Suffering a stroke can be a frightening and traumatic experience. Most people know that getting to the hospital for treatment as soon as possible when a stroke has occurred is highly important. For many people who have had a stroke, recovering from the stroke itself is just the start of a longer period of recovery and rehabilitation to restore lost function and abilities due to the stroke.
At least one-third of those who suffer a stroke have problems with speech and communication as a result. Aphasia is a term referring to difficulties related to language, a condition that is often the result of a stroke. This includes difficulty speaking, listening and comprehending information, and reading and writing. Some or all of these areas of communication can be affected and to varying degrees. For stroke patients, and their loved ones, these difficulties can add another layer of frustration and challenges to an already difficult and worrying situation. Speech therapy is a highly beneficial resource for people who are struggling with lost communication skills related to a stroke. Support is at hand – get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when there is a sudden interruption or reduction of blood supply and oxygen to the brain. When this happens, brain cells begin to die within minutes, which can lead to impairments including paralysis, lack of movement in the body, and the loss of an overall ability to communicate. A stroke is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is essential. Early action and medical treatment can reduce brain damage and other complications significantly.
What are the Signs of a Stroke?
If you or someone you’re with is possibly having a stroke, it is important to pay particular attention to the time that the symptoms begin to emerge. Some of the most effective treatment options are most successful when administered soon after the onset of a stroke.
The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke are:
Difficulty speaking and comprehending what others are saying – Some people may experience confusion, slurring of words, or difficulty understanding the speech of others.
Numbness or Paralysis of the face, arm, or leg – In most cases, this affects just one side of the body. Some doctors advise trying to raise both arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of the mouth may droop when smiling or speaking.
Difficulty with vision in one or both eyes – Some people experience sudden blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or for others, they may see double.
Headache – A sudden, severely painful headache can occur, which in some cases is accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, or an altered state of consciousness.
Trouble walking – Some people who have had a stroke may stumble or lose their balance. They may also experience sudden dizziness or a loss of coordination.
How Does a Stroke Affect Speech?
A stroke can affect cognition, speech, and language abilities in a variety of ways.
Difficulty talking or swallowing – In many cases, a stroke affects the ability to control the muscles in your mouth and throat. This can make it difficult to speak clearly, swallow correctly or eat. Some people may have difficulties related to language, including speaking or understanding speech, as well as reading and writing.
Memory loss and thinking difficulties – Many people who have suffered a stroke experience some degree of memory loss. Others may struggle with thinking, reasoning, making decisions or judgments, and understanding concepts.
Can Speech Therapy Help after a Stroke?
It is normal for someone who has suffered a stroke to experience some degree of “spontaneous recovery” in the days, weeks, and months that follow. During this time, physical, cognitive, and communication deficits may gradually improve on their own as the brain heals. Therapeutic intervention can enhance and expedite the spontaneous recovery process.
An experienced and knowledgeable Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) can help improve and strengthen communication skills beyond what will occur naturally after the stroke. The therapist will teach strategies to help overcome communication challenges such as difficulty producing or understanding speech correctly (aphasia), slurred speech caused by muscle weakness (dysarthria), and/or difficulty in programming oral muscles for speech production (apraxia). Some individuals also experience difficulties related to social communication, such as challenges with taking turns in conversation, navigating the general flow of conversation, and problems maintaining a topic when talking with others.
When working to improve a stroke patient’s ability to produce or understand language, a specialized speech therapist will work on specific exercises and strategies, focusing on such things as word retrieval and social/conversational skills. When dysphagia or difficulty swallowing occurs, there is a wide variety of therapeutic interventions that have proven to be successful in remediating these challenges. Learn more about speech therapy for a stroke patient by scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Long Does Speech Therapy Take After a Stroke?
Recovering speech and language skills can be a long, slow process. With the right support and some patience and persistence, however, most people will make significant progress over time. Some people may not completely return to the level of function they had before a stroke, but significant improvements are always possible. Speech therapy may occur over the first six months after a stroke, and for some may be ongoing for years after the event.
It is important to seek treatment for speech and language deficits related to a stroke, because, if left untreated, communication challenges can lead to feelings of embarrassment, decreased independence, relationship problems, and, in some cases, depression.
How do you Help a Stroke Patient’s Speech?
In addition to seeking the help and support of an experienced SLP, here are a few other things you can do to support someone whose communication skills have been affected by a stroke:
Always look directly at the person when you are speaking to them.
Speak slowly and clearly, but using a normal tone of voice.
Use short sentences and stick to one topic at a time.
Keep background noise to a minimum.
Reassure the person that you understand their frustration.
Write things down, if it will be helpful.
Find out about the person’s employment, interests, and passions — now and before the stroke — and try to relate to these.
Give people a chance to say what they want to say, without jumping in or correcting them.
If you want to learn more about how to support someone who has had a stroke, or how speech therapy can help, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!