Patients who had a stroke several years ago may think there’s no way to further improve their speech. But therapists say they shouldn’t give up hope.
Johnna Johnson has been a speech-language pathologist for 25 years. She currently works with patients at Regional One Health’s East Campus Center for Rehabilitative Medicine.
“If you had a stroke several years ago, it could help to be reevaluated by a speech therapist,” Johnson said. “They may be able to help you progress further. It’s worthwhile to come in and see if you’ve recovered some or if the new technology and advances in the field can help you.”
Johnson said some patients who had a stroke years ago never had outpatient speech therapy. The only sessions they received where in the hospital right after the crisis.
She said it’s vital to have both inpatient and outpatient speech therapy.
Inpatient therapy is essential, but there are several challenges. Patients in the hospital right after a stroke aren’t at full strength mentally or physically. They are still recovering from a trauma. They might be on medication that makes it hard to focus.
All of those factors combine to make it harder to successfully participate in therapy.
“Outpatient therapists can reassess patients once they’ve had a chance to recover and get stronger,” she said. “Just because you didn’t have a lot of success in the hospital doesn’t mean we can’t help. The hospital is the hardest time to have therapy.”
Johnson said there are a number of ways she can help stroke patients.
She can teach exercises to do with their tongue and lips to help strengthen the muscles involved in speech.
She helps patients practice making sounds. Therapists identify the sounds patients have trouble with and design consonant and vowel practice based on those needs.
She helps patients with their cognition and language. This may include several factors:
- Problem solving
- Written language
- Understanding the spoken language
Speech and language therapy improves and evolves all the time, Johnson said. That means a patient who had therapy a few years ago will be exposed to new techniques. The same is true for technology.
Johnson can also direct patients to speech and language therapy apps that target their problem areas.
The apps let her design exercises for the patient to do on their own. She can track their progress and make adjustments as needed.
Johnson is also a Certified Lingraphica Technology Specialist. She is among a small group of therapists who has specialized training to help patients use assistive devices.
The devices are similar to tablets. Patients use icons with images and words to communicate wants and needs.
Johnson encourages patients who had a stroke or any other neurological disorder a few years ago to be assessed again by a speech-language pathologist.