Stroke and speech therapy
A stroke is a medical emergency in which the blood supply to part of the brain is seriously reduced or interrupted, cutting the brain tissue off from receiving oxygen and vital nutrients. Without oxygen, brain cells and tissue become damaged and begin to die within minutes. Depending on the part of parts off the brain affected, a person’s ability to communicate, swallow and think can change after a stroke.
Aphasia is a language disorder that is most often caused by brain damages or strokes in the left side of the brain that control speech and language. People with aphasia may struggle with communicating in daily activities at home, socially or at work. They may also feel isolated. Aphasia doesn’t affect intelligence. People with aphasia are mentally alert, even though their speech may be jumbled, fragmented or hard to understand.
There are four components of language that can be impacted by aphasia. Here are some common symptoms:
– Word finding difficulties
– Speaking in single words or incomplete sentences
– Leaving out words when speaking
– Substituting one word for another or one sound for another
– Speak unrecognizable words
– Speak in sentences that don’t make sense
– Difficulty understanding what others are saying
– Difficulty understanding long or complex sentences
– Requiring extra time to understand
Reading / Alexia
– Difficulty reading words or sentences
– Unable to sound out words
– Difficulty reading functional text online (e.g. Facebook)
Writing / Agraphia
– Difficulty writing letters, words, or sentences
– Writing words or sentences that don’t make sense
– Incorrect usage of grammar
– Difficulty texting or messaging online
Other Acquired Communciation Disorders
Apraxia: A neurological disorder that affects the brain pathways in planning the sequence of movements involved in producing speech. A person with dyspraxia knows what he/she wants to say, but struggle with lip, jaw and tongue movements.
Dysarthria: Speech that is characteristically slurred, slow, and difficult to understand. Dysarthria is caused by paralysis, weakness, or inability to coordinate the muscles of the mouth.
Voice Disorder: Abnormal pitch, loudness, rhythm and voice quality (e.g. hoarse rough, breathy, strained, harsh).
Complex Communication Needs: Not able to communicate through speech or writing. Often, a person with CCN communicates in others ways such as gestures, facial expressions and the use of low or high-tech devices.
Up to 78% of stroke survivors will initially experience some level of difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). This results in an increased risk of malnutrition and dehydration, choking and aspiration. If left untreated, swallowing difficulties can result in aspiration pneumonia and hospital admissions. Plus, eating and drinking is an important part of our social life. Stroke survivors with dysphagia may feel embarrassed about eating and drinking in front of others, and may become socially isolated.
Speech Pathology in Stroke Rehabilitation
Stroke survivors are often left with lasting brain damage and require rehabilitation to help them to re-build their independence. Speech Pathology is involved through all phases of stroke recovery, and helps people to manage the communication, swallowing and cognitive difficulties that arise after a stroke.
These difficulties affect everyone differently. As the specialists of neurological rehabilitation, our Speech Pathologists will assess talking, understanding, reading, writing and swallowing in people who had a stroke. We will work with the person, family and carers to develop a rehabilitation program to meet one’s needs and goals. We can suggest ways to communicate more easily and provide technology that helps. The treatment will vary depending on different factors, but focusing on increasing participation and independence in daily life is our golden rule.