphasia, that sound like real words and are produced with appropriate intonation. Also, terminology specific to a profession, like most words on this list.
Language – A system for communicating. The words and rules for combining them understood by a community; can be spoken or written. English, Spanish, and American Sign Language are three examples of languages. Language Therapy is an app that covers the 4 basic domains of language: verbal expression, auditory comprehension, written expression, and reading comprehension.
Left Neglect – see Neglect
Letter Supplementation – A method of pointing at the first letter of each word spoken to give the listener a clue to the word being said and slow down the speaker. Read how this strategy can help speakers with unclear speech.
Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA) – A philosophy or model of service delivery for aphasia therapy that expands the focus from only addressing the language impairment to also include the person, their environment, and their participation in activities to more fully impact quality of life. Find out 5 things often misunderstood about LPAA.
Memory – The cognitive process of storing (or encoding) and recalling (or retrieving) information in the brain. There are many types of memory: short-term, long-term, procedural, declarative, semantic, and episodic. Memory can be impaired through an acquired or degenerative brain condition, such as a TBI or dementia. Spaced Retrieval Therapy is an app that uses an evidence-based approach to help people remember facts, procedures, or names when memory is impaired.
Motor Speech Disorder – A problem producing speech, typically a type of dysarthria or apraxia. Results from neurological, neuromuscular, or musculoskeletal problems with respiration, phonation, articulation, resonance, or prosody.
Naming – The process of saying what you see. The ability to name objects or actions is frequently impaired in people with aphasia and dementia. The Naming Therapy app can help practice the ability to name using a cueing hierarchy, semantic feature analysis, phonological component analysis, and picture description – all evidence-based naming treatments.
Neglect – A neurological condition that results in a person being unaware of things that appear on one side of their visual field, even though their eyes are fine. Left neglect is more common than right neglect, though both are possible. Read more about neglect and how to treat it.
Neurologist – A medical doctor specialized in disorders of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves).
Neuroplasticity – The principle that the brain can change, even in adulthood, based on experience. Discover the 10 principles of neuroplasticity to know which types of treatment are likely to help.
Neuropsychologist – A psychologist specialized in behaviour as it relates to disorders of the brain. In a stroke or brain injury rehabilitation team, the neuropsychologist will often administer tests of cognitive function.
Numbers – A special type of language that communicates quantity. The communication of numbers is frequently impaired in people with aphasia. Number Therapy is an app that works on the transcoding of numbers in speech, listening, and typing activities.
Occupational Therapy (OT) – A field of therapy that rehabilitates people with physical or mental illness through the performance of everyday tasks. Occupational Therapists often focus on the upper extremity (arm and hand), wheelchair mobility, activities of daily living, and visual-spatial skills in the rehab setting.
Operating System (OS) – The software that runs the basic functions of a computer, tablet, or smartphone that allows it to launch other software applications. Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android are some common operating systems. When purchasing apps or software, it is important to ensure they are compatible with the OS of your computer, tablet, or smartphone. For example, an app designed for iOS will not work on your Windows computer or Android tablet.
Parkinson’s Disease – A progressive or degenerative medical condition that affects movement by impacting the dopamine systems in the brain. People with Parkinson’s Disease, or Parkinsonian symptoms, can have speech and swallowing problems that can be helped by speech therapy.
Phonation – Sound made when air vibrates the vocal folds in the larynx to produce speech. In some motor speech disorders, phonation is absent, impaired, or mis-timed.
Phonemes – The sounds that are distinct in a language. The word “cat” has 3 phonemes: k + æ + t. Phonemes can be written using the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA. The Speech FlipBook app allows you to create words with specific sets of phonemes.
Phonological Awareness – A set of skills that allow a person to hear and manipulate the sounds in words regardless of the meaning. Rhyming, alliteration, segmenting, and blending are all phonological awareness skills.
Phonological Components Analysis (PCA) – An evidence-based therapy technique for aphasia focusing on phonological awareness skills, such as identifying the first and last sounds in a word, generating rhymes of a given word, and counting the syllables in a word. Naming Therapy incorporates PCA into the Describe activity when the Sound cues are turned on in the Settings. Learn more about how to do PCA.
Physical Therapy (PT) – A field of therapy that rehabilitates people with physical impairments through exercise, massage, heat, or other treatments that are not surgery or medication. Physical Therapists often focus on transfer skills (e.g. moving from bed to chair), walking, and climbing stairs in a rehabilitation setting.
Pragmatics – The social use of language, including tone of voice, taking turns in a conversation, providing context to a story, and using words appropriate to the audience or situation. Pragmatic skills are often impaired after a brain injury or a stroke on the right side of the brain.
Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) – A rare type of frontotemporal dementia that starts with a gradual loss of language. Speech therapy can help to provide strategies for communication or exercises to strengthen language skills to slow the decline. Read “What is PPA?” for more information.
Prosody – The melody of speech, including suprasegmental features such as rate, rhythm, intonation, volume, stress, and pitch. Prosody can convey emotion, sarcasm, a question vs a statement, and energy. Damage to the brain can impair a person’s ability to produce or understand prosody. People with Broca’s aphasia or apraxia are often dysprosodic. Those with right-hemisphere damage may not understand the intent of the speaker if sarcasm is used, called sensory or receptive aprosodia.
Question – A sentence meant to elicit information from someone. A query or interrogative. Question Therapy 2-in-1 is an app to work on both asking and answering questions.
Receptive Aphasia – Another name for fluent aphasia or Wernicke’s aphasia, used because of the marked difficulty with comprehension. Read more and see a video of this type of aphasia.
Recovery – The process of restoring function after a loss. Recovery from a brain injury or stroke can take years, and may never be a full recovery to previous levels of functioning. However, recovery is always possible to some extent. Read 5 factors you can control in stroke recovery.
Remediation – Improving the problem. One of 4 approaches used in speech-language therapy. Read more about remediation and the other 3 approaches.
Resonance – The flow of air through the nose or mouth during speech. The velum prevents air from going through the nose in all but the nasal sounds (m, n, ng) in normal speech. Cleft palate, stroke, and progressive diseases can cause disorders in resonance in speech.
Respiration – Breathing, and the first component of speech production.
Responsive Naming – Generating the name of an object or idea when given attributes about it. For example, “what do you use to tell time?” could be a question meant to elicit the names “clock” or “watch.” To practice responsive naming, use the Naming Practice part of the Naming Therapy app and listen to the first definition cue without looking at the picture.
Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA) – An evidence-based method of naming therapy that entails describing something in a systematic way. Detailing the color, size, shape, function, category, smell, taste, feeling, etc of an object or action is a communication strategy, a prompt to retrieve the word, and a restorative exercise. Naming Therapy uses SFA in the Describe activity. Read more about how to do SFA.
Semantics -The meaning of language.
Smartphone – A touch-screen phone that serves as a phone and a mini-computer. It can run apps, browse the web, send text messages, take photos, and handle e-mail. The iPhone is Apple’s smartphone.
Spaced Retrieval – A scientifically proven method to help people with dementia or other memory impairments actively train to recall important information. Recalling an answer over multiplying intervals of time helps to cement the information in memory. Spaced Retrieval Therapy is an enhanced interval timer app with independent data tracking and prompts. Read more about how to do it in our How To: SRT guide.
Speech – The expression of language through articulated sounds. Speech consists of respiration, phonation, articulation, resonance, and prosody. Disorders of speech may include problems with any of these areas, including fluency (stuttering or stammering) and voice.
Speech and Language Therapist (SLT or SALT) – The same as a Speech-Language Pathologist. This title is used for professionals who are trained to evaluate and treat communication and swallowing disorders in many countries such as the UK.
Speech Therapy – The treatment of communication and swallowing disorders.
Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) – The official title given to professionals who are trained to evaluate and treat communication and swallowing disorders. The term ‘Speech-Language Pathologist’ is meant to better reflect the scope of practice of professionals commonly referred to as ‘speech therapists.’ In the US and Canada, entry-level education to qualify to be a SLP is a Master’s degree.
Strategy – A plan for achieving a goal. People with communication and swallowing disorders may benefit from using strategies to do the tasks that have become difficult for them. See also Compensatory Strategy.
Stroke – An event inside the brain in which there is a sudden loss of function, also known as a brain attack or cerebrovascular attack (CVA). A stroke occurs when a part of the brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs to function properly. Learn more by reading What is a Stroke? and watching the helpful video.
Subscription – An ongoing monthly or annual expense to use an app or service. When you stop paying for your subscription, you have no access to the app or service anymore. At Tactus Therapy, we don’t believe in charging you for a subscription. When you purchase our apps, you own them for good. We even give you free updates. Don’t worry about our servers going down or using our apps when you don’t have WiFi. They’ll always work.
Syntax – The rules for combining words in a language. Syntax is often impaired in non-fluent aphasia.
Tablet – The generic name for a touch-screen computer or device roughly the size of a pad of paper. The iPad and iPad mini are tablets made by Apple. There are also tablets that run on the Android and Windows operating systems.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – A jolt or blow to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Learn more about brain injury in this post.
Velar – A class of sounds produced at the back of the mouth by approximating the base of the tongue to the velum, or soft palate. /k/, /g/, and /ng/ are velar consonant sounds in English.
Visual Scanning – A treatment for visual attention deficits, or neglect, that can be done with our Visual Attention Therapy app. Learn more about how visual scanning works as a treatment in this How To: Visual Scanning post.
VNeST – Verb Network Strengthening Treatment. Learn more about this effective therapy protocol for improving word finding in aphasia in our step-by-step guide on How To Do VNeST.
Wernicke’s Aphasia – A type of fluent aphasia with poor auditory comprehension and jargon speech. See Fluent Aphasia for more or read this story about a couple dealing with Wernicke’s aphasia.
Wh Question – A type of question that starts with one of these words that starts with “wh”: who, what, where, when, why, which, whose. “How” is also often considered a wh question. Question Therapy 2-in-1 is an app that addresses how to answer and ask wh questions.
Yes/No Question – A type of question that can be answered with “yes” or “no.” Question Therapy 2-in-1 is an app that addresses how to answer and ask yes/no questions.