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The Impact of Stroke on Communication: Unveiling Aphasia and Dysarthria

The days and weeks following a stroke are undeniably overwhelming and colored by uncertainty. It’s common for individuals to face speech and language challenges and feel unsure about the future. Navigating speech and language difficulties is undoubtedly complex. Hence, we want to encourage that it is also a journey marked by hope, rehabilitation, and recovery. The scientific underpinnings of neuroplasticity and principles of motor learning illuminate the path forward. Aphasia treatment and dysarthria treatment are possible; with targeted speech therapy for adults and the compassionate guidance of skilled speech-language pathologists (SLP), individuals can retrain and regain communication skills after a stroke.

Understanding common speech and language difficulties that may arise is crucial for obtaining effective treatment. In this article, we will identify those common speech and language challenges, define terms such as aphasia and dysarthria, and shed light on the role of neuroplasticity. Follow along as we offer an in-depth perspective on the path to rehabilitation.

Aphasia and its Influence on Communication: Processing and Expressing Language

Aphasia is the loss of language due to a neurological injury, such as a stroke. It can affect spoken language, comprehension of language, written expression, or reading comprehension.

When a stroke occurs, blood and oxygen supply to regions of the brain responsible for processing and expressing language can be interrupted. If this occurs, it can become hard to express oneself verbally or in writing. It may also affect how easily one processes what they hear or read  which impedes comprehension. This is because strokes disrupt intricate and interconnected neural circuits governing language and cognitive functions in the brain. These neural networks and connections between various language and cognitive regions of the brain must work together to understand and generate language.

Aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence but disrupts their language abilities and creates communication problems. It creates challenges in how one can communicate the breadth of their knowledge and depth of their ideas.

Because different parts of the brain are affected in different ways following a stroke, aphasia symptoms and severity vary widely from person to person. Aphasia is considered an umbrella term containing several aphasia subtypes that describe specific clusters of language patterns and symptoms. To learn more about specific types of aphasia see: 8 Different Types of Aphasia and Their Characteristics.

Dysarthria and Speech Problems: Unraveling Motor-Speech Impairments

Dysarthria is one of the communication effects of stroke and is a voice and speech condition that affects how one talks. When a stroke occurs, blood and oxygen supply to areas of the brain that control the muscles responsible for planning, coordinating, and producing motor speech can be interrupted. As a result, these muscles have difficulty moving with the necessary speed, strength, range of motion, timing, and accuracy required for crisp, clear speech and voice.

If any of the muscles involved in respiration (breathing), phonation (voicing/how the vocal folds vibrate), articulation, prosody (rate, intonation, stress pattern), and resonance are affected, dysarthria can ensue.

Many people associate dysarthria with slurred speech but it can also cause:

  • Difficulty regulating vocal loudness (too loud or too quiet)
  • Nasal or hyponasal voice quality
  • Strained voice quality
  • Hoarse voice quality
  • Breathy voice quality
  • Speech that sounds choppy and effortful, because it is difficult to say more than a few words in one breath
  • Limited intonation – may sound monotone
  • Difficulty with precise articulation of multisyllabic words due to difficulty coordinating movements of tongue, lips, cheeks, and mouth
  • Difficulty controlling rate of speech, causing speech to sound slow or very fast

Neuroplasticity and Targeted Intervention: Optimizing Speech Problems Post-Stroke

Research consistently underscores the pivotal role of neuroplasticity in the recovery of speech and language post-stroke. The brain’s capacity to reorganize and adapt is the bedrock on which effective speech therapy interventions are designed. These interventions induce neuroplastic changes in the brain. This results in the strengthening and retraining of neural circuits to enhance specific communication skills. Speech therapy interventions may also incorporate training in compensatory strategies to optimize speech and language functions. Interventions are meant to improve life participation in the presence of diverse communication needs.

Aphasia Treatment and Dysarthria Treatment: Intensive Speech and Language Rehabilitation Solutions at Open Lines®

When it comes to inducing neuroplastic changes: specificity, intensity, saliency, and repetition matter!

With this intricate scientific endeavor at heart, Open Lines® has pioneered use of state-of-the-art programs of speech therapy for adults. These programs are designed to address the distinctive needs of individuals grappling with speech and language impairments following a stroke.

Intensive Speech and Language Therapy Matters!

Research has shown aphasia treatment utilizing intensive speech therapy anywhere from one to four hours per day up to five days per week is positively impactful. They can significantly improve understanding, speaking, reading, and writing abilities for those with aphasia.

These programs begin with in-depth, one-to-one evaluations where a licensed speech-language pathologist will guide you through a series of tests. The tests are developed to learn more about your strengths, areas of weakness, personal goals, and medical history. We also consider how communication challenges may impact and shape daily activities, work, and social interactions. From here, a plan of action is set in motion that offers highly specialized and individualized exercises to help you meet your goals as quickly as possible.

Aphasia Treatment and Dysarthria Treatment Approaches

Open Lines® therapeutic approaches are research-based and grounded in principles of neuroplasticity.

Concerning aphasia treatment, we employ a combination of impairment-based exercises as well as functional activities that simulate daily activities. Going through daily activities is to help you carry these skills into your everyday life with the people you want to communicate with. We also provide you with speech therapy exercises to practice at home.

Examples include various drills to strengthen the brain’s semantic networks for improved word retrieval in conversation. Speech therapy exercises may also include reading articles and debating topics related to one’s interests or professional duties. This ensures skills practiced in therapy are meaningful, engaging, and directly related to one’s life.

Dysarthria treatment targets the affected physical aspects of speaking, such as reduced loudness and speech clarity.

These may include strategies to increase respiratory-phonatory coordination:

  • Training in optimal posture and breath control
  • Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques to optimize thinking and speaking
  • Strategies to control the rate of speech
  • Exercises to strengthen vocal loudness and improve voice quality
  • Strategies to improve articulatory coordination and clarity

All Open Lines® clinicians are specially trained in LSVT LOUD®, known internationally as the gold standard approach for respiratory-voice-speech disorders in people with some types of neurologically based communication disorders. Using this method individuals are trained to use optimal, healthy vocal loudness which generates a greater amplitude of movement throughout the entire motor speech system. The result is a voice and speech that is louder and clearer. Researched benefits include improvements to:

  • Vocal quality
  • Strength, coordination, and endurance of the entire motor-speech system
  • Ease and comfort of speaking
  • Intelligibility of speech.

A Vision of Hope for Profound Recovery

Open Lines® provides holistic, highly personalized, and innovative solutions to help you communicate with confidence.

If you are seeking support to overcome speech and language difficulties following a stroke, we are here to help you navigate your personal journey, achieve your goals, and experience well-being.

For more information on stroke recovery and evidence-based aphasia treatment and dysarthria treatment, see: What Is Aphasia; Aphasia vs. Dysphagia; 8 Different Types of Aphasia and Their Characteristics; How Long Does It Take to Recover My Speech after a Stroke?; Introducing Open Lines Aphasia Group; Slurred Speech, What Causes Dysarthria; Under Recognized Connection Between Aphasia and Depression

If you’re struggling with communication difficulties, it’s time to turn to Open Lines®. Contact us via phone (212-430-6800), email [email protected], or by filling out our convenient contact form. Improve your communication skills and unlock your potential with Open Lines® Speech and Communication in New York today!

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