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How Speech Therapy Benefits Stroke Survivors

May 16, 2023

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about communication disorders and promoting the importance of early intervention and treatment, especially for the almost 800,000 people who have strokes in the United States every year. A recent study from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the California Rehabilitation Institute suggests that not enough people are getting treatment for their speech problems following a stroke.

“In the initial weeks after a stroke, the brain is ready to undergo maximum rewiring to get people back on their feet. Rehab therapy helps maximize this recovery, with higher rehab therapy doses helping more, but what we found in this study is that most patients are getting rather small doses of rehab therapy,” said Dr. Cramer, a stroke neurologist and professor of neurology and the study’s lead author.

The study showed that three months after a stroke, only four of every 10 patients had received speech therapy. Speech therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment for speech and language disorders.

Speech therapists play a vital role in helping patients recover their ability to communicate and swallow after a stroke. When a stroke occurs, it can affect the language centers of the brain, making it difficult for patients to speak, understand, read, and write. This is where speech therapists come in to provide specialized therapy and rehabilitation to help patients recover these skills.

Here are some ways that speech therapists help patients after a stroke:

Communication therapy: Speech therapists work with patients to help them regain their ability to speak and understand language. They may use techniques such as repetition and language drills to help patients improve their language skills.

Swallowing therapy: After a stroke, patients may have difficulty swallowing food and liquids. Speech therapists can help patients relearn how to swallow safely and effectively through exercises and techniques that strengthen the muscles used in swallowing.

Cognitive therapy: A stroke can also affect a patient’s cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. Speech therapists can provide cognitive therapy to help patients improve their cognitive function and regain their ability to communicate effectively.

Assistive technology: In some cases, speech therapists may recommend the use of assistive technology, such as speech-generating devices, to help patients communicate more effectively. United States Senator John Fetterman has been open about his use of captioning devices and speech-to-text transcription as part of his stroke recovery.

Education and support: Speech therapists also provide education and support to patients and their families, helping them understand the effects of stroke and providing strategies for coping with the challenges of recovery.

Speech therapists play a critical role in helping patients after a stroke by providing specialized therapy and rehabilitation to improve their communication and swallowing skills and enhance their quality of life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a speech or language disorder, seeking the help of a speech-language pathologist can be an important first step toward improving communication skills and enhancing overall quality of life. May is the perfect time to take action and prioritize better hearing and speech.