At Desert Peak Therapies, our speech-language pathologists and occupational therapist work together to treat a broad range of disorders and delays. Among the many challenges we can help with are:
ALS is a nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Amyotrophic means “no muscle nourishment.” Lateral means “sides,” which in this case would be the sides of the spinal cord where the affected nerves are located. Sclerosis means “abnormal hardening of body tissue.” As ALS progresses, a person’s motor neurons begin to die causing the brain to lose control of voluntary muscle movement. The effects of ALS usually start in the hands, feet, and limbs, then take hold of the rest of the body. Eventually, it becomes difficult to hold objects, walk, speak, eat, and breathe.
ADD and ADHD are lifelong neurological disorders that impact a person’s ability to plan, focus on, and execute tasks. People with ADD experience ongoing symptoms that may include inattention, lack of focus, distractibility, and difficulties with memory. People with ADHD experience similar ongoing symptoms, which may also include hyperfocus, poor time management, hyperactivity, exaggerated emotions, and weak impulse control. Some people with ADHD and ADD also present with learning disabilities or have difficulty with social skills.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how a person interacts with others, communicates, learns, and behaves. Autism is considered a “spectrum” due to the range of differences in communication, learning, and behavioral styles. People diagnosed with ASD may experience communication difficulties both expressively and/or receptively, including social communication differences such as avoiding eye contact, difficulty expressing emotions, anxiety, and depression. They may also have restricted interests, repetitive behaviors (e.g., rocking, flapping, repetitive speech, repeatedly watching or listening to the same thing, etc.), inflexible routines, and heightened or reduced sensitivity to sensory input (e.g., lights, sounds, touch, smell, taste).
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder caused by brain injury or malformation that occurs before birth, during birth, within a month after birth, or during the first few years of a child’s life, while the brain is still developing. The severity of CP symptoms varies from person to person. A person with CP may experience difficulty with muscle tone, balance, and posture, as well as intellectual disability, seizures, and difficulties seeing, hearing, swallowing, and speaking.
Dementia is an acquired brain disease. It results in a progressive decline in memory and other cognitive functions, including attention, planning, learning, and memory. These cognitive deficits interfere with the person’s independence in completing daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s usually present after 65 years of age, but are not a normal part of aging. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs mainly in people in their 40s and 50s. Symptoms are progressive and continue to decline as the disease progresses. Symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease include serious memory loss, distraction, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty planning, difficulty maintaining conversations, difficulty with expressing needs, personality changes, depression, and difficulties eating and swallowing.
Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder that causes developmental and intellectual delays. It can be diagnosed before or after birth. The severity of physical and intellectual characteristics that occur with Down syndrome varies from person to person. Common challenges include difficulty with articulation, difficulty with receptive and expressive language, difficulty learning, low muscle tone, and delayed walking.
Muscular dystrophy describes a group of muscle diseases caused by gene mutations that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. There are multiple types of muscular dystrophy, and the main symptom is progressive muscle weakness. Symptoms and age of onset depend on the type of muscular dystrophy, although many types include difficulty walking, trouble using arms, curved spine (scoliosis), heart problems, breathing problems, and swallowing problems.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord in which the immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers. This results in permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. Most people diagnosed with MS experience periods of new symptoms or relapses in symptom presentation that develop and improve for a certain period of time before returning again. This pattern of relapsing and remitting continues throughout the person’s lifespan. At least half of the people with relapsing-remitting MS do eventually experience progressive worsening of symptoms without improvement. People diagnosed with primary-progressive MS have a gradual onset of symptoms, which steadily worsen without any periods of improvement.
Symptoms of MS include slurred speech, fatigue, dizziness, tingling or pain in parts of the body, numbness or weakness in limbs of one side of the body, torso, or legs, and sensations of shock with neck movements (especially bending the neck forward), tremors, lack of coordination, unsteady gait, and difficulties with sexual, bowel, and bladder function. MS also frequently causes problems with vision, such as partial or complete loss of vision (usually in one eye), pain during eye movement, prolonged double vision, or blurred vision. Speech and swallowing may also be affected by weakened facial muscles or brain lesions resulting from MS.
Learning disabilities (LD) describe brain disorders that result in difficulty with reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics. Learning disabilities are not related to intelligence but do include dyscalculia (i.e., difficulty understanding numbers and math), dysgraphia (i.e., difficulty with handwriting and fine motor skills), and dyslexia (i.e., difficulty with reading and reading-related language skills). People with LD may also have difficulty with social skills. Symptoms include difficulty with expressing ideas, learning new words, understanding questions, following directions, remembering numbers and details, reading comprehension, knowing left from right, learning the alphabet and numbers, matching letters and sounds, writing, spelling, completing math problems, and telling time.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects primarily dopamine-producing neurons. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease generally develop slowly over years and often vary from person to person due to the diversity of the disease. Early symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors in the hands, slowness of movement, limb stiffness, decreased facial expression, limited to no arm swing when walking, impaired balance and coordination, and slurred speech. As the disease progresses, all motor functions become difficult, including those used for speaking and swallowing.
A spinal cord injury refers to damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal, which can be caused by external trauma, tumors, disease, blood loss, or spinal stenosis (narrowing). Spinal cord injuries often cause permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury. The severity of the injury is typically classified as either “complete,” meaning all feeling and all motor functions are lost below the level of the injury, or “incomplete,” where you have some motor or sensory function below the level of the injury. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury. Spinal cord injuries can cause signs and symptoms such as loss of movement, loss of or altered sensation, loss of bowel or bladder control, exaggerated reflex activities or spasms, changes in sexual function or sensitivity, pain caused by damage to the nerve fibers, and difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs.
A stroke, sometimes also called a “brain attack,” occurs when the blood supply is cut off to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. When either of these things happens, part(s) of the brain is damaged or dies. Strokes range in severity and can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or in some cases, death.
Symptoms of a stroke are important to recognize and are easy to remember with the acronym FAST:
F = face drooping or numb on one side
A = arm weakness
S = speech difficulty/slurring
T = time to call 9-1-1.
The effects of a stroke depend on the type of stroke and the location of the brain where it happened. A few symptoms that develop due to a stroke include paralysis on one side of the body, memory loss, difficulty with problem-solving, difficulty speaking or communicating, and difficulty swallowing.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Such trauma would include sudden or violent hits to the head, or when an object penetrates the skull, entering brain tissue. A TBI can result in brain tissue bruising, tissue damage, and/or bleeding in the brain. Symptoms of a TBI can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but frequently include headache, confusion, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, speech difficulties, seizures, nausea or vomiting, weakness/numbness, and dilated pupils.