Aphasia is the difficulty with speech suffered by those who have had brain damage caused by the stroke. Aphasia can present as difficultly expressing oneself in speaking, problems in understanding speech, and trouble with reading and writing. The National Institute of Health estimates 1 million people in the U.S. suffer from aphasia. Intensive language therapy exercises can help restore speaking and understanding ability for many of these patients.
Picture Cards and Boards
Picture cards that depict daily living and everyday objects can be very helpful for aphasia patients to practice word recall, make visual connections and retrain vocal muscles. Showing the cards repeatedly and saying the words aloud exercises the muscles involved in speech and refines vocalisation. Picture boards can also be used as cues to vocalising everyday phrases and naming routine activities.
Melodic intonation therapy, or singing therapy, asks patients to tap out rhythms and repeat simple melodies. Sing-song toned sentences are added to familiar tunes to help patients put words together, and then the melodies are removed to form more normal patterns of speaking. Melodic intonation therapy has been shown to produce increased brain activity on MRIs.
Computer Software for Aphasia Therapy
Computer programs have been developed to help aphasia patients recognise words and repeat sounds. These programs can be helpful to stimulate visual and hearing senses and to provide variety to the speech therapy experience. The programs can deal with speaking, reading, writing, listening skills, remembering, thinking or vocational skills.
The National Aphasia Association recommends a number of tools to use when helping patients to practice language in everyday situations. Communicating with aphasia patients also may require being open to different ways of sending and receiving information, such as using drawings, gestures, writing or facial expressions to communicate their requests. Give the patient time to find and form the words for communication and resist finishing the sentence or thought for the patient. The therapy process requires the patient do the work of completing the communication transmittal and response on her own as much as possible, so the therapist should refrain from stepping in to make it easy for the patient. Allowing them to choose a comfortable method of expression will make communication easier and builds confidence. Finding a solid way to communicate “yes” and “no” to confirm alternate communications should be established early. If these simple answers are consistent, the therapist can easily check key points of communication and prevent errors and frustration.