How Does a Stroke Affect Speech?
A stroke is a medical emergency that affects the flow of blood to the brain. When an adequate amount of oxygen fails to make it to the brain, brain cells begin to die. Many people who suffer a stroke experience such symptoms as slurred speech and difficulties with movement on one side of the body. A stroke can affect the body in a wide variety of ways and will depend on which part of the brain is affected by the stroke. Someone who has suffered a stroke may experience paralysis or weakness in various parts of the body, difficulty speaking clearly, challenges with swallowing, and seeing clearly. If you or someone you love is struggling to communicate as a result of a stroke, help is just a click away. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Some of the most common effects on speech that are caused by a stroke are:
Aphasia impairs language abilities, often affecting speech production or comprehension. It can also affect reading and writing skills. Aphasia is always caused by an injury to the brain and is most commonly the result of a stroke especially in older individuals. Other brain injuries can also cause the onset of aphasia such as head trauma, brain tumors, or an infection in the brain.
The severity of aphasia as a result of a stroke can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, communication with the patient may be very difficult and occasionally impossible altogether. Aphasia can affect a single element of language use such as word or name retrieval, the ability to form sentences, or the ability to read and comprehend the text. It is more common, however, for several aspects of communication to be affected, leaving only a few channels accessible for the exchange of information and communication.
Dysarthria is the result of difficulty controlling or weakness of the muscles that are required to execute speech. Dysarthria can often cause speech that is excessively slow or slurred and is difficult to understand by others. The signs and symptoms of dysarthria can vary and will depend on the severity and type of dysarthria. Some of the most common signs of dysarthria are slurred speech, slow pace of speech, speaking with a very low volume or in a whisper, rapid speech, a nasal, hoarse, or strained sounding voice, monotone speech, difficulty moving and controlling the tongue and facial muscles and uneven rhythm or volume of speech.
Acquired Apraxia of Speech
Apraxia of speech is a neurological speech disorder that results in difficulty with planning or programming and directing the movements of the muscles required for speech production. Apraxia of speech often occurs simultaneously with dysarthria and/or aphasia, sometimes combined with limb apraxia, oral apraxia, and apraxia of swallowing. Apraxia of speech does not directly involve weakness of the muscles, paralysis, or involuntary movements that are often connected to dysarthria, language comprehension, or production deficits that are typically characterized as aphasia.
Apraxia of speech is different from dysarthria that is caused by weakened muscles, as it is an issue related to planning the various muscle movements required for speaking.
How Does a Stroke Affect Memory?
Many people who have suffered a stroke have experienced memory loss, often struggling to remember specific words, recent events, or even abstract concepts. Strokes that occur in the area of the brain responsible for memory can make it challenging to recall events that may have occurred immediately before or after the stroke. The stroke patient may also struggle to recall memories from further in the past as well.
Keeping the memory engaged is one of the most critical things that can be done to help recover and strengthen memory abilities. Engaging in activities that require problem-solving skills will help to ensure that the brain continues to work properly as recovery occurs.
Can Speech be Restored After a Stroke? How Long After a Stroke Does Speech Return?
Aphasia, dysarthria, and apraxia of speech are quite common following a stroke, stripping stroke patients of their speech, language, and communication abilities. It is common for most individuals to experience significant improvements in their speech abilities throughout the first six months following a stroke. In the months after a stroke, the brain will begin to repair itself and recovery can occur fairly quickly for some people. For other people, recovering from a stroke can be slow and the symptoms of aphasia can occur for many months, and sometimes even years. Some people may experience periods of time where no improvements occur, and then periods where major developments and positive changes take place.
Predicting how long an individual’s recovery will take can be difficult, as no two stroke patients experience the same symptoms, outcomes, and recovery time. The recovery of speech and language skills often depends on how severe the aphasia, dysarthria, and apraxia each individual experiences. Some people may recover completely within a few months while others may not recover their speech at all. While there is no direct cure for the effects on speech caused by a stroke, with the right combination of dedication, good therapy, and participation in the daily activities of life, people affected by a stroke can improve and strengthen their speech and language skills in the months and years following a stroke. If you want to learn more about how speech therapy can help someone who is recovering from a stroke, schedule your free introductory call today!
What Speech Recovery Exercises Can a Stroke Patient Do at Home?
If you or a loved one is struggling with speech and cognitive skills, then working with a speech-language pathologist is the best resource for improving these skills.
If you have significant challenges that make speech difficult to understand, some of these strategies may help with recovery and communication more effectively:
Speak Slowly – Practicing speaking slowly and with control can help listeners to understand the speech better and allow them more time to process and understand what is being said.
Start Small – Begin by introducing the topic you will be speaking about with a word or short phrase.
Take Time to Gauge Understanding – Ask the listener or person you are conversing with whether they are able to understand you.
Protect your Energy – If you are feeling very tired, keep your interactions brief. Fatigue can increase frustration and make your speech even more difficult to understand.
Use Other Communication Tools – Writing messages can be a great alternative if speech is challenging. Typing messages on a computer, tablet or smartphone can also be a good option.
Use Shortcuts – Create flashcards or drawings that you can use during conversations or communicate a particular need or desire. Using gestures or pointing to an object can also be an effective strategy.
How Can Speech Therapy Help Someone Recovering from a Stroke?
While it is to be expected that some natural recovery will occur in the weeks and months following a stroke, intervention and support from a Speech and Language pathologist can enhance and bolster this spontaneous recovery.
The speech therapist will work to establish how severe the effects on speech are as a result of the stroke. They will also teach strategies to overcome communication deficits such as difficulty in understanding or producing speech correctly (aphasia), slurred speech consequent to weak muscles (dysarthria), and/or difficulty in programming oral muscles for speech production (apraxia). Some stroke patients may also have difficulty in social communication, such as difficulty taking turns in conversation, interpreting non-verbal cues, and problems maintaining a topic of conversation.
To improve a stroke patient’s ability to understand or produce language, the therapist will work on specific drills and strategies, such as word retrieval, sentence production, and conversational skills. Role-playing and conversational exercises are extremely effective in re-teaching social skills which require both word retrieval and social interaction. If you or someone you love is struggling to communicate as the result of a stroke, help, and support is a clock away. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!