Strokes or cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) can affect and damage one or more portions of the brain. Someone who has experienced a left-brain stroke may experience communication problems. Speech therapy exercises for stroke patients help overcome these communication challenges.
Some of the more common communication problems left-brain stroke survivors may face are –
- Difficulties in understanding language (receptive abilities)
- Trouble speaking (expressive abilities)
- The problem of producing spoken language or aphasia is quite common among stroke survivors.
- They may also experience dysarthria or weakness in the muscles of the face and mouth. It can cause slurred and unintelligible speech.
Before we go into the speech therapy techniques for stroke patients, let us understand the basics. As a caregiver, guardian, or significant other of someone who has suffered a stroke, you should be –
- Ask fewer open-ended questions
- Ask simpler questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no"
- Speak at a natural pace and normal volume
- Don’t rush the person to respond
- Keep the directions, requests, and commands simple
- Allow them time to process the information you are providing
- Do not answer for them or interrupt them
Most left-brain stroke survivors have problems with speech production along with paralysis of their right side. Studies show that exercises are effective in restoring speech production. The effectiveness of these exercises will depend upon how frequently one is doing them as well as the extent of damage due to the stroke.
Here are the 10 best speech therapy exercises for stroke patients that one can do at home –
1. Breathing Exercises for Stroke Patients
One of the most common signs of speech impairment in stroke patients is the inability to coordinate breathing while speaking. It can cause people to breathe in the middle of sentences. Gasping or pausing for breath in the middle of a sentence is quite common among stroke patients.
Breathing exercises can help you control and coordinate your breathing while talking. Ideally, a stroke patient can practice breathing exercises at least twice a day.
How a stroke patient can practice the breathing exercise:
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale your breath for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
Practice this exercise at least 10 -times in the morning and evening. Breathing exercises will strengthen your diaphragm. It will help you remain calm. Working on your breathing will allow you to automatically regulate breathing and speaking.
2. Tongue In-And-Out Exercises
The tongue-in-and-out exercise is simple and fun!
How to do tongue in-and-out exercise at home:
- Stick your tongue out.
- Hold it in place for 2 seconds.
- Pull it back and hold for 2 seconds.
Keep repeating this 10-times at a go. This exercise for stroke patients can help retrain the tongue to move effectively, as necessary, for speech production.
3. Tongue Up-And-Down Exercises
Treat this as an extension of the tongue in-and-out exercise. You can mix these two up, once you are confident about your tongue movements.
Steps to practice tongue up-and-down exercise:
- Stick your tongue out and try to lick the tip of your nose. We know it’s impossible for the majority of the population, but that’s part of the exercise.
- Hold your tongue stretched upwards for 2 seconds.
- Next, try to lick your chin.
- Hold your tongue there for 2 seconds.
- Bright it back inside and rest for 2 seconds.
Repeat the entire set 10 times, twice a day.
4. Tongue Movement (Side-To-Side) Exercise
Before moving on to more complicated exercises for people who have suffered strokes and are now facing communication challenges, let’s do the final set of tongue movement exercises.
Follow these steps for tongue movement (side-to-side) exercise:
- Stick your tongue out and try to lick your right cheek.
- Hold it there for 2 seconds.
- Bring it back in for 2 seconds.
- Stick your tongue out again and try to lick your left cheek. Hold it for 2 seconds.
- Bring it and rest for 2 seconds.
Now, repeat this set 10 times, twice a day.
5. Practice Smiling
It's better to use a mirror or selfie camera for this exercise. It is a simple speech therapy exercise that helps improve oral motor skills.
How to practice smiling:
- Stand in front of the mirror or camera and smile.
- Stretch the corners of your mouth as much as possible.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- Then, relax.
Keep doing this for as long as you can. The mirror provides feedback that is important for tracking progress.
6. Practicing Kissy Face
Once you have finished the smiling practice, it’s time to practice your kissy face.
Steps to practice kissy face exercise for stroke patients:
- Pucker your lips like you would, to blow a kiss.
Repeat as many times and as often as you can. This simple exercise strengthens the muscles of your mouth and cheeks. Repeating the “kissy face” exercise will bring coordination to your facial muscles that are needed for speech production.
7. Repeating Consonants and Vowels
Now that you are a master of the simple exercises, let's try doing an exercise that's a bit more complex.
Post stroke, you may have trouble saying particular consonants. Some people find saying the /r/ sounds difficult, while others may find saying the /t/ sounds troublesome.
So, let's pair the /r/ sound with vowel sounds. For example, instead of saying /r/, try saying "ra, re, ri, ro, ru."
It may sound silly, but it will help you overcome the anxiety and blocks that /r/ sounds currently induce. Similarly, pair the vowel sounds of a, e, i, o, and u with other consonants that trouble you.
Stroke patients can repeat this speech therapy exercise 10-times daily..
8. Production of Complete Sentences
So, begin with small sentences. Pick out a book that was your favorite as a child. Read one or two sentences from the book in the morning and evening. Remember to breathe before and after every punctuation.
It can be incredibly frustrating in the beginning. You may want to talk to a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist (SLP) if you have symptoms of moderate to severe aphasia.
9. Playing Word Association Games
Playing word games is a fun way to connect with people around you and exercise your brain. Simple games like word searches, Pictionary, 20-questions, or word association improve your cognition as well as language processing skills.
If you want to play alone, try games like crossword puzzles online or Words with Friends.
Playing these super fun games daily, will improve your vocabulary, language processing, and speech production.
10. Naming Pictures (Picture Cards)
You can play with your family or simply work with your friend or spouse to name objects on picture cards.
You can turn this exercise into a guessing game, taking turns with your partner to guess the object or name of animals on the picture cards from their descriptions.
Just like word association games, this exercise for stroke patients focuses on cognitive and speech production skills.
Consult a Licensed Speech Therapist for Post-Stroke Speech Recovery
Finally, doing these exercises by yourself every day can become boring. It happens when you are not receiving any progress report or feedback. You may also end up doing them wrong.
You can opt for online speech therapy if you or someone you love has suffered a stroke and is now experiencing mild to severe communication difficulties.
Stamurai matches you with the best speech therapists who have experience in working with stroke patients. A licensed speech therapist with relevant experience can identify the problem areas and create a custom therapy plan for most effective post-stroke speech recovery.
Remember - a stroke or CVA is a serious matter. You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing a stroke or stroke-like symptoms.