Why A Speech Therapist Can Be Your Best Friend After A Stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke. Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability. One of those disabilities is called aphasia. Stroke-induced aphasia is a language and communication disorder that occurs when a stroke affects certain areas of the brain. Some instances of aphasia are short-lived, whereas others are long-lasting. With the right rehabilitation and speech therapy, many aphasia patients can regain normal language skills.

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is the inability to communicate through written or spoken language. It can be caused by a traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, infection, or degenerative disease, but the most common cause is a stroke. Aphasia does not affect a person's intelligence or cognitive skills, it simply prevents a person from expressing what they know. Aphasia may last just a few hours or go on for months. People suffering from aphasia are often embarrassed and confused and withdraw from relationships and activities. The longer a person waits to seek therapy, the more difficult it is to recover fully, and many people never do.

How Is Aphasia Treated?

Mild cases of aphasia may not require any therapy and get better naturally. But more often, aphasia will require speech therapy along with physical stroke rehabilitation. Recovery often depends on how bad the brain damage is and its location. It can also depend on the determination of the patient and the cooperation of loved ones. Beginning speech and language therapy as soon as possible is crucial for complete recovery.

Therapy typically starts with an evaluation of the severity of the communication disorder and the goals of the patient and family members. There are devices and other forms of communication that can make life easier, but the ideal outcome for a patient's self-esteem and confidence is to regain the use of their vocal communication abilities.

In most cases, speech therapy will begin with exercises to strengthen the tongue and lip movements. Then the therapy focuses on rewiring or retraining the brain to use different areas of the brain for language. This is typically done through the repetition of sounds and words corresponding to images or words shown to the patient.

Most importantly, the process of regaining speech will take time and effort. A good speech therapist experienced with stroke patients will be the patient's most important asset, along with determination and support from friends and family. Look into rehabilitation care for more information.