What Is Aphasia and How Can Speech Therapy Help?

According to the National Aphasia Association, “Aphasia affects about two million Americans and is more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy. Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. However, most people have never heard of it.”

Aphasia, or the inability to communicate, is a common problem among older adults; often occurring after a stroke or other acute medical condition. People who have aphasia experience difficulty reading and writing, and often struggle to communicate with or understand others. What is it exactly and how can speech therapists for aphasia help overcome it?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines aphasia as “an acquired neurogenic language disorder resulting from an injury to the brain—most typically, the left hemisphere.”

The most common cause of aphasia is stroke or brain injury (about 25-40% of stroke survivors acquire aphasia). With stroke victims, it often occurs suddenly. Aphasia can also result from head injury, a brain tumor, or other neurological issues that cause brain damage.

The damage to this portion of the brain typically causes two different degrees of impairment. These are reflected in the different types of aphasia:

  • Spoken language expression (expressive aphasia), or the ability to communicate, is known as Broca aphasia. It affects the motor skills necessary to produce and understand speech.
  • Spoken language comprehension (receptive aphasia), or the ability to understand and choose correct wording to express ourselves, is known as Wernicke Aphasia. This affects the sensory area of the brain.

Depending on how serious the issue is, it may cause a complete inability to communicate. The ability to communicate, however, does not affect a person’s memory or other cognitive skills. Thinking and reasoning skills are often unaffected. But the impairment to communication abilities often gives the impression of more mental impairment than is actually the case.

Rehabilitation services like speech therapy can help victims regain some communication abilities from this communication disorder, as well as learn new ones. Speech therapists for aphasia can also help with language therapy, teach non-verbal communication skills, and help family members adapt to new forms of communication.

Decisions about the most effective approach depend on an individual’s needs and wishes. Therapy for a mild impairment will differ greatly from therapy for a more severe impairment. Also, therapy changes over time as the person with aphasia improves and is ready to tackle more complex skills.

Impairment-based Speech Therapy for Aphasia

The goal of impairment-based therapies is to improve language functions. This involves stimulating speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.

Those dealing with this always want to regain the ability to speak as well as be able to understand what other people are saying. Therefore, speech therapists for aphasia work to repair what is broken through various techniques of language therapy.

This language therapy will focus on tasks that promote both speech and comprehension. The basic ways we use our language, as well as exercising the ways our mouths produce sounds and words, is a primary focus. These tasks may be supplemented with homework that can be guided by caregivers.  

Time with a therapist will of course be limited. Language therapy and other skill learning may be continued through homework on a computer or over the Internet. Computer software has been designed to exercise word-finding, comprehension, and real life problems such as exchanging money. Therapy time can also be extended with professionally guided assistance from Senior LIFE caregivers.

Some impairment-based therapies commonly used to treat victims of aphasia or other neurologic disorders affecting communication abilities include: 

  • Constraint-induced Therapy (CIT)
  • Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT):
  • Tele-rehabilitation

Communication-based Speech Therapy for Aphasia

Communication-based speech therapy is designed to enable communication by any means and encourage support from caregivers. These treatments are meant to assist the person with aphasia in learning how to convey feelings and messages in new ways. They often consist of more natural interactions involving real-life challenges to communication.  

Methods are sometimes called social approaches because of their emphasis on returning to former interactions. These methods use day-to-day communication challenges to teach new ways of communicating. This also encourages the person with aphasia to think about how he or she can adapt to sudden communication challenges.

Some common communication-based therapies include: 

  • PACE Therapy (Promoting Aphasics’ Communicative Effectiveness)
  • Conversational Coaching
  • Supported Conversation

Senior LIFE Speech Therapists for Aphasia

If you or a loved one are enrolled in Senior LIFE, all rehabilitation therapies are included through the program, including speech therapists for aphasia, language therapy, and occupational and physical therapists. There is no limit to the amount of therapy services a member can receive, and there’s no cost or copay.

If you’re enrolled in a managed care organization, you likely know that this is significantly different than what you experience through the MCO, where you often pay copays and face limits on the amount of services you can receive.

Senior LIFE speech therapists for aphasia provide the ongoing assistance you need right at the Senior LIFE center in your community, close to home. We even provide transportation to and from your therapy sessions at the local LIFE Health and Wellness Center. It’s a personalized level of service you can expect.

Senior LIFE provides medically necessary support services that are designed to keep older adults at home longer and not in a nursing home. If your loved one suffered a head injury or brain damage from a stroke, contact your nearest Senior LIFE center to find out about speech therapists for aphasia and other quality services they can provide.

Last updated on April 10th, 2020 at 04:35 pm

Categories: Wellness Matters