It is estimated that in Quebec, 20 000 people experience a stroke every year. Stroke is an unanticipated health problem, but it is important to be able to recognize the signs in order to react quickly to the urgent situation it represents. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people who suffer a stroke to have to deal with sequelae later on.
In this article, we focus on communication disorders caused by stroke. For people facing such sequelae, the intervention of a speech therapist is most relevant, whether for rehabilitation purposes or to overcome the difficulties encountered.
The link between stroke and communication disorders
There are two types of strokes. You can visit the MSSS website for important information about stroke. In the majority of cases, a stroke can lead to sequelae depending on which parts of the brain are affected. These can manifest themselves in particular in terms of mobility, memory or, of course, communication.
Thus, when the parts of the brain responsible for communication are affected by stroke, it can lead to different disorders.
- Aphasia: It is estimated that 30% of people who experience a stroke then suffer from aphasia. Aphasia can lead to difficulties in speaking, understanding, reading and writing. Aphasia is a language disorder (choice of words, formulation of sentences, understanding of the meaning of words) to which are often added speech disorders (articulation and pronunciation). We invite you to consult this other article on our blog, which is dedicated to speech-language pathology intervention for aphasic patients.
- Dysarthria: Dysarthria is a speech disorder that affects up to 40% of people with a stroke and is often caused by weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles – the muscles of the face, tongue and throat.
- Verbal dyspraxia: This problem is caused by an inability to mobilize the structures that are responsible for speech (lip and tongue muscles). In short, a person suffering from it has difficulty coordinating the movements of his mouth to produce the desired sounds and words at the right time.
- Cognition-communication disorders: Cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention and thinking, are often affected by the consequences of a stroke. This can lead to other communication problems, such as inability to grasp jokes, nuances in the speaker’s tone, but also in the interpretation of facial expressions and non-verbal language, etc.
Stroke & Speech Therapy Intervention
Since the speech-language pathologist is the language and speech professional, his or her intervention is ideal for helping people who have had a stroke and are now struggling with communication disorders. The professional’s intervention can generally be separated into separate steps.
- Client assessment: Using information gathered by other professionals and during a complete speech and language therapy assessment, the professional assesses oral and written expression and comprehension skills, as well as speaking skills. He can then draw a complete picture of his client’s situation.
- Rehabilitation techniques: the speech therapist can intervene for rehabilitation purposes and offer his client exercises that will help him regain his initial abilities, when possible. Otherwise, the professional will be able to help his client regain sufficient abilities to enable him to communicate well with his family and friends.
- Communication strategies: when difficulties persist despite rehabilitation, the speech and language therapist may propose communication strategies that will help the client to be understood by his or her family and vice versa.
- Follow-up: the professional follows up with his client to monitor the evolution of his capacities. Communication strategies can always be adjusted according to the evolution of the patient’s condition.
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