The Benefits of Speech Therapy for Stroke Patients
In the aftermath of experiencing a stroke, it’s common for patients to be referred to a Speech Pathologist for therapy as part of their rehabilitation process.
Stroke survivors have more than a 50% chance of having at least one speech-language disorder. Thankfully, Speech Therapy is available for stroke patients and well supported as a valuable rehabilitation tool.
In this article, we’ll look at the different diagnoses that may lead someone to seek Speech Therapy after a stroke. We’ll also explore the different benefits of Speech Therapy for stroke patients as well as when to seek the support of a Speech Pathologist.
When Stroke Patients Need Speech Therapy
Having a stroke can affect people in very different ways. In our experience, here are some of the more common diagnoses that can lead someone to seek Speech Therapy after a stroke.
Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain responsible for language, typically on the left side of the brain in Wernicke’s or Broca’s area.
Aphasia usually occurs suddenly following a stroke or head injury and can co-occur with other speech disorders such as Dysarthria or Apraxia.
The symptoms of Aphasia include partial or complete loss of the ability to express or understand verbal or written language. Chronic Aphasia effects approximately 30% of people that experience a stroke.
Apraxia of Speech
Apraxia is usually caused by damage to the parietal lobes or to nerve pathways that connect these lobes to other parts of the brain. These areas store memory of learned sequences of movements, such as mouth movements required for talking.
Apraxia of Speech errors can occur in previously correctly produced utterances. Apraxia of Speech can be described by higher level programming and planning difficulties. Someone with AOS will often be able to produce automatic speech better than voluntary speech. For example, a patient’s automatic or overlearned speech (e.g. counting to 10) is produced better than propositional speech (e.g. describing the prior days activities). (Freed, 200)
Dysarthria is another condition that can appear after experiencing a stroke. Unfortunately, this challenge can be caused by damage to many different ideas of the brain including the Cerebellum, Basal Ganglia, Brain Stem, and even the nerve fibres themselves.
These structures can also be damaged by degenerative disorders such as Huntington’s Disease. People with Dysarthria can produce speech sounds but they may be jerky, breathy, imprecise, or monotonous depending on where the damage is.
Mental Health Impacts for Stroke Patients
It’s important to be aware of the mental health impacts for stroke patients experiencing communication challenges. Having had effective communication and post-stroke no longer having access to that system can be very distressing to the individual.
The awareness of their loss can negatively impact mental health, leading to feelings of anger, anxiety, depression. This is one of the many reasons it is critical to seek support (i.e. Psychology) and tailored Speech Therapy post-stroke.
How Can Speech Therapy Help Stroke Patients?
Speech Therapy can provide a lot of benefits to patients recovering from a stroke. There are established evidence-based practices that can help those experiencing Aphasia, Dysarthria or Apraxia of Speech to regain speech, comprehension other important communication skills.
Speech Therapists can also support stroke patients who are having trouble with swallowing, clinically referred to as Dysphagia.
For those experiencing significant challenges post-stroke who require more comprehensive support, Speech Therapists can provide training on Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) such as digital communication devices.
When Should Stroke Patients Begin Speech Therapy?
It’s important that stroke survivors are assessed for communication difficulties as soon as possible to ensure that they can access the supports and therapy available quickly.
Studies have shown that it’s best to take advantage of the pivotal early neuro-recovery period post-stroke, especially for those experiencing Aphasia. Early Intervention with intensive therapy programs can provide great improvement in communication abilities and enhance the quality of life of the individual.
Personalised home programs can also be developed to support you in your recovery post-stroke. Research has shown that home programs specifically designed to support Speech Therapy goals work best when they incorporate technology, individualisation, and written directions. Pictures and videos of the home program, as well as simple checklists for people with aphasia or cognitive impairments, can also be beneficial for ensuring regular practice and improved results.
If you or someone you love are interested in Speech Therapy for Stroke Patients, and are specifically looking for support in Townsville, Mackay, or Brisbane, please get in touch with our friendly team today.
Brown. E.V.D., Nolfi, D., Wallace, S.E., Eskander, J., & Hoffman, J.M. (2019). Home Porgra, Practices for Supporting and Measuring Adherence in Post-Stroke Rehabilitation: A Scoping Review. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation. https://doi.org/10.1080/10749357.2019.1707950
Motor Speech Disorders: Diagnosis and treatment 3rd Ed. Donald B Freed 2020
Motor Speech Disorders: Substrates, differential diagnosis and management, 3rd Ed. Joseph R Duffy (2012)