Back to home June 2012
Learning to Communicate After Diagnosis of Aphasia
Generally the result of a stroke or other neurological condition, aphasia impairs a person's ability to communicate. Depending on the location and severity of the brain damage, a person may have trouble with spoken or written communication.
"There are different types of aphasia," explains Nima Mowzoon, M.D., neurologist. "If the damage occurs in the left frontal area of the brain, then the problem is with language and the patient may have trouble getting words out. Articulation is controlled by the motor and motor programming part of the brain and brainstem, so patients with brain damage or problems with nerve and muscles affecting the speech may have trouble with articulation and slurred speech."
Dr. Mowzoon says it is important to seek medical care if your loved one or someone you are with experiences difficulty with language. "An abrupt change could be caused by a stroke, so call 911 right away," he says. "A noticeable, but gradual change may be caused by a degenerative process—such as dementia. Either way— whether abrupt or gradual—an appropriate evaluation by a neurologist will determine the cause and best plan for treatment."
Treatment involves speech and language therapy tailored to the patient's needs, deficits and progress. Helen Maverlis, speech pathologist, works with patients diagnosed with aphasia.
"The exercises we do in therapy vary in accordance with the type of aphasia," Helen says. "We begin therapy at the base level, and all exercises are targeted at improving the patient's specific deficits. Some patients are not able to produce any sounds. In those cases, we begin with blowing exercises, in conjunction with movement of the lips, tongue and jaw. This trains the coordination of articulation with breath support to produce speech. Then, therapy can focus on the verbal and written production of words, phrases, sentences and, eventually, paragraphs. Gradual increases of difficulty levels are implemented to reduce the possibility of frustration for the patient. Accuracy is reduced if the patient becomes frustrated."
Helen adds that caregiver involvement also is critical. "We assign homework and ask that the caregiver work with the patient," she says. "A patient who does not practice at home has slower progress than the one who finishes all homework requests."
Dr. Mowzoon and Helen agree that quick evaluation, diagnosis and initiation of treatment help patients experience the best outcome and most significant progress.
"It is important to seek medical care if your loved one or someone you are with experiences difficulty with language," Dr. Mowzoon says.
Regaining Control with Stroke Therapy
Nima Mowzoon, M.D.
Florida Neurology Group
12670 Whitehall Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33907