Can Intensive Speech & Language Therapy Improve Language in Aphasia Patients Post-Stroke?
Aphasia commonly occurs after someone experiences a stroke. When a closed head injury occurs in the left hemisphere, a person may lose the ability to produce and understand language. Commonly, people think of aphasia as Broca’s aphasia, where a person may have difficulty producing language. However, someone may be able to speak fluently, but their speech may not make sense. This is another form of aphasia known as Wernicke’s aphasia. Oftentimes, people who have experienced a stroke will work with a speech-language pathologist for a period of time to improve their ability to communicate and understand language. In this blog post, we discuss how intensive speech & language therapy may improve language in aphasia patients post-stroke.
A study conducted in Germany studied 156 patients with stroke across 19 rehabilitation centers within Germany. Patients were equally split into two groups, where one group received intensive speech therapy for 3 or more weeks consisting of 10 hours or more per week. The other group waited for 3 weeks before receiving intervention. Therapy sessions were conducted one-on-one as well as in groups. Baseline and end result performance of the Amsterdam Nijmegen Everyday Language Test (ANELT) was used to assess the efficacy of intensive speech and language therapy. The researchers found that intensive speech and language therapy resulted in patients improving by 10% on the performance of the ANELT. Treatment effects were found to remain stable after 6 months.
This study is just one of many which show that speech and language therapy can be effective in improving language abilities for aphasia patients post-stroke. While many factors impact a person’s recovery such as stroke severity, many patients do not get adequate therapy time needed to recover, as insurance providers often cut therapy hours and many rehabilitation centers have limited numbers of staff. If patients with aphasia are able to get sufficient therapy time and the therapy being conducted is challenging, clients may be able to obtain long-term benefits of speech and language therapy that may improve their ability to communicate and understand language.
Speech and language pathologists are crucial for rehabilitation post-stroke. People living with aphasia may seek aphasia support groups to connect with other people that have similar life experiences. Aphasia support groups can be excellent resources for people living with aphasia, but speech-language pathologists may want to provide group therapy sessions for their clients to help their clients practice and learn strategies for effective communication. In addition, participants may be able to share cognitive strategies they have learned that help them better produce and understand language. Speech and language therapists can provide clients with aphasia cognitive rehabilitation therapy using digital cognitive tools and cognitive worksheets that focus on language.