Communication After a Stroke


Speech and Language Pathologists are Key

Speech and communication are often affected after suffering from a stroke. The language center of the brain is compromised and may leave the person with aphasia presenting as difficulty in speaking, reading, writing or listening. Once admitted to a Physical Rehabilitation Hospital a team of therapists will begin evaluation and treatments based on best outcome for the patient. Recovery of communication is imperatively tied to an evaluation performed by a Speech and Language Pathologist and starting treatment while in the hospital. Second most important action item to recovery is practice, practice, practice. This will involve help from friends and family over the next 6 months to a year.

There are a variety of types of Aphasia depending on which different parts of the brain have been damaged. Two most often diagnosed types are;

Wernicke’s Aphasia: This person can speak but has difficulty with reading and writing.  Although sometimes their sentences do not make sense, they may use the wrong words or pepper sentences with irreverent words.

Broca’s Aphasia or Expressive Aphasia: This person understands what you are saying but may have difficulty forming complete sentences, leave out words like “is” or “the”. They may have trouble understanding sentences or uses a word close to what the person intended but not exact. The person may say “sister” when they mean “wife”.  This person may also demonstrate difficulty following directions such as left, right, up or down. Often times reading is not affected.

Speech and communication difficulties can be very frustrating for the person and family involved.  This difficulty with speech does not mean the person has lost their intelligence or their hearing, they are simply challenged in the attempt to express themselves correctly.   A Speech and Language Pathologist visits with the individual affected by the stroke and determines what part of communication and/or swallowing has been effected. Specific strategies will be put in place and practiced addressing word retrieval, conversation skills and clarifying thoughts and ideas. They will help with strengthening the muscles in the face for word pronunciation and articulation; and muscles in the throat addressing any swallowing difficulties. They may add an organizer or memory log to daily skill improvements.

A SLP is also part of the return to community and job-related tasks. They asses the requirements and cognitive skills needed and suggest training or changes which can make accomplishing work-related tasks achievable. Socializing and return to a community atmosphere is very important. The inability to clearly communicate can lead to feelings of isolation and increase the incidence of depression among patients. Thus, enlisting the help and expertise of a Speech-Language Pathologist is one of the greatest benefits available to a stroke patient.

While the patient is in the hospital, the family members should do their homework and research what outpatient clinics are near you. Talk with the neurologist and therapy team about continuation of services. Rehabilitation and gaining back strength and communication often takes up to 6 months or a year, sometimes longer. Reavis Rehab Outpatient therapy services has been providing therapeutic specialty care for more than 25 years in the Round Rock area. Schedule an appointment or give the facility a call to find out about setting up an evaluation.

Family members can be more understanding and helpful by practicing a few simple tips while the stroke survivor improves their communication. Take a look at our blog on: Family tips and computer apps to help a Loved Stroke Survivor