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Therapists helping stroke patients talk again

Speech-language therapists can help stroke survivors regain speech and language functions.

Published: 28th October 2020 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th October 2020 05:22 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  A stroke can affect a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Depending on the part of brain affected and the severity of attack, the patient might lose her memory, ability to read or calculate, have impaired speech, among other things. While the brain can grow and reorganise itself in response to damage caused by stroke, different kinds of therapies can help the organ in this process. Speech-language therapists can help survivors regain speech and language functions.

“There are different areas in the brain that control different functions. There are two areas of speech in the brain — one in which spoken speech or language is formed, and another area from where you understand anybody else’s language. These are located in the left hemisphere of the brain. When the left side of the brain is affected in a right-handed person, it leads to loss/slurring of speech and difficulty in understanding language. Depending on the size of the stroke and the total area of the brain impacted, the recovery can be complete, partial or non-significant,” said Dr Praveen Gupta, senior advisor, neurology, at Portea Medical.

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“Speech therapy is the assessment and treatment of communication disorders among children as well as adults. For speech therapy to work, the patient and therapist need to feel as well matched as ice dancers. When stroke affects the right hemisphere of the brain, the individual has left side hemiplegia (paralysis) with dysarthria (slurred speech). Thus, she requires just articulation (pronunciation) and speech therapy. However, when the left hemisphere of brain is damaged, the person has right side hemiplegia and aphasia, causing mild/moderate to very severe impairment of language functions.

So, speech and language therapy will help in recovery of spontaneous speech, comprehension, naming, repetition, reading and writing, depending on the language function impaired. Speech and language therapy helps to restore, relearn or retrain language functions in a stroke patient. The recovery may take three months to two years, based on the extent of damage to language areas of the brain,” said Dr Sudheer Bhan, a speech and language therapist.

Dr Garima Vegivada, clinical director, speech language pathology, at Hear ‘N’ Say Clinic in Secunderabad, said: “Stroke recovery is a complex process that varies from one individual to the other. Because of this, speech-language pathologists (SLP)/therapists play an important role in a survivor’s rehabilitation. However, with one fourth of stroke patients suffering from language impairments, an SLP usually plays a sizable role in most recoveries.

Depending on which area of the brain is affected by the stroke, survivors may either have difficulty communicating their thoughts through words or writing, or have difficulty understanding spoken or written language. Either way, a speech-language pathologist ’s education equips them with the ability to help in both these conditions. They use different techniques and exercises to help persons circumvent their disabilities such as making symbol cue cards or simply repeating phrases with their patient. These are done with the end goal of helping the individual relearn their communication skills or learn new methods of communicating.” Speech and language therapists also become the patients’ allies in their lives.

“Speech-language pathologists go well beyond speech and language. They help stroke patients regain their self-awareness, right from helping a patient learn that they don’t swallow all their food at once during meals, to how to comb their hair. They may set up different daily challenges such as basic cleaning to personal grooming to help a patient recover their self-awareness. These skills help stroke survivor’s day-to-day life become less frustrating as their recovery goes on,” added Garima.

What is stroke?
Stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of death. It can cause permanent damage, including partial paralysis and impairment in speech, comprehension and memory. The extent and location of the damage determines the severity of the stroke, which can range from minimal to catastrophic. Stroke is a condition where the blood supplies to the brain is disrupted, resulting in oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function. It is most frequently caused by a clot in an artery supplying blood to the brain, a situation known as ischemia. It can also be caused by haemorrhage when a burst vessel causes blood to leak into the brain. 80% of strokes are ischemic.
..... Dr Sindhu Vasireddy, neurologist, Aster Prime Hospital.

— Kakoli Mukherjee  kakoli_mukherjee@newindianexpress.com  @KakoliMukherje2
 



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