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Learning to speak after a stroke
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When you think about a person’s speech being affected after a stroke, you probably envision someone who slurs his or her words. But did you know that many stroke victims have trouble stringing words together into sentences, listening attentively, reading or writing because of brain damage caused by the stroke? With the help of speech therapists, some people fully regain their ability to communicate, while others achieve varying degrees of success.

Speech therapists take advantage of the brain’s ability to adapt and learn new ways to do things. They work with stroke patients shortly after a stroke on an ongoing basis to help them redevelop their language skills.

DYSARTHRIA

Stroke survivors who have dysarthria often have trouble with the mechanics of speaking; their words sound slurred and slow. Therapists help these patients relearn the proper use of their tongues and lips to improve their quality of speech.

Most patients with dysarthria can improve their ability to be understood if they speak with people face-to-face (rather than over the phone) and in areas where there’s little background noise to contend with. Some patients carry a card printed with the alphabet and point to the first letter of each word they say to make it easier for listeners to understand them. Others announce the topic they’ll be discussing, so listeners will know what types of words they’ll hear.

APHASIA

Stroke survivors with a condition called aphasia often have trouble with cognitive functions related to communication. Therapists teach these patients how to communicate most effectively, whether through speech, gestures, drawings or handwritten notes. Some patients carry notepads, in case they find themselves at a loss for words. Others carry a card printed with words, pictures of common objects or frequently used phrases, which they can point to when words escape them.

Sometimes, therapists use special computer programs to help aphasia patients relearn words or sounds. Group therapy can also be helpful; patients can practice listening and speaking with peers.