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Online Speech Therapy for Aphasia

by Team Stamurai
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Aphasia is a language disorder that can affect all forms of language. An individual with aphasia may not be able to speak, or understand spoken words. Aphasia can also make it difficult for the person to read and write. It can affect all forms of communication.

Aphasia can develop when parts of the brain responsible for understanding and producing language are damaged. That can happen due to a stroke, injury to the head, or due to tumors and neurodegenerative conditions. While it is most common among middle-aged men and women, aphasia can affect younger generations too.

It can be extremely disheartening to watch your loved one struggling with aphasia. Always remember that there are treatments and speech therapy options available for aphasia. You can become an integral part of the treatment process and help your loved one recover.

The first step you can take is to learn more about aphasia and the available treatments. Here, you will find the causes of aphasia, the signs and symptoms of aphasia, the types of the language disorder and the available treatment options. Today, you and your loved one can also get online speech therapy for aphasia from the comforts of your home.

  1. What Is Aphasia?
  2. Who Can Get Aphasia?
  3. Is Aphasia Common?
  4. What Causes Aphasia?
  5. What Are the Common Symptoms Of Aphasia?
  6. What Are The Types Of Aphasia?
  7. Is Aphasia Permanent?
  8. How Is Aphasia Diagnosed?
  9. How Is Aphasia Treated?
  10. What Is Aphasia Therapy?
  11. What Are The Aphasia Speech Therapy Goals?
  12. How Should You Talk to Someone Who Has Aphasia?
  13. How Can Stamurai Online Speech Therapy Help With Aphasia?

1. What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder. Someone with aphasia may find it difficult to speak, read, write or understand language. It results from damage to certain areas of the brain that are responsible for understanding and producing language.

For most people, the left side of the brain contains all areas responsible for the processing, interpretation, and production of all forms of language. Damage to these areas due to stroke, physical injury, tumor(s), cancer, or a progressive neurological disease can cause aphasia.

Aphasia affects the ability to understand and express language. Therefore, a person may find it extremely difficult to read, write, speak, and understand spoken or written words. It can co-occur with other speech and language disorders like apraxia of speech and dysarthria.

2. Who Can Get Aphasia?

Theoretically, anyone can get aphasia since it can result from physical injury or damage to particular areas of the brain. However, most people who acquire aphasia are above the age of 45 years.

3. Is Aphasia Common?

According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA), around 180,000 Americans acquire aphasia every year. Currently, about 1 million people in the US live with aphasia.

Although aphasia is not talked about much, it is a common language disorder.

4. What Causes Aphasia?

All the areas responsible for language are on the left side of the human brain. Any injury or damage to these areas can potentially cause aphasia.

In the case of middle-aged individuals, the most common cause of aphasia is a stroke (cerebrovascular accident). The loss of blood flow to these areas of the brain due to blood clot(s) or broken blood vessels leads to strokes. Blood is the principal source of oxygen and nutrients for the brain, and due to a stroke, parts of the brain may not receive oxygen and other nutrients. It can cause the nerve cells or neurons in those areas to die. The death of neurons in the brain areas responsible for language will disrupt language processing and/or production.

Other causes of aphasia may include severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to direct blows to the head, gunshot wounds, motor vehicle accidents (MVA), brain infections, brain tumors, cancers, and progressive neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s).

5. What Are the Common Symptoms Of Aphasia?

Aphasia can affect one's expressive and receptive language in several ways. According to ASHA, there are several signs and symptoms that indicate aphasia.

Talking –

A person with aphasia may –

  • Have difficulty finding the right words they want to say.
  • Say the wrong word. For example, they may say "book" when they mean "phone." The replacement word may not make much sense.
  • Swap one word for another in a sentence. For example, they may say "book text" in the place of "textbook."
  • Makeup words and use them in a sentence.
  • Face difficulty in saying a whole sentence. They may find saying single words comparatively effortless.

Understanding –

A person suffering from aphasia may –

  • Be unable to understand what you say to them. They may have more difficulty with fast-paced speech and long sentences.
  • Find it difficult to understand when the environment is noisy.
  • Have a hard time understanding sarcasm.

Reading and Writing –

The person who has aphasia may –

  • Have severe trouble reading from books, forms, phones, and computer screens.
  • Find it impossible to spell and put words together to form complete sentences.
  • Face difficulty in using numbers or performing basic calculations. For example, they may be unable to tell the time or count money.

Not everyone has all the symptoms of aphasia. Aphasia can affect specific aspects of language, such as speaking or understanding spoken language. The symptoms will depend upon the type of aphasia the person has.

6. What Are The Types Of Aphasia?

Over the years, researchers and healthcare professionals have categorized aphasia according to the particular components of language that are impaired. The categorization also depends upon the specific areas of the brain that have been injured or affected in specific cases.

Some of the common types of aphasia are –

Global Aphasia

It is the most severe form of aphasia. Global aphasia refers to the condition where patients can comprehend little to no spoken language and produce only a few understandable words.

People with global aphasia cannot read, write, or understand language. It is commonly observed in patients after a severe stroke. If a cerebrovascular accident is the cause of global aphasia, then the patient has the chance of making a recovery once the treatment to address the blood clot or loss of blood flow begins.

However, the extent of reversal of the loss of the ability to understand and produce language depends upon the extent of brain damage. With greater damage, the recovery may be slow, and there may be lasting disability.

Broca’s Aphasia

Broca’s area of the brain has functions directly associated with speech production. Broca’s aphasia, also known as non-fluent aphasia, affects the speech production and vocabulary of an individual. The person may be able to say 3-4 words at a time. The production of speech is often arduous.

However, a person with Broca’s aphasia is able to understand spoken and written language. However, they may have trouble writing. It is often referred to as non-fluent aphasia because of the laborious and halting quality of speech.

Mixed non-fluent Aphasia

Individuals with mixed non-fluent aphasia may have effortful speech that resembles severe Broca’s aphasia. However, they also have limited ability to understand spoken language. They may be able to read or write only limitedly.

Wernicke’s Aphasia

Wernicke's aphasia impairs the person's ability to understand spoken language. Wernicke's area is responsible for language development and comprehension of speech. Any injury to this region can impair one's ability to grasp the meaning of spoken language. Thus it is also known as fluent aphasia.

Since Broca's area remains unaffected, the person can produce speech. However, the person's spoken language is not natural or normal. The sentences may not make sense and may have irrelevant words or phrases. In the more severe cases, their spoken words may not make much sense to the casual listener. In the case of fluent aphasia, reading and writing abilities are severely affected.

Anomic Aphasia

Anomic aphasia refers to the condition in which a person cannot supply the correct words for the topics, subjects, or things they want to discuss. These are particularly nouns and verbs.

Their speech is typically fluent grammatically, but the output frequently contains circumlocutions and frustrated expressions. The difficulty to find the right words is evident when the person speaks and writes. However, they can understand spoken and written language adequately.

Primary Progressive Aphasia

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a neurological condition in which the progression of language impairment is slow but steady. While other forms of aphasia discussed above may be the cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI), PPA is caused by neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration.

PPA is caused due to the progressive deterioration of the neurons in the brain areas responsible for speech and language. Often, the first symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases present themselves as speech and language impairment, but the other symptoms like memory loss follow shortly.

Other Types of Aphasia (Unspecified)

In addition to the aforementioned types, there may be other combinations of symptoms that do not fit into these classifications. An individual may have the symptoms of complex aphasia in isolation. These may be alexia (difficulty reading), or alexia and agraphia (difficulty reading and writing). Most of these isolated symptoms surface after a stroke.

In some instances, aphasia is accompanied by severe impairments in one’s ability to perform calculations. In some cases, individuals may retain their ability to calculate despite severe impairment of language skills.

Such unique cases that present with symptoms of aphasia are typically categorized under "other types" of aphasia.

7. Is Aphasia Permanent?

Aphasia may not always be permanent. The prognosis depends upon the cause of the language disorder.

If you have acquired aphasia after a stroke, you may recover naturally as the treatment and/or medication for the stroke continues. Spontaneous recovery from aphasia is possible in people who have had a transient ischemic attack.

When aphasia is caused by a neurodegenerative disorder, the prognosis is not straightforward. Complete recovery of lost language skills may not be possible, but speech therapy can strengthen your retained language and communication skills.

Temporary aphasia is also possible. It may happen due to seizures, migraines, and infections that cause the inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues.

Irrespective of the potential cause of aphasia, you should always consult a speech therapist for aphasia treatment.

8. How Is Aphasia Diagnosed?

The symptoms of aphasia are generally first noticed by healthcare professionals when they are treating the individual after a brain injury.

Once the professional notices the primary signs and symptoms, they can refer the individual to a specialist for diagnostic tests, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scan. Imaging tests can locate the precise area(s) of the brain that have suffered damage.

The physician and an SLP (speech-language pathologist) will test the person's speech and language abilities. The test will evaluate how the individual understands/produces language, holds a conversation, understands/answers questions, and reads/writes.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and speech therapists can run more thorough evaluations and assessments for a conclusive diagnosis. The SLP or speech therapist can recommend speech therapy activities appropriate for the individual to treat the language-related symptoms of aphasia.

9. How Is Aphasia Treated?

The first line of treatment for aphasia is treating the cause of the disorder, which is commonly TBI or stroke. Often, once the blood clots have been removed or the broken blood vessels mended, the symptoms of aphasia tend to become less intense. However, symptoms of speech and language impairment may remain if the injury or resulting  brain damage is extensive.

Next, the individual is referred to a speech therapy team or speech-language pathologist, who can assess the type of aphasia, the impact of the symptoms and recommend appropriate speech therapy exercises & activities for aphasia.

If it is a result of a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, then the individual has to stay in touch with their GP, neurologist, and other healthcare professionals throughout speech and language therapy for aphasia.

Speech therapy for aphasia is recommended so that patients can slowly regain their ability to use language. It may not always be possible for someone to regain their lost language skills completely. Thus, speech therapy can also focus on maximizing the language skills they have retained. You can also seek speech therapy online for aphasia if traveling is problematic after a stroke or injury.

The SLP will design the speech therapy exercises and activities based on the individual's language and social needs. The therapist will work with the patient, their family, and caregivers to achieve the best possible outcomes with online speech therapy for aphasia. The speech therapy activities, techniques, and aphasia treatment plan will depend on the unique needs of the individual.

10. What Is Aphasia Therapy?

Each treatment plan is tailored to meet the patient’s unique circumstances and necessities. However, the typical therapy plan for aphasia will look like this –

  • If the person has trouble producing speech, the SLP might ask them to repeat specific words after them, practice saying nouns and verbs, and name photos/pictures of daily objects.
  • If the person experiences difficulty understanding spoken language, the SLP might work with them on the task of sorting words according to their meanings.
  • If the person has trouble holding conversations, the SLP can emulate dialogue exchange and rehearse conversations in the clinic environment. Gradually, they may start practicing phone calls.
  • In more severe cases, the SLP may teach the patient augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods that do not involve the production of speech. The professional can teach an adult with aphasia how to use gestures, signs, electronic devices, and picture boards to communicate.

A thorough assessment of the client's overall health is necessary before the therapy begins. Since other health issues such as hearing problems and bad eyesight can also affect a person’s communication abilities, the speech-language pathologist may need to take all such findings into account while formulating the aphasia treatment plan.

The SLP will conduct a complete assessment of the person's language skills before therapy. The therapist will also talk to the family and immediate caregivers to explore the problem areas and target them during the sessions.

11. What Are The Aphasia Speech Therapy Goals?

The goals and outcomes of speech and language therapy for aphasia will depend significantly upon the symptoms. Although the aphasia speech therapy techniques and treatment plan are highly personalized, here's how speech therapy can help people with aphasia –

  • Reducing speech and language impairment as much as possible to restore the expressive and receptive language of the individual.
  • Helping the individual communicate to the best of their ability by increasing participation and activity levels.
  • Finding and teaching augmentative and alternative ways of communication (compensatory strategies and/or electronic devices).
  • Providing the correct and updated information on aphasia and its available treatments to the client and their family members.

12. How Should You Talk to Someone Who Has Aphasia?

Talking to someone with aphasia can be difficult. Here are some useful tips -

  • Use simple sentences that they can easily understand.
  • Try to speak slowly. Enunciate the words while keeping your volume consistent.
  • Give them plenty of time to respond. Don’t make them feel pressured or anxious to respond.
  • Try to use visual cues while talking. You can use pointing, gestures, and photos to communicate more efficiently.
  • Hold normal eye contact. It will make the person feel less anxious.
  • Try to minimize the distractions like televisions, mobile phones, music, and other background noises.
  • If the person has difficulty finding the right words, wait. Do not finish their sentences. Talk to the SLP to find ways to prompt or help them search for the word or phrases.
  • Continue SLP-recommended aphasia exercises at home.

13. How Can Stamurai Online Speech Therapy Help With Aphasia?

Stamurai offers online speech therapy for aphasia. Our experts match the individuals and their families with certified and experienced speech therapists. The team factors in the client's health conditions before doing a thorough assessment of their communication skills. The SLP evaluates and creates a treatment plan to best suit your needs.

All therapy sessions are held online through our secure platform; the therapist will not only talk to the client but also their family members and/or immediate care providers.

The therapist will consider the client's age, communication challenges, and goals to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Aphasia treatment for children 0 to 3-years old

Very young children can also attend aphasia speech therapy online. However, toddlers will benefit from speech therapy practice that continues at home. Parents remain in direct contact with the SLP to learn the aphasia speech therapy strategies they can use at home. The speech therapist will tell you how to continue practicing the speech therapy activities with a child with aphasia at home for the best results.

Aphasia treatment for children between 3 and 6-years old

Stamurai SLPs advise parents to attend the video sessions with the child. During the session, you and your child will learn valuable language and communication skills that you can practice outside the session. At-home skill-building is of utmost importance at such a young age.

Aphasia treatment for 7-years old and above

Children can attend video sessions on their own, but the SLP typically keeps the parents in the loop. You can request updates and progress reports of your child after each online speech therapy session for aphasia. You can speak with the therapist directly, who will answer all your questions regarding aphasia and the ongoing therapy.

Older children and adults can attend therapy sessions all by themselves. However, the SLP will need you to practice the given aphasia exercises at home to maximize the positive effects of speech therapy.

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