According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes afflict over 795,000 Americans every year. They’re the fifth leading cause of death and the most common cause of disability in the United States.
In addition to potential physical impairments, a stroke can affect a patient’s ability to communicate as well. Approximately 25-40% of stroke patients suffer from aphasia, a common yet little-known condition that impacts a person’s speech and language skills.
Aphasia occurs in many forms. It can affect the patient’s ability to read, write, speak or understand verbal communication. The condition does not affect a patient’s intelligence, and most achieve some degree of recovery when they work alongside a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
An SLP determines each patient’s specific needs, and works with them in an effort to re-establish functional communication skills.
Therapies for Patients with Aphasia
Depending on a patient’s specific impairments and their goals, therapy activities may focus on developing word-finding strategies, strengthening the patient’s ability to understand and respond to simple and complex topics, or even identifying an alternative means for the patient to communicate wants, needs, and ideas, such as a communication board or iPad app. The goal is to improve the patient’s functional skills and promote social participation across environments. Activities within therapy may include functional written tasks (e.g., making grocery lists or writing emails to family), expressive language exercises (i. e., reading aloud, naming family, places, and items within the home, or verbalizing work related sequences) and comprehension tasks. Strategy training is also a must for maximizing communication within a patient’s environment.
Communicating with Your Loved One
Speech-language pathologists may also counsel the patient’s loved ones on the best methods for effective communication.
Here are a few suggestions for communicating with a person with aphasia, according to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.
- Use simple, direct wording
- Speak slowly, but naturally
- If expression is severely impaired, ask yes/no questions rather than questions that may require a more complex response
- Use a variety of modes of communication (write keywords, gesture, draw), and encourage the person with aphasia to do the same
- Be patient and allow the person extra time to process and communicate information
- If the person is stuck trying to think of a word, ask what it looks like, where it is found, what it is used for, etc.
- Accept imperfect speech or grammar if it gets the idea across (avoid correcting)
- Assume the person with aphasia is a competent adult in spite of communication problems
Watson Clinic’s Speech-Language Pathologists Can Help
Aphasia can also occur as a result of a brain tumor or head injury. Whatever the cause, speech-language pathologists can help improve a patient’s function and quality of life. Patients can continue to improve throughout the remainder of their lives as long as they engage in ongoing rehabilitation efforts.
Watson Clinic’s certified speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat a variety of disorders related to speech, voice, swallowing and cognition. Appointments are available through a physician referral. For more information on the department, and the range of services they offer, call 863-680-7486.
Sarah Almaguer, MS, CCC-SLP
Julie Barrientes, MS, CCC-SLP
Jennifer Barr, MS, CCC-SLP
Watson Clinic Bella Vista Building
1755 N. Florida Ave.
Lakeland, FL 33805
Watson Clinic Main
1600 Lakeland Hills Blvd.
Lakeland, FL 33805