SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise awareness about communication disorders and the role Speech and Language professionals play in helping their patients improve their quality of life.

When you think of speech therapists, toddlers or school age children with speech delays may be the first thing that comes to mind.

“For those who work on speech development and language development, a lot of their therapy is focused on play and making it fun and getting the kids investment on it too,” Sanfrod Children’s Speech Language Pathologist Julia Taylor said.

But Speech and Language Pathologists cover a wide range of issues for people of all ages.

“We start from infants in the NICU all the way to end-of-life hospice care,” Michelle Masselink, a speech and language pathologist for the Good Samaritan Society in Sioux Falls said.

“We’re working with babies that have cleft pallets and cleft lips, voice, respiratory support with speech, so much more that goes into than just speech and language,” Taylor said.

Julia Taylor works with many babies in the NICU to help them learn how to eat.

“Swallowing development is different than a full term newborn, so we talk about introducing a bottle and different flow rates, we help with that bottle selection, talk about positioning and other strategies to make the baby successful,” Taylor said.

“Within speech language pathology we cover communication and swallowing, those are two of the biggest factors for quality of life,” Masselink said.

It’s something Good Sam resident Betty Anderson has been struggling with for months.

“I had covid first, then when I got out I had pneumonia so I was in the hospital for six days,” Anderson said.

Her illness made it even more difficult for her to swallow.

“I had a piece of meat stuck in my throat, they had to go in and work on that,” Anderson said.

She’s now having to use a thickening agent for all of her food and water.

Do you like that? “No, no but I do it anyway,” Anderson said.

Now her speech pathologist Michelle Masselink is helping her with therapy to get back to her regular diet.

“We’ll do a lot of swallowing exercises for example, anything that can help with their swallowing so they are on a diet that is as normal as possible,” Masselink said.

The American Speech Language Hearing Association says 56 percent of all speech-language pathologists work in an educational setting of some sort while nearly 40 percent are employed at a healthcare facility.