Aphasia: How a Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help

Each year, the National Aphasia Association observes June as Aphasia Awareness Month in an effort to raise public awareness of this communication disorder and its consequences. Over the past two weeks we’ve discussed some basic facts about aphasia as well as some tips for communicating with a person who has aphasia. Today we’ll continue our observance of Aphasia Awareness Month by addressing how an individual with aphasia can benefit from speech-language therapy.

The communication deficits a person with aphasia experiences are the result of brain damage, and are at their worst immediately after the injury occurs. As time goes by and the brain heals, communication abilities will improve. If the symptoms of aphasia last longer than two or three months after a stroke, a complete recovery is unlikely. However, improvement can continue on a gradual scale, depending on the injury and the individual. For some, the recovery process may continue over years or even decades. In any case, this natural improvement over the course of healing can be augmented with speech-language therapy for the best prognosis for improvement of communicative abilities.

A speech-language pathologist will work with an individual with aphasia to determine their strengths and weaknesses: which of their communication modalities are the most affected and which are relatively more functional. The speech therapist will then delineate a course of treatment, designing intervention activities to improve areas of weakness, and utilize strengths to better overall functional communication. Activities may include drills and exercises to improve specific language skills, for example, naming objects, following directions, or verbally summarizing information. As the individual improves, these activities will become more complex and challenging to encourage continued growth.

The speech-language pathologist may also help the individual to find alternate ways to communicate if speech is severely impaired. This may include gesture, drawing, writing, or possibly an alternative/augmentative communication (AAC) device such as a picture board or speech-generating device.

Stay tuned: next week we’ll conclude our Aphasia Awareness Month series by discussing the benefits of group therapy and real-life communication practice.

If you or someone you love has a communication disorder, contact Speech Associates of New York and allow our professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists help you communicate to the best of your ability. Our team provides in-home evaluations and therapy, and is trained in the assessment and treatment of a range of pediatric and adult speech, language and communication disorders. Call us today at (917) 841-2965 and find out how we can help you communicate your best!

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