A Guide to Communication Problems After a Stroke
Communication problems can be one of the scariest effects of a stroke, but they don’t have to be. If you’ve had a stroke and you’re struggling to communicate, there are plenty of techniques you can use to cope with the initial effects and improve your communication abilities again.
Kinds of Problems That Are Caused
The three main communication problems that occur after a stroke are aphasia, apraxia and dysarthria.
Aphasia is to do with your understanding of language. If you have aphasia, you might struggle with understanding what people are saying to you, expressing your thoughts coherently and reading and writing properly. Around a third of stroke survivors will encounter some sort of aphasia.
Apraxia and dysarthria are both to do with moving and controlling the muscles that allow you to speak. If you experience apraxia or dysarthria, then you will probably have trouble speaking clearly enough for people to understand you, and your speech may be too slow or too quiet.
You might experience more than one of these problems at a time, but whatever your post-stroke communication challenges, there are ways to work through them. And if you’re dealing with the emotional fallout of a stroke as well as the physical effects, check out my blog on how to work through difficult times.
Where You Can Get Help
If you’re already being cared for after your stroke, your care team should be able to put you in touch with a speech and language therapist. Trained speech and language therapists work with stroke survivors all the time and are highly skilled at helping them to regain their skills and find alternative ways to communicate. Speech and language therapy jobs have some of the highest satisfaction ratings in the medical field, and this is partly down to their impressive levels of success at helping their patients.
Treatments That Can Help
Your speech and language therapist will have lots of ideas for treatments that can boost your recovery and have you communicating better. These might include things like tongue movement exercises, practice making specific individual sounds, or if you’re working on your comprehension, things like doing word puzzles
Aids or Equipment That Can Help
If you’re struggling to speak but you’re clear on what it is you want to say, there are plenty of things you can try that don’t involve speech at all. Among the simplest tools are alphabet boards and communication charts, which have either letters, words or images which you can point to. Often these will be fairly basic ideas – like “hungry” or “too cold” – but if it’s difficult to make yourself understood at all, they’re a step in the right direction. There are even special charts designed for people who can’t move well enough to point, and which instead use the motion of your eyes.
These days there are also plenty of technological advancements which support stroke recovery. Take a look at this list of apps for stroke survivors, including ones that help with language therapy and compensate for visual impairment.
Losing communication abilities can be one of the scariest parts of having a stroke, but with the right support, it doesn’t have to be. Long-term outlook for stroke survivors is better than it’s ever been.