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HVCH provides speech and swallowing therapy

Erin_TinkhamLOGAN – Erin Tinkham, MS, CCC-SLP, is Hocking Valley Community Hospital’s speech therapist. She has been with HVCH since 2009 and speech is her main focus.

Working with patients from age 18 months and older, she sees both inpatients and outpatients.

“Oftentimes young patients have difficulty initiating speech or have delayed milestones. A big portion of my patients have articulation challenges, and do not pronounce words with letters like ‘r’ or ‘w’ correctly,” Tinkham said. “But, I also have quite a few patients diagnosed with autism that I am able to help treat.”

For pediatric patients, she focuses child-centered rehabilitation. She may start by teaching a child how to use sign language, especially if the child is not talking at all.

“I literally take their hands and teach them the signs. Kids are really smart and they learn quickly,” Tinkham said.

She also uses augmentative speech devices such as educational apps for an iPad. With these tools, the child is able to push a button to let the listener know “I want a drink.”

“The child learns they need to actually do something in order to receive the reward. This changes the child’s behavior from simply pointing to an item and grunting to using sign language or going through the educational app process,” Tinkham continued. “Children learn a new sign every week, but it is important that parents carry the program on at home to encourage the children to express themselves.”

Tinkham not only provides therapy for pediatric patients, but uses many of the same tools to treat adults who have difficulty swallowing or have had a stroke.

For people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or have had a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), she is able to use an eye gaze tracker to convey what they need to say.

“Many patients following cancer treatment or stroke have difficulty swallowing,” Tinkham said.

When patients come to HVCH for swallowing treatment, Tinkham completes a modified barium swallow in conjunction with our Radiology Department to determine the underlying cause of the difficulty. Often patients will be on a restricted diet due to the challenges of swallowing. Therapy includes strengthening these muscles to advance them further on a diet.

Tinkham offers multiple exercises that patients complete one to two times per week at HVCH as an outpatient. Patients also complete these same exercises at home twice a day. At the end of the six-to-eight-week treatment period, patients receive another barium swallow to determine the amount of improvement. When Tinkham is referred an adult inpatient who has difficulty swallowing, her main goal is to make sure they are eating safely while here at the hospital and can swallow the recommended diet.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty initiating speech or swallowing, call Hocking Valley Community Hospital Rehabilitation Department at 740-385-8284 to learn how speech therapy can help.

Hocking Valley is a community non-profit hospital with an emergency department, urgent care and a wide variety of clinical, specialty and outpatient services. For more information, contact the Community Relations office at (740) 380-8336.